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Canberra Today 8°/11° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Enough! The time has come to finally walk away

Farewell to beautiful Dickson. Photo: Paul Costigan

“The Canberra I know and have loved for many decades is now under the influence of self-interested financial forces that have found willing allies and puppets in both Andrew Barr’s neo-liberal Labor-light party and Shane Rattenbury’s greenwash keep-me-in-a-job collective,” writes columnist PAUL COSTIGAN. 

AT the end of June, I took time out from writing about local urban political matters. 

Paul Costigan.

I was worried that maybe there was a detrimental effect on my way of thinking from focusing almost daily on the atrocious behaviour of this ACT Greenslabor government, its well-trained bureaucracy and compliant support of social and community associations. 

Canberra matters have occupied a significant part of my life for over a decade. It was time for a rethink and to return to creative and more pleasant matters. It was time to consider where we would like to spend the next decade as well to be closer to family in Melbourne. 

In early August we agreed that there was much to be gained from living in the outer suburbs of metropolitan Melbourne. We have decided to move to Melbourne as soon as possible.

We are now putting energy into decluttering and vacating our home. In theory this could be done before Christmas. This may be overly optimistic – but we are exhausting ourselves giving it a go.

This dramatic decision has come as a bit of a shock to both of us let alone to people close to us. 

Several months ago, such a drastic change of life was not a reality for the two of us given our comfortable home and beautiful gardens here in middle Dickson. 

Our focus now is to make our house ready for a sale, to move into a Melbourne rental and to be monitoring the market to buy a smaller house in a suburb we have been researching. It must be within walking distance of the suburban railway.

It has occurred to us that for a generation that lived reasonably well for decades, we have not exactly set up easily accessible processes and assistance to see people retire, downsize and move house. As a society, our generation forgot to set up people-friendly systems to make this huge change easy for our own generation. There are no handbooks on this. 

The home and the urban areas we will leave behind are a product of wise heads of former urban, social and town planners and designers who created these wonderful established areas of this city. 

These visionaries knew that this was a city not like others and they built an urban, social and community infrastructure that others could only envy. The ship of fools that is now the ACT government and its pretend planners have missed the point about the fundamentals that formed the thinking behind this city’s creation.

Thanks to those former urban thinkers, the home we will leave behind for someone else remains well connected and ideally a great place to live. It is a pleasant walk to two shopping centres, chemists, a library, optometrists, doctors, dentists, hairdresser, bakeries, butchers, cafes and restaurants, several schools, green spaces, fabulous trees and the Dickson wetlands. Having written that list, why are we leaving! Someone taking away a load of ex-furniture asked that same question.

Logically, it makes sense to stay put and enjoy our surroundings and to carry on having coffee and catch-ups at our favourite cafes. Having lived here for decades we have largely embraced the changes and infills that are now a constant fact of life in a maturing city. 

But the Canberra I know and have loved for many decades is now under the influence of self-interested financial forces that have found willing allies and puppets in both Andrew Barr’s neo-liberal Labor-light party and Shane Rattenbury’s greenwash keep-me-in-a-job collective.

I am leaving this city on a high. It still has an urban character that is envied internationally and is fantastic. A special thanks therefore goes out to the city’s former designers and planners. If only their replacements had just a little of the former’s intelligence and humanity and did not denigrate residents who seek good design, biodiversity, greenery and climate readiness as key elements for developments in established and in the new suburbs. 

Now it is back to working out what to do next, what stays, what goes and sleepless nights trying to predict what happens next. Then there is the worry that maybe we have been too optimistic and the departure for Melbourne may be delayed till early next year. Finally, I’m yet to answer the question being asked whether there are to be more opinion pieces by me before we depart. Maybe a couple more!

Paul Costigan is a commentator on cultural and urban matters. There are more of his columns at citynews.com.au

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Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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13 Responses to Enough! The time has come to finally walk away

Hamba says: 6 September 2023 at 11:12 am

All the very best, Paul! It all sounds exhausting indeed, but I hope the outcome will be wonderful for all involved. We have benefited much from your keen observations (tarnished only by your unwillingness to ever accept that the only way forward in this benighted territory requires a Canberra Liberals government). Fare ye well!

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PENNY MOYES says: 6 September 2023 at 11:53 am

HI Paul
I am devasted that we are losing you and your wonderful columns that have helped us know the truth of what is happening with planning in Canberra. You certainly deserve a medal for all the work you have done to enlighten us. I can well understand you wanting to move and do more pleasant work. But you will be sorely missed. Again thank you so much for your amazing contribution. I just hope we get better people to represent us very soon.

