Development scenario for Dickson Parklands.

THE news from the residential battlefront around the future of the community and cultural life of the Dickson area is not rosy.

Following last week’s engagement workshops on the Dickson Parklands (section 72), residents are reporting that they did not sleep well.

Paul Costigan.

It is a shocker to realise that the government’s agencies have been charged to blatantly misrepresent the voices of local residents on issues that matter to Canberra.

As has been reported here and elsewhere hundreds of residents have indicated their aspirations for the use of this site as a community cultural and arts precinct for the inner north. Despite this, those running the engagements and workshops continue down the development path to see the site largely built over.

However this is not the emphasis of this opinion piece. What matters more to Canberra is that we have an honest ACT government that deals with its residents with respect. We haven’t.

There is a debate online whether to call out the atrocious behaviour of those doing the consulting on the Dickson Parklands. Part of the discussion is how the agencies representing the Labor/Greens government think it normal to be misleading, disingenuous, slanted, biased, withhold information and act consistently with particular and devious motives. Residents are concerned about the sad state of the democratic processes in this city.

The perception is that those representing the government hide behind the questionable defence that they are apolitical and are simply doing their job. Unfortunately, being viewed as nasty and disreputable towards the residents is not acceptable behaviour.

Locals still expect others to be kind and humane towards each other. Unfortunately, while this bad behaviour has become the norm, politicians of all colours are either silent or have used their own spin to justify this ongoing rude and dishonest treatment of residents.

Agencies of government do horrible things because they have the confidence that their employer wishes them to achieve certain outcomes at any cost. Our smiling politicians do not intervene and remain ever-so-friendly when they greet you at the local shops and community events.

Our elected politicians own this shocking behaviour. It is being done in their name. While they may smile and distance themselves from this rude way of dealing with electors, they cannot avoid the reality that they bear full responsibility for the growing lack of trust in their government and the increasing shallowness of their statements about things that matter to Canberra.

Here’s a reminder from April 2017 of how things should go.

“Director-general of the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development directorate Ben Ponton says he will be pursuing a ‘a citizen focus’.If we don’t have citizens in mind then we’re not going to succeed in delivering the government’s policy so it’s about understanding what’s important to communities, what’s important to government and working to provide for high-quality public spaces and improved environmental management.”

With those words in mind – is there a way forward? Yes. But it will take someone in the government to step forward and to say openly – enough!

Let’s stop this horrible nonsense. We need a moratorium on anything to do with the Dickson Parklands (section 72).

Map of section 72.

In 2019 this whole debate needs to start again with being honest as the basic principle. We need to openly discuss the ongoing community cultural and arts needs for this growing community, improving green spaces and biodiversity along with enhancing the provision of quality social housing across the inner north. (More on social housing in a piece to come soon)

The government needs to assure people that it, and its agencies, will not stuff up. The ACT’s Labor/Greens coalition government needs to ensure that whoever deals with residents is not misleading, disingenuous, slanted, biased, withhold information and act consistently with particular and devious motives.

Now that would be a peaceful way to welcome in 2019.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor