Costigan / Hands up for a bit of respect from the planners

“People are sick of the dumb statements that infill is necessary and therefore we must give up our cherished suburbs for high-rise. This is stupid,” writes columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

Getting around the rules… some droll digital mischief from Paul Costigan, who writes that the government’s real message on infill is not for residents but for developers seeking a green light to carry on as usual.

THE current ACT Labor/Greens government has defied common sense by hanging on to how it does planning and development. There are no real signs that anything is going to change.

A little while ago I said: “Hands up those who can remember agreeing that Canberra needs loads more high-rise towers.”

It would be wonderful if the National Capital Authority and the City Renewal Authority were to deliver a new Northbourne Avenue of people-scaled architecture embraced with lush greenery. All new buildings should include double-glazing, solar power and a raft of energy efficient mechanisms – as well as being aesthetically diverse and attractive within well-designed landscapes.

Such an entrance to Canberra would define the city as a 21st century bush capital as well as a people-focused city that refuses to be like others with skylines cluttered with bland machine architecture.

Hands up anyone who believes this is about to happen.

In 2018 the government delivered more pretty-picture documents. Included were the constant patronising messages about the need for more infill because the population was expanding. Who would have thought? What a wonderful meaningless piece of logic.

The real message was not for residents but for developers seeking a green light to carry on as usual. That is previously agreed height limits remain optional, greenery can be sacrificed to squeeze in more apartments, and streets and footpaths are there to provide off-street parking no matter what the impact on other residents.

Residents are a very aware bunch of people who love this city. They would like its growth to be managed intelligently and creatively. People are sick of the dumb statements that infill is necessary and therefore we must give up our cherished suburbs for high-rise. This is stupid.

It is possible to have it all, not just one or the other; namely a healthy built environment, more infill, good and varied architecture, cultural facilities, heritage and enhanced green infrastructure.

Sadly, the creative intelligence required to deliver such solutions is not evident among the current ACT politicians and their leaders in the numerous planning bureaucracies.

Which brings me to “respect”. Residents would love to respect the bureaucrats who present on developments. People are tired of being patronised with spin and meaningless justifications for even more questionable developments. There was a load of this stuff in 2018.

This came to a head mid year when a bureaucrat was doing the usual and some of the audience could not take it any more and started to make comments. Up jumps the chief planner and demanded that people show respect for the presenter. You can guess what some people said quietly in response.

If politicians and bureaucrats think they deserve respect – then stop talking rubbish and be honest about what is going on. It is really that simple.

Even in social housing this government plays nasty and unnecessary games. It is as if politicians want to reinforce a misconception that people are against social housing in their neighbourhoods. Not so.

It should not be a choice of community open spaces and facilities versus more social housing. A commonsense approach would be to deliver both using the tools that are available through – wait for it – real long-term planning.

Another query. Is this government yet to install computers with network storage for meeting agendas, notes and minutes? With the “Dickson Land Swap” fiasco we were told that the information was in a box that was “misplaced”. If we are to believe that, then no one created digital files, nothing was emailed and nothing was electronically stored.

Hands up all those who believe that.

In 2019 the ACT Labor/Greens government needs to make urgent, real and tangible changes to how planning and development happens. No more silly “Have Your Say” websites, no more bureaucratic nonsense and dishonesty. Try being nice and talk directly to and listen to residents.

Hands up those who want that to happen.

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