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Canberra Today 16°/18° | Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Rage, rage against heat islands and fewer trees

The Ainslie Football Club driveway to nowhere… sitting there as a weird message to the pesky residents. Photo: Paul Costigan

“When the ACT’s sporting clubs set out to bring in the cash through profit-making developments, they happen. That’s how things are with the ACT Greenslabor government,” writes “Canberra Matters columnist PAUL COSTIGAN

THERE’S a relatively new driveway off Angas Street, Ainslie, on the side of the Ainslie Football Club. It goes nowhere – it serves no known purpose. 

Paul Costigan.

Given the involvement of the Ainslie Football Club and the ACT Planning Authority, this driveway to nowhere aligns with the questionable stuff involved with the footy club’s money-making development proposals.

The club wants to boost its finances by converting much of the northern parking areas to residential apartments. There’s also to be a commercial childcare centre on the southern end. 

Residents have spent hours trying to engage positively with the proponents of the footy club developments, with little success. 

Given the political connections and the monies involved, there was little chance of volunteer community groups having the club’s outcomes changed. 

When the ACT’s sporting clubs set out to bring in the cash through profit-making developments, they happen. That’s how things are with the ACT Greenslabor government. 

Canberra’s community groups consist of a diversity of people. They volunteer time to work together on matters of interest because they value this city and wish to hand on to future generations suburbs that deal with the increasing climate emergencies and provide a fantastic lifestyle. 

They volunteer their time with the misplaced aspiration that the ACT Labor and Greens coalition government share these values. They do not.

It usually falls to volunteers to take on the combined battalions of developers, sporting clubs and their troops of experts and well-paid legals. 

The real crunch comes when they have to confront the taxpayer funded ACT planning authority which also shows up with its expensive lawyers and hand-picked experts. 

It is this combined wall of money and allied power that residents take on when they challenge the questionable norms of the ACT government to allow clubs to convert or sell their community assets, usually open spaces, to bring in cash for the clubs. The community’s efforts are largely in vain.

“Building a Better Normal” in this city has translated to clubs and other organisations having the government’s blessing to change their leases to build apartments and/or to sell off land. 

There may be a climate emergency, but for this government and its money hungry allies, open green spaces are land banks. The reality behind the worthy-sounding rhetoric of the ACT Greens is that Canberra has enough birds, trees and other critters – so a few less and more heat islands is just fine. That’s Greenslabor’s gentle urbanism! 

The motivation of the clubs is that without an injection of massive funds, the clubs will most likely become financially unviable. With management starved of innovative ideas, the clubs relegate community assets, open spaces, birdlife, the environment and opportunities to deal with climate as being of secondary interest. The high priority interest is money and business as usual.

As for the residents who have learnt that they have almost no control over developer-driven outcomes that will change their suburban environments – they must not give up. 

They should be proud that they have stood up to be counted and have let the monied cohorts know that there is a community that holds to its values – despite everything thrown at it.

That Ainslie Footy Club driveway is no Stairway to Heaven. It sits there as a weird message to the pesky residents. 

The government and its friendly developers know what they do and how they are playing the community with alternative facts and a twisted use of what remains of the planning rules. 

Change will happen one day as autocrats eventually stumble. It will take patience, creativity, courage and clever ways to use the scarce resources available to community groups. 

Residents may have lost skirmishes with monied clubs and developers, but they should continue to send the message that their values remain intact and that what the coalition of developers and government is doing does not align with the community’s values and aspirations.

There are many fun things to enjoy, most of which can be done despite the blandness of this Greenslabor government. Do not allow unfriendly developers and this government to define you. Be prepared to put them on notice again and again – but also do fun stuff with and on behalf of your diverse communities. And thank you for doing what you do.

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Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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4 Responses to Rage, rage against heat islands and fewer trees

John Ryan says: 24 May 2023 at 1:55 pm

I’m an Ainslie resident and homeowner. I fully support what the Ainslie Football Club is doing. We should build more apartments in Ainslie and build more childcare centres and become a more family-friendly suburb. I want Ainslie Football Club to be financially viable in the long term so my kids can play footy there.

Sick of the so-called “Ainslie Residents Association” misrepresenting itself as a voice for the community. I know my neighbours and they want people to be able to afford housing in Ainslie.

It’s time to build the housing we need in Canberra.

Palmerston's Enduring Lament says: 24 May 2023 at 3:05 pm

But isn’t the point of the argument that we have a government whose role is to design and support a liveable residential space, but continues to sub-contract to private enterprise to divorce itself from risk and responsibility and virtue signals the benefits of developer led design?

In other words, this is big L liberalism straight out of Margaret Thatcher’s economic model which results in profits driven public enterprise masking itself as trickle down economics.

And we all know how that turns out.

Nathan says: 24 May 2023 at 3:42 pm

Thank you John. It is so good to see that a lot of residents in the inner north/south established suburbs recognise the need for urban infill, and the need to house people close to work and other services. Given the columnists to this publication are wall-to-wall NIMBYs, it’s about time residents start speaking out and showing that these talking heads are firmly in the minority in Canberra.

Palmerston's Demotic Lament says: 25 May 2023 at 7:49 am

Democracy, in all its forms, gives a voice to all its citizens. But in doing so, it is a flawed system. It would be worth taking time to ponder the Greek experience.

Thucydides, the famous ancient Greek historian of the Peloponnesian War, witnessed the fall of Athenian democracy and applied scientific history in his critique of the democratic government. At the heart of his critique were how democracy failed “in the search for truth” and how leaders and citizens attempted “to impose their own speech-dependent meanings on reality.” Thucydides blamed “public orators” and demagogues for a failure of epistemic knowledge, allowing most Athenians to “believe silly things about their own past and the institutions of their opponents.”

So too, this debate. Facts and logic rarely fare well against emotion and profit. Critical analysis would suggest running each sentence against those four criteria in order to determine conscious and unconscious bias and backgrounds.


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