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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 18 February 2015) . . Page.. 457 ..

Because of this, people are encouraged to build in the city. They know there will always be a high demand for these properties. We see this every day when property and rental prices in the city are some of the highest in the ACT. So I will say it again: light rail does nothing to actually renew Northbourne Avenue. The government can renew Northbourne Avenue by making land available. It could all be done with prudent planning decisions. Of course, the government would still be a financial beneficiary of those decisions, but they would not need to spend $800 million along the way.

The removal of 400 trees, the majority of which are healthy, from the Northbourne Avenue median strip seems illogical, particularly when the government is proposing that they be replaced by a tram and overhead wires. In this context “urban renewal” and “light rail” seem to be mutually exclusive.

A lot has been said in the light rail debate about the heritage listing of public housing on the route. It is the government’s intention to knock down all of this housing if they can. The rapid business case highlights this. Today it has been reported that the Heritage Council will protect one of the Dickson towers, pair houses, three-storey flats, maisonettes and garden flats.

This shows that the government have put the cart before the horse. They have promised, in part, that they will be able to remove all of the public housing houses on Northbourne Avenue in order to make way for light rail. However, this was always unlikely to be able to happen. The ACT Heritage Council was always going to have very firm views on the housing precincts along Northbourne Avenue. The cost-benefit analysis released last year of 1.2 seems to have shrunk just a little more as a result of the Heritage Council’s decision. Again, the question is: why are we spending $800 million when we can have the same benefits by simply having better government?

The government have chosen to build light rail because they need the support of Mr Rattenbury. Mr Rattenbury in turn supports light rail because he is ideologically opposed to cars. Because of this, the government have walked blindly towards their light rail policy. If they want urban renewal, they do not need light rail. They simply need a better planning system and better governance.

The $783 million figure which the government has published is of course the capital cost of construction, but it does not include many other essential works. Of course, changes to intersections near the route, changes to bus infrastructure, the construction of park and ride and many other works have not yet been factored into the cost. Further to this, dozens of staff in the Capital Metro Agency have not been factored into the headline costs of delivering light rail either.

However, one of the biggest expenses related to light rail which the government has been reluctant to put a price on is the cost of reconstructing public housing. There are many hundreds of public housing dwellings in multi-unit complexes up and down Northbourne Avenue. The government have flagged their desire to redevelop most of these complexes as part of the light rail project. Therefore, these costs are directly as a consequence of the government’s decision to go ahead with light rail. To reconstruct hundreds of dwellings will surely be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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