News Sheet 6 June 2023

Please note there are two matters to bring to your attention: the Planning Bill before the Legislative Assembly for debate today and Reid Weeders Induction this Friday 2 pm, Geerilong Gardens

  1. Planning Bill, Legislative Assembly: URGENT

This Bill is being tabled in the Legislative Assembly today and there is increasing community unrest about the processes involved, particularly consultation, and about its impact on Canberra, which was initially our well-planned national capital.

We are posting these letters and information from Dr Chris Watson, President, Voices of West Belconnen and would also take the opportunity to remind you of the Combined Community Council’s response to the Planning Bill at:

Community councils and developers in lockstep on one planning issue: consultation

Dear Community Groups

We have just been advised that the Planning Bill has in-principle support with the 119 amendments expected to be debated on Tuesday and the legislation passed. Our window for making a difference is very small.

Please circulate the attached letter ASAP and encourage your contacts to write to the Greens using the template provided or to contact the offices of the Greens directly to raise their concerns.

The number to the ACT Greens Office is: (02) 6140 3220.

This legislation cannot pass without the Greens’ vote. Here are the contact details for the Greens’ members for Kurrajong:

Dear Community Group

We are writing to you as a group of concerned Canberra residents who are unhappy about the new planning framework being proposed for Canberra.

We have been advised that the new planning legislation is due to be introduced and debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly in the next two weeks, with the expectation that it will be passed.

Although amendments are being proposed, the Voices of West Belconnen strongly objects to the legislation being debated in its current form. Participatory panels and community submissions on the planning legislation revealed strong issues with the Bill with regards to governance, environmental safeguards and the ability of the community to raise concerns about development proposals. The Bill should not be introduced until the community feels its feedback has been satisfactorily addressed.

It is still not clear to our group why the entire planning framework is being reformed instead of improving the current planning framework. Voices of West Belconnen is also concerned that the new planning framework will result in any escalation of the poor building results we are seeing across Canberra.

We implore you to send the attached letter to your members and networks and to anyone you know who is similarly concerned (people should feel free to include any other issues of particular concern to them). They can copy the attached letter into an email and send to members of the Legislative Assembly. This Bill in its current form is simply not good enough and should not be introduced and debated until it is amended and then circulated again for community feedback.

We suggest people send their letters to the ACT Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Renewal and to their local MLAs.  An MLA list including contact details is attached. If your group or any individual would like to be contacted about similar action they can take in the future, they can contact us at VoicesofWestBelconnen@Outlook.com.

Regards

Dr Chris Watson
President
Voices of West Belconnen

Please note that if you do choose to send in a letter to your members, please tailor it to your own views on this matter so that it cannot be regarded as a ‘form letter’.

DRAFT LETTER:

VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN THE ACT GOVERNMENT’S PLANNING SYSTEM REVIEW

I am calling on YOU as my elected representive, NOT to pass the new planning legislation – it is anti-community, anti-environment and the disregard of separation of powers provisions enshrined in the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 is anti-democratic.

As my elected representative your job is to represent the views of the community. The Planning Bill was widely condemned by many community groups across Canberra.

I reject:

The proposed planning system, based on ‘outcomes’ instead of ‘rules’, which will lead to discretionary decision making that will be impossible for the community and individuals to challenge.

Concentration of power of unelected officials within the Planning Directorate and weakening of oversight by the Legislative Assembly.

The lack of transparency, certainty and clarity, accountability in the proposed new system.

Anti-environment provisions such as not assessing for ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014 threatened species and key threatening processes and limiting assessment of native vegetation clearance to areas over 5 hectares, regardless of the quality of that habitat.

There needs to be:

A report justifying why the current planning system is inadequate (beyond the lack of compliance by developers and lack of enforcement by Planning officials).

Investigation of best practice models used elsewhere that could result in better, more expert and transparent decision-making processes for development and construction, with a view to adopting them in the ACT. These include:

  1. Establishing an ACT Independent Planning Commission similar to The Northern Territory Planning Commission
  2. ‘Local planning panels’, along the lines of those in NSW to decide ‘significant’ Development Applications (either in size or attracting substantial objections)
  3. The Gunning Principles for Public Consultation (UK) or South Australia’s Community Engagement Charter to ensure meaningful community participation is at the forefront of any ACT Planning and Development system

 

Improved environmental protections (see recommendations in submissions by Environmental Defenders Office, ACT Conservation Council, Friends of Grasslands and other environmental organisations).

Evaluation of the outcomes of “Special provisions for Mr Fluffy blocks” before implementing similar provisions across Canberra, including in its Terms of Reference the following:

  1. How have Mr Fluffy provisions contributed to housing affordability
  2. The degree of compliance with zone objectives and codes
  3. Whether the community believes an optimal balance has been reached between increasing human density and maximising retention of greenspace and canopy (if not, how can this be achieved)

Implement a rigorous Building and Construction Control regime to improve the quality of the buildings being built, including the adoption of all 48 recommendations of the ACT Government’s 2020 Inquiry into Building Quality.

The Canberra community is watching you debate and vote on this legislation and will remember how well you represented community views at the 2024 election, which is only 17 months away.

If the Government passes this anti-community Bill, the community will not forget the Government’s disregard for community concerns.

Yours sincerely

[Signature]

  1. Reid WeedersInduction, Friday 9 June 2–2.30 pm Geerilong Gardens

One and all we have lift-off to start weeding in our laneways, verges, Dirawan and Geerilong gardens and round the edge of the Reid Park Sports Ground. Allan McLean, Project Manager, Urban Parks and Places Volunteer Program, TCCS, will hold an induction to the whys and wherefores of volunteering this Friday in Geerilong Gardens at 2–2.30 pm. If it’s too rainy we will move into a committee member’s house nearby.

RRA Committee 2023-24
Contact via: info@reid.northcanberra.org.au
President: Marianne Albury-Colless Secretary: Robyn Bergin Treasurer & Public Officer: Roy Jordan
Committee: Anne Buttsworth, Sue Byrne, John Henderson, Molly Henman and Amanda Reynolds

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