Braddon Bowls as a Barometer for Bad Behaviour

The Braddon Bowling Club story is one of many about how this government and its bureaucracy has corrupted its own governance – how they do stuff badly.

The saga of the former bowling club just goes on and on and has consumed local residents’ good will and energies. (The official title was the Canberra City Bowling Club).

It starts with the Ainslie Football club management taking over the bowling club. This was seen as logical as the bowls club was struggling. Years later the Ainslie club itself was having a tough time financially so the promise of moving the venue to Gungahlin was called off. The site was seen as a chance for some quick funds. It was sold to a developer. The winners were the Football club with millions from the sale. The losers were players, the community and nearby residents.

This suburban area was faced with this former community facility being converted to be an ever-changing list of money-making proposals. These have included a high-profile events venue, a resort with spa and cinema, a boutique hotel, a restaurant and a day spa, a block of apartments (heights varied depending on which document you read) or the latest that looks like a hotel even though it is being canvassed as blocks of apartments.

Local politicians have done little to resolve the issues raised by residents. The government’s planning authority has refused to consider that this suburban area should be subject to a master plan. Instead it has been left to the developer to dream up ideas that suit him but definitely have not aligned with the feedback from locals.

The more inclusive and democratic way of doing planning would have been for the government to have taken over consultations early on, to have allowed residents to be heard and to have then published a neighbourhood master plan for what should be happening on these streets. Instead the residents have had to suffer rumours, thought-bubbles by the developer announced through local media, consultations designed to sideline resident’s views, as well as innuendo about residents not being flexible.

Nothing positive has surfaced from the planning bureaucracy or from ACT Greenslabor politicians. As for the planning minister – say no more as he is always busy doing something somewhere. More recently residents realised how neighbours did not know about what was going on. One day later, after some very efficient letter-drops, more than forty people showed up to a meeting. The consensus is that locals do not know appreciate the games being played and why local politicians will not get involved (we do pay them, don’t we?).

For a community site that has frontages (front and back) onto two suburban streets, that is alongside a child care centre and is opposite the Ainslie public school, the logic of what has been proposed to date has annoyed and angered residents. The amazing thing is that faced with all this nonsense, they remain polite.

They still think that the planning directorate and their elected politicians would not allow such a planning plunder to happen. Bowls clubs in other cities have been repurposed as new community facilities. Why not here – for once? The site is now walled off with overgrown weeds instead bowling greens.

The latest episode has not helped. After a round of proposals for a block of apartments that looked and sounded very much like a hotel, and after some initial feedback from residents, the developer called off the development – again. The informed residents realised what was being proposed would have been able to be challenged (if residents had the energy). They know that the chief minister’s deregulation of developments is being pushed through despite a massive number of objections. Residents now expect the developer to re-apply once the full deregulation of the rules is passed by the ACT Greens and Labor – well before next year’s ACT elections.

It is common under this Greenslabor government for community facilities and green spaces to be regarded as land banks and as opportunities for profit. Being a common practice does not make it good practice. This form of ad-hoc spot development that is often undertaken by developers and the government itself works against everything good that former planners of this city achieved. Unfortunately for the moment, an opaque and corrupted form of governance rules how planning is undertaken. These governance issues should be the basis for a total reform of the planning directorate.

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