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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3374 ..

Government Housing

MR WOOD: My question is to the Minister for Urban Services. Minister, I receive many anxious approaches from tenants of government housing complexes who fear for their continuing security of tenure. For example, two weeks ago I was contacted by an O'Connor resident whose neighbours, all of whom are in the private sector, had received very informative letters from ACT Housing telling them that his house was to be pulled down and turned into units. What a pity no-one from ACT Housing had the courtesy to tell him! He, the tenant, was the last to know. Only yesterday I was contacted by a lady who had lived in her apartment in the Northbourne Flats since the 1950s. Her neighbours and she are worried about their future after the announcement of the so-called vision for Northbourne Avenue. Their worry is not unnatural, given the excessive media hype over the report, yet no-one from ACT Housing has approached them. Similar anxieties are held at Burnie Court and Lachlan Court. Given the Government's oft-stated commitment to consultation, will you immediately set up a program to talk to the residents in each of these complexes to provide the detail of any plans for the future and to hear residents' views, and do so before decisions are taken?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Wood for his question and I thank him for giving me some indication that this question would be coming. This Government is committed to consultation, and real consultation. I would like to cite as an example what happened just some months ago with McPherson Court. The Federal Government has given the ACT Government, through ACT Housing, some $200,000 to look at different manners of provision of public housing. The Community Housing Canberra Group are now doing a feasibility study for the redevelopment of McPherson Court, being very much aware that all tenants deserve to know the future of the place, whether it puts a roof over their head.

In the case of McPherson Court, newsletters and letters were put out to the residents and meetings were held so that residents could come and ask questions to find out what was going on and what their part in it was, what their future would be. My understanding is that ongoing information is being put out to the residents of McPherson Court as to what is happening with the development of this plan. I think we got it very right in the case of McPherson Court. I understand that in the O'Connor case a resident was, in fact, overlooked. Officials from the department have now spoken with and apologised to the resident.

In the case of Northbourne Avenue, the draft variation which is out for comment is, of course, a National Capital Authority and PALM document that is put out. What happens to the substantial holdings that ACT Housing has on Northbourne Avenue may change as a consequence of the variation. The ACT's holdings in terms of housing have an impact on the variation, but will not necessarily stop the variation from proceeding. In that regard we have put notices out to the residents of the Northbourne Flats, for instance, to let them know what is happening. I understand that there have been meetings in Havelock House and at PALM itself to explain further what is happening there. We have certainly put out large amounts of information there.

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