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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Democracy muted as Mick calls in YWCA project

All over… a development application outside the YWCA building at Bill Pye Park in Ainslie. Photo: Paul Costigan

“Given the historical Christian values, the founders must be turning in the graves at the YWCA’s public actions to be horrible towards residents along with recent efforts to challenge the democratic processes in how planning decisions should be made,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

THE ACT’s planning directorate is a rogue bureaucracy doing the bidding of anyone but the residents of Canberra. Few residents would be confident that the directorate has the expertise to do anything except to continuously mess stuff up.

Paul Costigan.

I believe the chief minister has staffed the planning directorate with selected bland bureaucrats so that they confuse the residents with inaccessible and contradictory rules, not make intelligent decisions and leave it to the major developers.

It is not always the government bureaucrats doing weird things in planning, heritage, environment, urban or housing. Sometimes it can be organisations aligned politically with their favoured ministers.

This brings us to the YWCA Canberra – a corporatised organisation in receipt of large funds from their minister, Yvette Berry. Given the historical values of this Christian group, the founders must be turning in the graves at the YWCA’s public actions to be horrible towards residents along with recent efforts to challenge the democratic processes in how planning decisions should be made.

Following the appeals tribunal ruling that the planning chief was wrong to approve YWCA’s social housing alongside Bill Pye Park in Ainslie, the logical step would have been to question who drafted such a badly written application and who signed off on it.

Instead the YWCA took to attacking the residents who challenged such a rotten proposal. Then, by coincidence, the planning directorate changed a rule that would favour a new application by the YWCA.

In mid-June the YWCA lodged a submission about the planning reforms that included a plea that projects such as theirs should not be subject to appeals. The justification was that once the planning directorate had approved the application then the rules had been met – no need for appeals. Did they not read the appeals tribunal’s words about how many rules had not been followed?

Not satisfied with that inaccuracy, the submission attacked residents’ groups and put one in there for the appeals tribunal. Apparently, the YWCA Canberra should not have to be bound by such democratic processes. Way to go!

This proposal was predicted to receive special attention and, not surprisingly, on Wednesday (June 29) this happened.

Minister Mick Gentleman, was convinced to use his special call-in powers to approve the YWCA’s development. This “call-in” avoids the planning chief having to deal with the embarrassment of approving for a second time a YWCA development that did not meet rules and denies everyone from appealing the development.

The lessons for the residents – do not get in the way of a favoured developer and a pocket of money – and do not think that this government operates democratically.

Which bring us to the ACT’s own eviction queens, ministers Berry and Rebecca Vassarotti. Having been questioned about the nasty business of evicting older people from their homes, these two ACT Greenslabor ministers published articles justifying their robo-evictions program. They pushed the line that the tenants are guilty because they want to stay in their homes.

They overlooked the last decade of neglect by their Greenslabor government. They need to sell these lands to raise funds for their housing program because they have not made this a budget priority. Need a tram? Plenty of cash for that!

In their responses, the eviction queens sympathise with the residents – “Moving can be hard”. How would they know that? Maybe these ministers equate moving out older people with their own experiences of well-paid jobs with multiple privileges. Maybe packing up the family for a holiday on the coast is a similar experience to being forced out of your much-loved home of decades.

These arrogant ministers have refused sensible suggestions to allow the tenants to opt in – to stay if they wish. Will more of these cruel robo-evictions be part of the Greenslabor election promises at the next elections and will they present conference papers on the distress they caused older women?

A final thought. If this is about freeing up land and some tenants have moved on willingly, then there are vacant properties in Ainslie. This means that the desire for the YWCA for land to build their specialists social housing could have been met with Yvette Berry handing over a couple of these former Housing ACT sites to the YWCA.

The community designated land and buildings alongside Bill Pye Park that the YWCA claimed could have then be handed back to the local community for their own use as community facilities.

But that is not going to happen with the autocratic decision by Gentleman. Killing off democracy is the way to go for the ACT government in 2022.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that a little common sense and kindness will return to Ministers Berry and Vassarotti and the nasty evictions will be cancelled.

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Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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10 Responses to Democracy muted as Mick calls in YWCA project

Ian Hubbard says: July 2, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Once you wade through the YWCA’s propaganda they are still demolishing a community facility. This facility could have been used by 100s of local community members as a preschool or community meeting rooms. Instead the YWCA’s Board decides that it’s better used for a multi-unit development for 12 people. This is the ongoing privatisation of community facilities. Coming to public land near you.

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Leah says: July 2, 2022 at 12:57 pm

It’s NOT public land! It is owned by the Y.

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Ian says: July 2, 2022 at 3:52 pm

Leah. It’s a concessional lease which the Y purchased at half price with a concessional lease purpose for a preschool and community meeting room. The community will be excluded by the residential development. That’s the point. Give community facilities back.

