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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 December 2021) . . Page.. 3969 ..

Gungahlin residents want to see a greater range of activity in the Gungahlin town centre. We do not want to be just a dormitory suburb. We need to do better for Gungahlin. There is a great opportunity here to get it right. We need to celebrate, as a strength, that Gungahlin is still in the process of defining itself.

When commercial and community land is sold but not developed for essential community facilities such as shops, cafes, halls et cetera, our community loses out. The site that was chosen and approved for a cinema a decade ago is still sitting there, vacant and empty. This experience, amongst others across the ACT, demonstrate that our current policy settings are not strong enough to prevent land banking, to the ultimate detriment of the community.

We need to examine those policy settings, look at the carrot on the stick within the ACT government’s toolbox that may be utilised to improve the outcomes for the community, understand the intended and the unintended consequences of those very tools and determine a better path forward. We need to make sure that we take this once-in-a-generation opportunity that exists in our current planning review to do exactly this, to generate a better range of tools that we can utilise to make sure that the land is used for the benefit of the community. We also need to look at the guidelines to enforce lease clauses.

It is really important that, when the ACT government enters into a lease with a commercial entity, it actually follows through with that, in order to see that the services to the community have been provided. It is really important that, if the lessee is not in a position to provide those much-needed services for our community, there are processes in place that the ACT government can rely on to either enforce the lease clauses or to ensure that the leases are relinquished, or somewhere in the range in between.

We know that there are tensions here, and we need to balance the rights of individual leaseholders with the needs of the community. But we need to get that mix right. The ACT government should enforce all terms of current leases and should not waive conditions, terms and fees unless there are truly exceptional circumstances at play. As part of the planning review, the ACT government should investigate and introduce a mid-level compliance and enforcement tool, to deter these types of lengthy delays and to ensure that the ACT government has a means of enforcing lease compliance that lies somewhere in between the termination of a lease and just a mere talking to a leaseholder.

We also need to examine the economic incentives that are at play, because at the moment landowners factor paying rates into the costs of banking land as part of doing their business, confident that the capital gains and/or the profits from a development will eventually make the venture profitable. Former Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur advocated for a vacancy tax on residential property. It is now time to examine the economic incentives for commercially zoned property to see if we have the balance right.

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