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Canberra Today 16°/18° | Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Be afraid, the barbarians are inside the gate

West Basin… open-space parklands with lots of trees and important functioning biodiversity alongside the foreshore. Photo: Paul Costigan

“THE barbarians are at the gate” usually means there is imminent danger from barbarous hordes about to crash into your city to plunder and destroy.

The problem for Canberra is that Andrew Barr and his barbarians are inside the city, are running the joint and are plundering resources and celebrating the city’s slow destruction.

This is the common theme being discussed across Canberra. People are witnessing many horrible things happening to the city they love. Conversations focus on many concerns including:

  • This city was never meant to be just another metropolitan city;
  • being a garden city/the bush capital;
  • architecture at a human scale;
  • respecting heritage;
  • hanging on to and increasing the urban trees and biodiversity; real housing choices – not just badly built boring apartments;
  • valuing greenery, open spaces and parklands; government that works with the people (not against them) and
  • politicians and a bureaucracy capable of kindness, friendliness and empathy.

On these points Barr and his government are being judged as failing.

Attendees at the March 17 forum at Manning Clark House heard speakers deliver short and well-focused presentations under the broad title “Developing Away Our Bush Capital?”. Most of the planning and governance problems within the sad state of this ACT government were identified.

People were reminded that despite election promises for change, the appearance of new and expensive authorities and worthy statements from planning chiefs, things are getting worse and the damage to Canberra’s fabric is approaching a tipping point.

A 2016 article was mentioned as an insight into the key background issues – the suggestion was to search “Canberra’s tangled web of developers and bureaucrats”.

While ACT Labor voters express the loss of the progressive government they once voted for, the other parties are also not doing so well with voters.

The ACT Liberals are being judged as mirroring their Federal warriors, complete with an out-of-touch far right. Progressive Liberals are in despair. While the comments on the Greens are not polite given their frequent inaction on planning issues; sometimes they refer stuff to committees – but not much else happens.

The most shocking quote being that when asked about their views on the questionable proposals for West Basin, the ACT Greens said that at least it would no longer be a car park.

This tired bit of spin is the argument that the government, its bulldozer-mentality agencies and its trolling supporters use to justify the destruction of this part of Lake Burley Griffin.

West Basin… open-space parklands with lots of trees and important functioning biodiversity alongside the foreshore. Photo: Paul Costigan

The area does indeed have a car park at one end, but that car park is full of trees and the vast majority of West Basin remains open-space parklands with heaps of trees and important functioning biodiversity alongside the foreshore. All of this is of little interest to the ACT Greens. It makes you wonder.

Members of the local political parties need to take responsibility for what is being done in their names. If members sit on the fence, then they must recognise that they own and are responsible for this slow and ad hoc destruction of the city. Surely they join these parties to uphold some principles and to ensure good governance. This is not happening.

Andrew Barr’s government is seen as not capable of listening to residents and the system of government is so out of touch that the government cannot imagine how to empathise with issues let alone be open and transparent in how it conducts planning and manages development.

While Canberra remains a fantastic city with great green infrastructure, unfortunately the new norm is rapidly becoming loads of very dreadful developments and boring architecture.

People across Canberra are joining forces to find new ways to get the residents’ concerns given a fair hearing. As is happening in Warringah in Sydney (Vote Tony Out), the common call from these individuals and groups is rapidly becoming just a few words: “Barr must go”. Could it be that simple?


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Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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2 Responses to Be afraid, the barbarians are inside the gate

Arjay says: 10 April 2019 at 4:06 pm

Not everyone who disagrees with you about the NCA/ACT Government’s plans for West Basin is a “troll”, Paul. While you might find it hard to believe, there are people out there such as myself who genuinely look forward to the transformation of West Basin into a waterfront entertainment precinct, even if it means the loss of a handful of trees scattered throughout acres of asphalt.

Jim says: 11 April 2019 at 11:37 am

“politicians and a bureaucracy capable of kindness, friendliness and empathy.”

I would also suggest you are very harsh on ACT bureaucrats, who by and large are like anyone else. Doing their best to do their jobs well, often in very challenging circumstances all things considered. They aren’t decision makers, and can only ultimately implement decisions of hte government of the day. Give them some credit, not start slagging them off at every opportunity as well.


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