Page 804 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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After the 2012 election, Mr Rattenbury became minister for TAMS and buses, so the residents wrote again, in 2013, to Mr Rattenbury. Again the promise of the upcoming review and the opportunity for public comment were given, and again Deane’s was offered as an alternative.

So there have been four years of hard lobbying of this government, and the same recycled promises, with absolutely no progress. You can understand the frustration and the situation that the Oaks Estate people find themselves in.

Surely Minister Rattenbury should be aware that if ever there was a time that he should do something to support a Canberra Liberals motion, this has got to be that issue. This would demonstrate Mr Rattenbury’s genuine commitment to the voters in the electorate of Molonglo, not just to his selective moralising on issues that stray far from the regular and constant needs of his community.

It is not that there has not been sufficient examination of what could work in Oaks Estate and what needs to be done. All the ideas are out there, from the smaller ones about better street lights, footpaths and increased police presence to the harder and bigger ones about rejuvenation in housing density and mix.

As the president of the residents association, Michael Starling, said to me only yesterday, what Oaks Estate needs is rebranding. He is right. Enough negativity: it needs a brand-changing project, and Mr Starling has one. He has previously lobbied the Megalo board to move Megalo to Oaks Estate. He argues it would be a great fit—close to the airport, with factories to adapt or repurpose on adjacent land. If not Megalo, what about other organisations needing more space and a new start?

What are the other positives for Oaks Estate? For a start, there is opportunity for affordable houses on big blocks in a rural setting close to Queanbeyan and Canberra, an opportunity for families who appreciate a sense of history and a village feel not readily available elsewhere in Canberra.

Residents value their unique heritage status. I trust that the Minister for Planning, with whom residents met earlier this week, will accede to their request to delay the master planning process until such time as the heritage nomination has been finalised, which I understand should be the correct process in any event. I trust that the government also appreciates the residents’ very real concerns about the co-location of light industrial in a residential area. There is potential for industrial land to be redeveloped into housing, and there are commercial owners willing to sell, so use this opportunity to make a new start for this area.

Ministers, listen to the residents. They are not opposed to change; they seek it. But it must be in keeping with all that is good and unique about the area. Commit to such things as a precinct code and better managed public housing. Recognise the limitation of Oaks Estate and do not try to run community programs better suited to areas with public transport, shops and support services. Oaks Estate cannot continue to be neglected.

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