Page 4857 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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Nonetheless, despite the fact that this motion was agreed to by the entire Assembly, what we have seen so far has been consultation through a competition suggested by Terry Snow and run through the Canberra Times, plus some more considered plans by the NCA, ACTPLA, Terry Snow and a group of transport planners. That was fun, but it is not consultation. Then we had a Canberra central task force that included, among other experts, a social policy analyst. The task force included retailers, developers, and town planners, of course, but no residents, no-one from any of the community organisations that are based in Civic, no-one who uses those services, no-one with special needs, nor specifically any commuters.

I can understand that the point of the task force was not to be representative; but, when you look at the expertise that was a part of that group, without a doubt it represented some groups, and it performed a representative role. That would not be such an issue if the task force’s report had been then made public and, before the government formulated its response, those unrepresented groups on whom this proposed redevelopment would have a major impact, and other interested parties, could feed in to the general planning process.

That is one way that these “major planning decisions” could be “informed by a community values exercise that incorporates the perspectives of the full range of stakeholders, consistent with the Chief Minister’s Department consultation protocol”. Again, it is as though the community engagement strategy is pulled out sometimes and not pulled out at other times. Sometimes when there is a statutory requirement for it, there are statutory forms of consultation, and at other times it is forgotten about altogether. I am concerned that the planning minister took the report to cabinet and got a whole raft of the government response signed off before such a process could be put in place. I would have thought that was unacceptable to the Assembly, given its unanimous support of the motion in August.

Mr Service said today at the media conference where the government’s response to the report was launched—and, of course, at the same time as the task force’s report itself was inadvertently launched, but all the fire had gone out of it by then—that there had been some submissions from interested people. That is all very well and good; but most people did not know that there was an opportunity to provide submissions, so we can expect that those submissions were from people who were probably already, to some extent, inside the process. That cannot be called consultation.

I understand from the media and from the government that not much is going to happen quickly. So there is still room for a decent community engagement process, and I call on the minister to act respectfully to the Assembly and ensure that such a process is pursued. One of the key observations of the task force’s report is that it would take an inordinately long time to develop the area inside London Circuit if the residential development is to target the premium market. The task force suggested that a focus on below-premium housing would accelerate the development process. I do not know exactly what the task force means by below-premium housing, but I would go so far as to see this as an opportunity to factor a proportion of affordable housing into the development strategy. Rather than simply accepting or rejecting the reviews of the task force or of other MLAs, I believe that that issue, the mix of housing that would be included in this key development, has to be part of the public debate.

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