Page 1485 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 7 May 2008

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Perhaps this government has already forgotten the problems that came from an attempted secret enlargement of the Karralika family centre between Fadden and Macarthur, the result of which led to well organised local opposition, with the subsequent result that a much needed expansion was abandoned. There was also some resistance when the plan to expand Goodwin Homes in Ainslie first became widely known. Once again the response to our questions regarding the consultation process was that statutory requirements had been followed. Yet the Goodwin Homes director himself at an Assembly committee six months previously had acknowledged that the proposal was likely to be contentious. We have seen this over and over again with the 3G towers, which have hit many communities with surprise.

My contention is that statutory processes, while legally safeguarding the government and ACTPLA, are simply not enough for decent community engagement. So either the ACT government generally, ACTPLA itself or the various proponents just think that a bit of public distress and conflict is par for the course and has to be endured or they simply do not even conduct a cursory risk analysis to see whether there will be a negative response.

When we raised the issue of inadequate consultation regarding the Ainslie development the then planning minister pointed to the new planning regime as providing a more appropriate scaling of public consultation. The Greens, of course, have already said that our assessment is that this new planning regime provides even less opportunity for community engagement. And so it seems in relation to the gas-fired power station because the development application was lodged by ActewAGL late last year. Even though the development itself is yet to begin ActewAGL can take its pick of our expectations and do the minimum.

But the power station and data facilities proposed for this site on Mugga Lane is a major development. It is the view of the ACT Greens and, I have no doubt, judging from the letters I have received, the local residents that ActewAGL and ACTPLA, who are both major players in ACT government activity, ought to do much better than comply with the minimum statutory requirements that the ACT government itself acknowledges are inadequate and outmoded.

This motion is not calling for anything particularly exceptional or difficult. It is calling for a more explicit process, more widely promoted than might otherwise be considered necessary. Given that this project is totally new for Canberra and enormous in its implications and scale, we would expect to see much more rigorous cost benefit, technical and other data and analysis, let alone a much more vigorous public consultation process in order to provide the reassurance for all of us that ACTPLA is approving the right project in the right place.

In essence, my motion is only asking for work that has been or ought to have been done already to be drawn together and put on the public record. It is not a big ask. It is merely asking for what I believe should be the normal business of government, which is informing community members and showing transparency so that it makes the best decisions. You would think that a business—which ActewAGL is—would see the economic as well as the social benefit of getting the community onside, and it looks as though this has not happened here.

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