When pesky problems come home to roost

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The chickens are coming home to roost… plans are devised to deal with those pesky residents. Photo: Paul Costigan

“Despite the obvious that our elected ones should represent the residents’ aspirations, they blindly use the scripts prepared by others in bureaucratic silos,” bemoans Canberra Matters columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

THE ACT Labor 2020 election campaign is underway. One can imagine a strategy meeting where some would be worried that the chickens are coming home to roost. Plans are devised to deal with troublemakers – those pesky residents.

Take the Woden Valley Community Council and its long-standing issues for facilities and how massive over-development is transforming the town centre. 

The thinking is that the developers maximising profits with loads of high-rise towers fits well with the ACT’s “jobs and growth” agenda – so nothing to be done there. 

However, a distraction is required as if the government is listening to Woden residents. 

Strategy 1: The Chief Minister announces that a “pop-up” authority may be required to “activate” Woden with loads of temporary distractions. This could trick residents into thinking that this government is there for Woden (at least till the election). This should work given how the City Renewal Authority is delivering a stream of temporary “pop-ups” that convince no one how seriously the government works with inner-north residents.

Strategy 2: This involves the developers, the professions and industry groups being encouraged to get articles into local media on how major follies such as the city-to-the-lake project, an expensive stadium plonked in Civic and more high-rise apartments are fantastic. These articles should hint at how ageing protesters are to be ignored. 

After all, the government knows that older generations (anyone who does not think like the Chief Minister) do not appreciate that Canberra needs to mature from a fantastic people-friendly bush capital envied by the world to become an over-developed and unplanned city just like all the others. 

Strategy 3: is simple. Trump avoids the truth and so can local Labor. For example, when the Chief Minister says it’s an urban myth that his government was thinking about apartments being built on the showground site, no one should point to the recent articles and announcements that contradict this. Alternate facts should keep those pesky people off his back – for a year.

Strategy 4: is easy given the common practice within this ACT government. Labor politicians must not (repeat – must not) stray off their prepared messages. 

Even if their portfolio has something to do with urban stuff, when addressing locals on urban issues such as the stupid West Basin development or the bulldozing of parklands at Section 72 Dickson, they are instructed to read from bureaucratically prepared alternate fact sheets and not to be influenced by residents, logic, common sense and evidence-based arguments.

Despite the obvious that our elected ones should represent the residents’ aspirations, they blindly use the scripts prepared by others in bureaucratic silos such as staff for Yvette Berry, housing clearance minister, who want community designated land converted to meet their portfolio needs. 

Meet with any ACT minister and see a politician using prepared spin that misrepresents residents. 

The 2019-2020 ACT election campaign will see Labor politicians doing as instructed and remaining loyal to their party’s meaningless scripts. Shame!

Strategy 5: involves getting party members to confuse community meetings so government can continue unhindered with ad-hoc developments. Party members, as residents, are to appear at community meetings and disrupt advocacy. They are to work to confuse issues raised by locals who obviously do not know what they are talking about when it comes to their suburbs and the need for more (not less) greenery, biodiversity, parklands and community facilities. Party members will be pointing out that residents are silly for wanting good architecture and well-designed landscapes as that’s up to the developers. 

Meanwhile, we wait for the Canberra Liberals to kick off their election campaign on how they may handle planning and development if they were to be the government. A list of planning queries published earlier this year remains unanswered. Maybe soon?

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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