Alternative Facts and the ACT Planning Chief

The ACT will be looking for a real Chief Planner

It was reported today in the Crimes (what we call the Canberra Times) that the ACT Head of the Planning Directorate will not be renewing her contract due to end this April.

However two matters demonstrate just how easily it is for alternative facts ( the latest term for lies) to be put into circulation and most likely then become what is accepted more widely.

First you need to read the Crimes article –  (don’t forget to come back)

The journalists states that

But some residents are not convinced, appealing in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal the decision to allow 140 units and Coles and Aldi supermarkets at Dickson. Hearings are due to resume in March.

From what I know the appeals is headed by the landlords of the Woolworths site – and as Jane Goffman has stated on her blog:

Just for the record, we’re not appealing to the Tribunal because we’re opposed to the concept of 140 units and 2 supermarkets in the slightest. We’re appealing because the development approved breaches over 55 separate rules and criteria in the relevant Codes and 7 out of 8 objectives for the zone and is only superficially different from the development refused 9 months earlier despite the hogwash. If you’re going to clean a pig, do it properly!

and then as you read the article it is reported that the Chief Planner considers that the planning and approval systems are working just fine!

I wonder how the hundreds at the Curtin meeting the other weekend feel about that sort of patronising statement.

This is yet another instance the points to the fact that residents (voters) live in one reality and the ACT government and its planning and development bureaucracies live in another and the two rarely meet. That’s the real issue to be addressed – locally and nationally.

As to the appeal around the Dickson development – this so called good system is now costing a load of money as it is sorted through the appeals processes instead of the government planning directorate doing their job – that they are paid to do.

The best guess is that the developer (including Coles) is probably spending something in the order of $250,000, alongside them the government planners are spending something like another $100-$150,000; and those leading the appeal, being Charter Hall, is probably spending around $200,000; plus there is a load of voluntary time and energy by local residents. It was a 9 day appeal session before Christmas that is now set down to continue in March.

And the Chief Planner thinks that is an example of the planning process working!

Can we do better than this? YES – we really hope for changes and for the next planning leader to be just that – a leader.

To repeat and add to what I said elsewhere:

It is very timely for the city for there to be appointed a person with vision, who does not use spin, deals with reality, is not a prisoner of the property lobby, likes dealing with residents (voters), can spot green wash when it is presented, wants the urban fabric to deal with climate change, does not waste taxpayers’ money allowing inappropriate development to be approved and then to be fought out in the appeals tribunal, and is a nice (and honest) person – that last one really makes a difference.

We look for the ACT’s Planning Directorate having a real working relationship with residents – led by a person with a creative vision for Canberra who can change the culture of the planning directorate to become one that works with the voters/residents instead of treating them as the enemy.

Watch this space – and check out Jane Goffman’s Dicksonia Magnifica.



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