Crunch time looms for Dickson parklands

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Canberra Matters columnist PAUL COSTIGAN bemoans the slow torture of the goodwill of the residents, the planning trickery and bureaucratic misrepresentation around the future of Dickson’s Section 72.

Crunch time is coming for Dickson parklands. Photo: Paul Costigan

THE crunch time is approaching when various ACT planning ministers will commit to how they mess with inner-north residents over Section 72 – the Dickson Parklands.

Paul Costigan.

This sad tale started with that dubious land swap and sale between the ACT government and the ACT Tradies – resulting in the momentum by the then Land Development Agency to sell off much of the parklands site for development.

What followed has been the slow torture of the goodwill of the residents.

There were the complex consultations in 2014 that clearly delivered the community’s aspirations. The results were not liked by the government and have since been re-translated with all manner of misleading statements being used to convince people that they were wrong and that public and private housing on this parklands site would be wonderful.

Politicians have shown up to say how wonderful the consultations have been and surely everyone realises that this Labor/Greens government is doing the right thing in misrepresenting the views of local residents.

We even had a few years of direct political influence on how planning issues were handled within the community council.

Think of a political trick – and it is almost guaranteed that it has been used.

Despite the cajoling, misrepresentations, alternate facts, patronising, bullying and even the occasional raised voice, the community aspirations have been consistent.

It is this simple: People would like to the site be developed and enhanced as a community cultural site to service the growing needs of the surrounding suburbs as they undergo redevelopment and infill.

The site is required to service people in these suburbs with a range of arts, community and recreation facilities with well-designed outdoor public spaces.

Importantly, thinking about biodiversity and climate, the character of the site needs to be maintained through ensuring that the amount of greenery be kept at present levels and where possible be increased – along with open spaces for a variety of activities.

There remains overwhelming opposition for the use of the available sites within the parklands for commercial and residential use.

Last week there appeared a weird needs analysis – done by the bureaucracy, using their own data and with no input from the community. It includes some extremely dubious stuff about the arts.

The reality is that the suburbs around Dickson are overdue for more community cultural/arts facilities that would assist in increasing the community’s ownership and enjoyment of the area especially as the infill advances and the residential numbers increase hugely.

Sadly, someone did the bureaucratic needs analysis with no knowledge or appreciation of the benefits of the arts to local communities. They even dared to conflate and misrepresent Canberra’s main arts facilities in and around Civic as being somehow being directly relevant to the Dickson precinct’s growing cultural and community requirements.

We will now see this junk data used to justify the political actions of the ministers involved.

Finally, a mention must be made of the political trickery that demonstrates the nastiness of someone in this Labor/Greens government.

In the last days of the 2016 election the Labor Party slipped into their election list the not-seen-before proposal for a new Common Ground (a special form of social housing) to be in Dickson.

The Labor/Greens government continues to push the limits of alternative facts as they claim this skullduggery as an election mandate. It was a last-minute trick and nothing more. Please be honest – it is a nicer thing to do!

The community response remains consistent: There is support for public housing and more forms of social housing across the inner north – but not on this parklands site as it has been reserved historically for another use – for community cultural facilities.

Meanwhile, the Greens remain silent with no comments on the threats to trees and biodiversity or about supporting the community’s aspirations. And there has been no response from the ACT Liberals about this trickery and the insults to the goodwill of residents.

What happens next in Dickson in relation to Section 72/The Dickson Parklands will be a clear signal of how our politicians want to be judged in the lead up to the 2020 ACT elections. How open, honest and community focused are the current ACT politicians?

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