Hoons on Canberra urban streets

ACT Government encourages hooning

Surfacing in community meetings across Canberra is an issue that is upsetting people’s enjoyment of their neighbourhoods.

The topic is hooning and the ever-increasing disruption that has now become a common experience for residents. And where are the local Assembly members on this? No-one knows as our ACT politicians spend most of their time in their comfortable Civic compound rather than out working with residents.

Molonglo residents have a large problem with hooning in all its forms – cars speeding, cars racing alongside each other up the wide streets, cars mounting footpaths and the noise and dangers that come with disruptive behaviour by a few.

The Woden police are fully aware of the problem. Residents know that there are not enough patrols in the area. Residents have been advised to report car registrations and other details – but that is rarely possible. And the local members? Too busy – so it falls to the volunteer community councils to try to get someone to take notice.

The planning for Molonglo was undertaken during the reign of the then planning minister, Andrew Barr. There are lists of issues as a result of the stupidity of that mess of planning. Now there is this extra one.

These Molonglo suburbs are devoid of community facilities and the streets are designed as if to encourage car racing. Did no-one check the historical facts on how to plan suburbs and to build in facilities and other infrastructure to provide for younger people? Doesn’t look like it given the nightly activities out on the streets.

Meanwhile over in the northern suburbs around Watson, the residents have had enough.

To paraphrase the locals: SummerNats operates on a social licence as well as a governmental one. With the decision to continue with the burnouts event on January 4, this social licence is now extinct. SummerNats inflicted smoke, noise, particulate pollution and social issues on the electorate of Kurrajong, especially residents of Watson, Dickson, Hackett and Downer. 

When venturing out was possible, it was to confront the reality of large groups of men, empowered by the event’s valorisation of toxic masculinity to believe that they could dominate community spaces in packs and behave in an intimidating and aggressive way towards women, or anyone who challenges their behaviour. 

Law enforcement was powerless to intervene – witness Eaglehawk on the evening of Friday, January 3.

If you missed that event – large scale hooning took over the streets around Eaglehawk and the few police who could be spared from dealing with the fire emergencies were pelted with cans and stones and had to retreat from taking action.

What SummerNats delivers is a clear message that the ACT government endorses hooning and associated bad behaviour on the streets. There must be connections with this official blessing of hooning every January and what erupts at night on the streets across Canberra.

The residents in and around Watson and Downer accept that living near EPIC (the showground) means that events happen and sometimes there can be noise. These are mostly great things that add to the culture of the city. SummerNats is not one of these. It may add to the pockets of some in accommodation and those that sell booze, but for the people who live here is now well beyond its use by date.

The city hosts numerous car shows and they are to be encouraged. But let’s get real – SummerNats is a major hooning event with a thin veil of car appreciation being used to justify its explosion across the city’s suburbs each year.

Some opportunist political types may try to make this a law and order issue. It isn’t that simple. It is about a government being responsible for the planning mess it has made and about locally elected politicians earning their well-paid salaries and generous perks by representing the views of residents – especially those in Watson/Downer/ Dickson and those across town in Molonglo.

Residents await actions (not words) on hooning and the overdue cancelling of SummerNats.


This article was originally published online with City News

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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