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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 792 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

We had a process which examined the viability of the centre. That was criticised by many. I seem to recall Mr Rugendyke criticising at one point the process which looked at the viability of the centre. I am surprised that he has been won over to a different cause. The aim of the owner and developer very clearly has been to make sure that a lease purpose change occurred through this relentless stubbornness about doing anything with the shopping centre and operating it in accordance with the lease purpose clause.

I know that this motion is not about that. It is about adopting a sane approach to preserving the Latham site until the matter of the shopping centre is finally determined. I understand that it is now before the Commissioner for Land and Planning. I cannot for the life of me believe that members of this place would oppose a motion that preserved a piece of land critical or crucial to further development in Latham, other than to play the same game as the developer is playing in respect of the shopping centre; that is, to create circumstances which force or encourage the residential redevelopment which has been proposed in the past, rather than the preservation of some decent shopping facilities for the people of Latham.

The people of Latham have been done in the eye over this issue. They have a shopping centre which, on my experience, would have been occupied by many retailers and other businessmen had the shops been available for rent, but they have been deliberately withheld from rent and maintenance has been withheld from them. I thought I heard somebody say earlier that the person who owned them wanted them redeveloped for their retirement or something like that, but I may have mistaken them. I would like to have enough money to be able to leave a valuable shopping centre like that almost empty for years. I reckon that I would be feeling pretty comfortable if I had that sort of money, knowing full well that by investing some money in the place, spending the insurance money on refurbishing the shop that was burnt out, there would be a return from those premises.

We know that people went to Melba not because they wanted to go to Melba, but because they could not get a space in Latham where, in their view, they could have run viable businesses. To say, on the basis of the much questioned viability inquiry, that the shops are no longer viable is merely to dance to the tune of the owner and developer; it is nothing more than that. Yes, there have been changes to the way the shopping centres, group centres, town centres and so forth operate in the ACT, but that is the nature of business. If you went into business on the basis of what is available at the time, surely you would plan into the future to better understand the commercial outcomes that you might expect, not knowing that one day you are going to be able to do the local community in the eye by pursuing a particular commercial development with your friends on the conservative side of politics in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

I repeat: I think the people of Latham have been done in the eye and are being ground down by the very deliberate attempts to make this site an eyesore, so they will get sick of it and cop anything rather than the eyesore. If members want to rust themselves onto that sort of approach to development in the ACT, let them; but leave me out. That is just a ridiculous approach to take to developing the social infrastructure of suburbs. If this development happens, things will change in Latham.

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