Penny Moyes

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Peter Graves says: 6 September 2023 at 12:16 pm

Darn. Paul, your commentaries on the despoilation of Canberra and the “consultations with the communities” that mean nothing in reality were always spot on. I hope that Ian replaces you with another similar of your fierce interests and assessments

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cbrapsycho says: 6 September 2023 at 3:43 pm

Your work here has been much valued and many of us will be sad to see you go, despite understanding your reasons. When I came here for 6 months (23 years ago) I was delighted by the community I found, the wonderful opportunities to participate and enjoy the many offerings of this city.

Unfortunately things have changed dramatically. Many green spaces have disappeared. There’s so much more asphalt, concrete, steel and glass with fewer trees and gardens, bigger houses but less places for kids to play and walk in nature. In many parts of Canberra, public transport is worse, less frequent, less accessible and further away. Cars have multiplied and yet there is poor pedestrian infrastructure.

This is no longer somewhere to age in place with joy, but that was always Andrew Barr’s objective as he made clear early on. He wanted this to be a city for young people, not for those ageing. He saw them as a cost in his narrow minded thinking. This will be a cost to the community, not just to their families or to those who leave. There will be fewer volunteers, fewer grandparents to help their children and grandchildren as well as less wisdom to guide the future.

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Robert L says: 6 September 2023 at 4:04 pm

If only there was more housing in good central Canberra locations, close to good public transport, and incentives for retirees to shift from their large under-utilised blocks into smaller housing…

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George Watling says: 7 September 2023 at 7:22 am

Very sad to hear that you are leaving the City News and Canberra Paul.
Your well researched, well written, insightful, and cut through the BS articles are real light on the hill reading for the growing number of us who are committed to defending our leafy liveable streets, suburbs, and homes from those who are seeking to turn them into high density unaffordable poorly built heat islands developments to line their own pockets.
You need to know that the tide is turning.
People are waking up and pushing back.
They are questioning the lies, and are angry about the guff that is being pushed by Labor, the Greens, industry groups and their misinformation machines that now includes counterfeit ‘community’ organisations run by party members and former staffers.
When you listen to local talk back radio and read through the comments posted on media and social media sites, speak to everyday people, go to community meetings and government ‘have your says’ you can see and hear that people are pushing back on the BS. They are sick of being lied to and manipulated.
• They are seeking out facts.
• They are reading research and catching up on what has happened in other Australian and overseas cities where the infill/densification mania and developer free for alls have already happened at the expense of everyday people’s physical, mental and financial well-being.
• They are questioning the value of the multi-billion dollar tram, the validity of the government’s 40 year population growth figures, and the use of public resources to spruik an industry agenda
• They are learning that infill doesn’t improve housing affordability or protect nature outside or within the city.
• There were thousands of submissions against the latest planning bill
There is an election next year. The seats of all 25 members of the ACT Legislative Assembly will be up for grabs.
It’s a shame that you won’t be here to lend your pen and provide your insights to support the peoples cause.
Infill and densification are not inevitable.
There are many members seats in the assembly that are hanging on by a shoe string.

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S. Draw. K Cab. says: 7 September 2023 at 9:06 pm

@IanMiekle who will do Paul’s work in his absence? I don’t have the time to go through the bull-dust this gov and bureaucracy put out. Who’s going sift through the shiny muck to find the alterior motives of the lazy and well paid? Who will shine the light? Hope you will have someone lined-up. Big shoes.

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Neil, of Queanbeyan says: 9 September 2023 at 3:59 pm

Thank you, Paul, for your consistently spot-on articles. They were always refreshing common sense. I hope that George Watling is right and that the tide is turning. You will be sorely missed. All the best for the future.

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Jane says: 9 September 2023 at 5:22 pm

Thank you Paul, for your wonderful articles. We were wondering why we’d not seen any of your words of wisdom for a while. You will be missed. Please keep writing until you go.

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G Hollands says: 12 September 2023 at 10:55 am

This is one of the truly “independent ” publications in Canberra and continues to be so because of correspondents like Paul. The ACT government is a shambles, led by an incompetent leading other incompetents so a weekly wake up call such as Paul’s column was a breath of fresh air. I don’t envy the packing up and moving ( downsizing) which we went through when we were dispossessed of our much loved Mr Fluffy home. You’ll get over it so best wishes in you move!

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Wendy Fitzgerald says: 14 September 2023 at 11:25 am

After 30 years my husband I have left Canberra for all the reasons Paul Costigan has decided to go. We are so sad to see the devastation this Government has caused without any concern for the people. We miss our wonderful friends but we have found a place where we can settle happily again.

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