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Louise says: July 2, 2022 at 3:47 pm

The only person spreading propaganda is you, who made false two story renderings of the development, sent them to every news outlet and letter box dropped , put illegal signs up around the park saying it is being bulldozed and developed, door knocked residents saying crime is coming to area. The only truth that has come out of your month is during the tribunal when in your evidence you said “…we’ve got to be careful that there’s not a, in a sense, an over concentration of people on low income or a particular age…” (transcript, Page 92 lines 11-12) “I think if – one of the problems that – that might occur from the development is a skewing towards people who essentially are living in poverty and there might be over – it might end up being over 50 per cent of the – the actual 25 people in the street” (transcript, Page 92 lines 22-26). Truth speaks louder than your lies.

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Ian says: July 3, 2022 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for your comment Louise. I have never said that the development would bring crime to the area. You must be one of the few people who could afford to buy a transcript from the hearing and I would love a copy. The point I was making through your selective quotes was that far from being the well resourced NIMBYs from affluent Ainslie that in fact there are already approximately 30% of the street that are low income being either pensioners or living in existing public housing. Adding another 10-12 low income residents will increase this proportion to 50%. This wasn’t being judgemental it was pointing out that a greater concentration of low income people goes against the government’s salt and pepper policy and the anonymity sought by social housing tenants.

You can nit pick and distort words but our thrust has been that the Y is privatising what has been a community facility on concessional community facility land. The design of the development failed in ACAT and it’s taken the use of call-in powers to save it. This largely publicly funded development could be built on land zoned for residential but the Y has chosen to demolish a community facility instead.

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Mike of Canberra says: July 2, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Wow, isn’t the YWCA’s Ms Crimmins having a crowing good time! She assassinates the character of ordinary Ainslie residents, and indeed all residents of Canberra, who have worked hard to build their own home, raise their children, and stay safe in their community. According to Ms Crimmins, they deserve to be name called and pilloried in that community, all supported by this authoritarian socialist ACT Government. Canberrans had better understand and resign themselves to the reality that if you work hard, buy your own home and are a responsible citizen of Canberra, you count for nothing, you have no rights, but you pay for everything, and your children will be banished to the outer areas of Canberra when they set out to establish their home. Meanwhile, people who have contributed absolutely nothing all their life, get to live in one of the most desirable areas of Canberra on the backs of you and your children and Ms Crimmins continues to get an obscenely huge salary largely on your back as well.

I have warned before that under the great Barr social and taxation experiment, within a decade Canberra will have become a city comprised of only the very wealthy haves and the have nots. The great middle class will have disappeared. Think long and hard about who you vote for at the next election.

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Spinaroony says: July 2, 2022 at 7:39 pm

What planet are you on? Your comment actually goes to proving the characterisation right. You may actually want to understand what the YCWA proposal is about (and who its for). Yes 9 units on the block might be a few too many. However it’s unfair to slur all those living in social or public housing.

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Mike of Canberra says: July 3, 2022 at 2:00 pm

I’m right here on Planet Earth Spin, where are you? Because if you regard the ACT Government’s management of public/supportive housing as being in any way satisfactory, it’s you who should be examining your current planetary location. The Ainslie residents presumably have worked long and hard to build their homes and their standard of living. They would pay astronomical rates for the privilege of living where they do. But they would know that all of the publicity surrounding this development means that, in fact, far from being a safe haven from domestic abuse, it will now be a magnet for the abusers. That publicity didn’t emanate from the Ainslie residents. Rather, it was the YWCA itself that proudly proclaimed the new development. All in all, the blame for all of this deserves to be sheeted right home to the YWCA and to their autocratic crony Mick Gentleman. Right now, the ACT is being treated like the personal fiefdom of this tired old ACT Government. That’s where things need to change.

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oh the urbanity says: July 3, 2022 at 2:43 pm

What a great outcome for the vulnerable older women this facility will house. Canberra is a much more generous and inclusive community than you’d think from reading this column.

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S. Draw, K. Cab. says: July 4, 2022 at 6:29 pm

Unfortunately the new residents may not be off to the best start with the neighbourhood for no fault of their own nor that of the neighbourhood. IMHO Cause laid squarely at feet of YWCA and Labogreens.

+1 with Mike on the abuse of process and taxation. At the current trajectory with our “progressive” LVT (thanks Rachel Something-Something-Smith for that one), we’ll have to move our family out of our inner-north dump and hand the keys over to a rich person who can afford the luxury of living in a “rich” suburb. Maybe then we can apply for some social housing. Thank goodness, the developers are now building on inner-north parkland!

Nobody in this column or comments has said at any point, they don’t have concern for vulnerable people in our community. Moreso, I’d say we are interested in fair, well designed and socially sustainable solutions for these members of our community.

Disclaimer; I don’t live in Ainslie but I do have an interest in the misuse of power in the ACT.

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