Page 862 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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Social connection needs to be considered in planning for our city at every level, from the overall shape of the city and region to the level of neighbourhoods, streets and communications within and between individual buildings and their occupants. These are not new issues. As a responsive government, we have already acted by committing to the development and delivery of a number of significant policies. The 2012 ACT planning strategy and transport for Canberra prioritised development along and adjacent to major transport corridors that connect the town centres.

They envision enhanced pedestrian, cycling and public transport infrastructure connecting suburbs and centres to each other. The changing demographics of the ACT will require significant shifts in planning policies to enable a choice of housing and to allow people to age in place in the neighbourhood where they are socially connected and familiar with local facilities and services.

We also need not only to ensure that our city is people friendly but also to specifically consider child and age-friendly planning policies. As Minister for Planning I am keen to ensure that there is housing choice for our mature city and that a range of housing options are able to be delivered. In this regard, I have asked the Environment and Planning Directorate to continue its work to review policies and to ensure that the territory plan and its codes can facilitate housing affordability, urban consolidation and, ultimately, sustainability.

Planning has a defining role in helping to shape Canberra as a healthy and safe city, as part of a connected city. Good urban planning can shape our neighbourhoods to create high quality public realm and spaces and encourage active travel options for walking, cycling and public transport. This in turn has benefits for quality of life, including physical and mental health.

Supporting more people to walk, cycle and take public transport can greatly reduce the demand for expensive road infrastructure and help manage traffic congestion. Walking, cycling and other forms of active transport are an easy way to increase daily physical activity and social exchange. More efficient urban transport networks mean we can spend more time connecting with friends and family, playing sport and pursuing leisure activities. There need to be more opportunities in our city for places to meet and interact.

I will now briefly turn to some current planning projects we are working on, with the focus on building inclusive communities. The consultation that I announced on 25 February on the statement of planning intent is providing me with an opportunity to engage with the Canberra community and key stakeholders to find out about their aspirations for the planning of our city. I am asking Canberrans to help me determine the planning priorities the government should focus on over the next three to five years.

It is very important to me that this statement reflects the community’s options as Canberra continues to mature and grow as a major city. That is why I held four stakeholder workshops earlier this month with peak industry, community groups, research bodies and government agencies to listen to their ideas. Last week I met with older people and will soon engage youth to learn from them and to learn more about their age-specific perspectives on planning for our city now and into the future.

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