Page 801 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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The area has about 90 lots. While the land is mostly residential, there are some small-scale commercial, light industrial, community use and small rural areas. The most recent master plan describes the character of the dwellings as mixed. It says:

While the majority of the residential land area is low density detached housing, more than half of the dwellings are clusters of three and four storey flats from the 1970s. There are 78 public housing dwellings managed by the ACT Government and not-for-profit organisations such as St Vincent de Paul Society.

While there is a current master plan process, it is by no means the first. A draft policy plan for Oaks Estate was developed by the former National Capital Development Authority in 1983, 32 years ago. That was followed by a territory planning study undertaken in 1994. In 2001 another planning study was commissioned, and in 2012 the ACT government started community engagement on the current master plan. Earlier this week the consultation period for this current plan closed.

In addition, the area has been the subject of two heritage assessments, the first in 2002 and the second in 2013, both of which recommended that the village be heritage listed as a place of historical and social significance in the ACT.

On face value, given its small size and with a residential base of around 240 to 260 citizens, depending on whose data you choose to believe, one could be excused for thinking that here is an area that has had significant attention from government and that it must be a favoured region. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, so neglected and forgotten has Oaks Estate been that in the 2006 census Oaks Estate was described as one of the two most disadvantaged suburbs in Canberra. That is a big call, but it has every right to be described as that. Interestingly, Mr Gentleman, in his proposed amendment, which he only circulated a short time ago, tries to even deny this factual statistical statement; he wants to expunge that or take out any reference to how bad is the situation that Oaks Estate is in—and has been in for quite a while.

A recent article by Mark Sawa in the Canberra Times is a telling story and an indictment of an area that has so much to be proud of and so much that should be treasured but that has been allowed to flounder and manage as best it can. The article highlighted some of the everyday challenges those who choose to live in the area face. The article outlined the frequency of domestic violence and drug issues; the almost routine process of residents needing to call the police in the middle of the night; and the recent abuse of the district’s heritage-listed Robertson House, which is reportedly being used as a shooting gallery by junkies.

The residents at Oaks Estate are used to this. As the article suggested, they rarely complain and are proud of where they live. They have a grudging acceptance that they are rarely paid much attention by the ACT government or its bureaucrats. But the situation has become increasingly worse. Despite fearing being regarded as NIMBYs, they feel they need to speak out and speak up about what their suburb is turning into and what it is becoming.

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