Costigan / Protesting the Dickson promise that never was

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The Common Ground complex in Gungahlin. Photo: Paul Costigan

THIS week Dickson residents received yet another bureaucratic announcement about Section 72 (Dickson Parklands) and the imminent demolition of the former union training centre.

The notice contained the usual misinformation and rewriting of events from last year; no surprises given how often the government sends this stuff around.

Paul Costigan.

The notice finished with more on the government’s wonderful approach to consultations and reaffirmed its very questionable political commitment to building a Common Ground on the Dickson Parklands.

This statement about a new Common Ground on this community site is not new. The government and its bureaucracy repeated this at every opportunity throughout 2018 and now into 2019. It still does not make the decision sensible or honest; nor has it gathered community support.

The ACT Labor/Greens government says over and over again (though few believe them) that it was an election commitment by Labor at the October, 2016, ACT elections. The reality is that it was dreamt up in the last days heading into the election.

It was announced with no community consultations and since then the government has doggedly insisted that the community must accept this dubious political decision.

This despite a mountain of objections with the strongest being let’s have such a facility, but not on this site as it is a community site to be developed for community cultural uses.

Then there is this observation. If you go to Common Ground in Gungahlin, it is situated on a large plot of ground.

The site is large enough for the present building to be enlarged to cater for the needs identified. It is close to public transport and other services.

Extending the Gungahlin building would be efficient for the management and be cost effective, especially given the reports of a looming ACT government deficit.

Did those who thought this up on the spur of the moment consider that placing smaller set of units in Dickson would mean another management unit for the second building and force the support services to make two visits to see residents rather than just one visit?

I am aware fully that the Labor Party is saying it must meet this election commitment. But let’s get real and acknowledge that this was put in place at the last minute before the last election to politically demonstrate that by building another Common Ground it was taking this supported-housing issue seriously.

If the government was being honest, it could so easily deal with the issue of providing more for this category of people (who need this specialist assistance) by not duplicating the running costs and adding extra costs to the service providers.

The most vocal politician pushing this very questionable and illogical decision is Rachel Stephen-Smith. She was first elected in that 2016 election and immediately entered Andrew Barr’s cabinet.

It was not till August, 2018, that she was handed the extra role of Minister for Urban Renewal. She has become the government’s face for this difficult and complex argument even though others, including Andrew Barr, Yvette Berry and Mick Gentleman, are the ones responsible.

In a funny sort of way, one feels sorry for this minister for having to carry the can for others who have carefully made themselves absent from this debate.

Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

Rachel Stephen-Smith has had to also demonstrate support for the planning directorate’s “Yes, Minister” bureaucrats who continuously produce alternative facts on how they are conducting their community engagements. The common experience is that these bureaucrats continue to treat residents badly and have not done the government any favours. They have reinforced the perception that you cannot trust anyone in this government on planning and development.

Common sense and a new-style political and honest leadership is required in this Common Ground debate. The truth is out there.

The question is whether Rachel Stephen-Smith will deliver for her government or honour her compact with her electorate and deliver for the community and good governance.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It is interesting to note that Paul Costigan finally acknowledges that Common Ground was an election commitment of the Barr government but then questions how that came to be in what he proposes was dreamt up at the ‘last minute’. What evidence he has for this would appear to be negligible.
    Mr Costigan asserts that Section 72 ‘is a community site to be developed for community cultural uses.’ His implication is that it is SOLELY for cultural uses presumably to replace the cultural icons that were the Daramalan and Downer Clubs of days long gone. What proof does Mr Costigan have that the whole of Section 72 was ever set aside solely for community cultural purposes whatever they may be. There is sufficient space available for a variety uses.
    There have been many different views expressed by a variety of people some very in favour of Common Ground, some warmly supportive others less so. I have even heard one of his neighbours express a view that the consultants have done an excellent job designing the precinct and that the mix was reasonable with room for improvement.

  2. The other comment from “North Canberra” is spot on – there is no clear mandate that it must all be for community uses, never has been. If there was such demand, why wasn’t the community demanding for at least the last decade for something to be done on the empty sites there…

    The whole ‘build the Common Ground in Gungahlin’ stinks of the old NIMBY view of the world.

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