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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5270 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Firstly, I would like to make clear to members that the ACT Planning and Land Authority has confirmed with me that the specific personal accusations made in the letter in relation to the conduct of some ACTPLA officers towards the author at the meeting are incorrect. I have every faith in the professional capacity of the officers referred to in the letter. I view this as a scurrilous and unworthy attack on people who have worked far beyond the requirements of their jobs and contributed significant amounts of their own unpaid time to engage with communities across Canberra in neighbourhood planning.

I also accept the advice from the chief planning executive, Mr Savery, that the specific accusations about threats of prosecution and language used were not as presented in the letter. At the meeting convened by ACTPLA, the author of the account, which has been tabled today, was handing out leaflets at the meeting. The leaflet was badged as an ACT government ACTPLA document when it clearly was not. This action was seen as clearly misleading other members of the community and this matter was appropriately brought to the attention of the person handing out the leaflets. The person distributing the document was advised that, as the document was badged as an ACTPLA document when it was not, this was illegal. She was also advised that, if the ACT government badging was removed, it could be distributed. I believe this is all I need to say on that matter.

Secondly, I know that the author has concerns about how she wants her neighbourhood to look. I respect her views and her right to express them, but this does not entitle her to take advantage of a process established by this government and implemented by ACTPLA to involve the rest of the community in a discussion about the manner in which their neighbourhood might change over time.

It is unfortunate that it appears that you are sometimes damned if you do consult and damned if you don't. I acknowledge from the outset that what gets discussed and is presented in these forums is not going to please everyone. Sometimes this leads to criticism of the process rather than discussion about the merits of the content. This should not be accepted by members of the Assembly, however, as the basis for denigrating the exercise. Neighbourhood planning is based on involving all those who live, work, learn, play and invest in particular local areas. A diversity of opinion is actively sought and encouraged. The process typically places substantial emphasis on community consultation over an extended period. Throughout this there are exchanges of ideas, feedback steps and opportunities to make submissions.

The meeting that the letter refers to was the very first of these for the broader south Canberra community and was understandably directed at providing a range of background material and context setting, followed by an initial facilitation of brainstorming amongst participants. Unless these sessions are managed in some way, it is impossible to move forward and get an appreciation of the issues and outcomes. The letter writer was seen by some members of the community as trying to highjack the meeting and, in so doing, depriving other members of the community to have the opportunity to express their views, as well as incapacitate the process through endless scrutiny of who said what. This can lead to people putting up defensive walls, creating an atmosphere of distrust and a reduction in communication. Perhaps this was the motivation, since it is easier to create myths in such a climate.

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