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

Who among them will stand with residents?

Corflute promises from election time. Photo: Paul Costigan

“The politics of planning in this city remains murky. This very unsavoury state of affairs is about to deliver (to quote the Liberals) a planning regime that will be ‘anti-community and anti-environment’,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

PLANNING was a hot topic for the 2016 ACT elections with some hoping that it could be the issue to push the Greenslabor cohort out of government. 

Paul Costigan.

On the day though the Canberra Liberals failed to offer a viable alternative and so Andrew Barr and his grateful team returned to their comfortable jobs.

In 2020, planning issues were purposely downplayed by Greenslabor politicians as they knew they were vulnerable and also appreciated that the Canberra Liberals were doing much the same. 

Despite the best efforts of the community to make it so, it was not a hot topic during the 2020 ACT elections. 

This failure to put a focus on planning combined with the failure of the Canberra Liberals to again offer an acceptable alternative, delivered Greenslabor another four years to make a mess of the city. This they are doing while hoping no-one will notice! 

The certainty about planning issues is that Barr’s Greenslabor government intends to massively deregulate the planning regime to assist development at any cost. A special thanks to the ACT Greens for assisting with that.

Greenslabor politicians continue with the vacuous spin that “the ACT government is currently progressing the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, to deliver a modern planning system focused on delivering outcomes for the people of Canberra.” 

This lot are very good at repeating mindless and deceptive spin and they get away with it – so why not?

In early May, a press release popped up from Peter Cain and the Canberra Liberals stating that the Liberals did not support the changes to the ACT’s planning bill.

Cain’s comments were spot on when he said: “The bill is anti-community and anti-environment, and poses a severe threat to our unique bush capital and garden city characteristics. 

“The proposed ‘outcomes-focus’ approach will enable any development to be approved with minimal community input or Assembly oversight as long as it suits the Chief Minister’s agenda.”

The reaction to the Liberals’ statement was a simple – at last! 

Community groups, who suffer constant patronising statements by planning bureaucrats and their ministers, are aware that their submissions will not make much difference to the outcomes and that the questionable planning bureaucracy’s governance was not up for discussion. 

Unfortunately, the Canberra Liberals’ press statement did leave them some wiggle room so they are yet to sound convincing. While they said they were working on some new planning policies, they need to let people know what they stand for and that they are going into the next election with some real policies worth fighting for.

Then there’s the ACT Greens. They are desperately trying to get people to believe they do not accept what the chief minister and his planning bureaucracy are up to. They have raised issues about the lack of buses, the state of the footpaths and have chaired the planning inquiry that came out with 49 polite recommendations.

Those recommendations were subsequently mostly knocked back or sidelined by “The Government” – being Andrew Barr and Mick Gentleman – with alternative facts supplied by the planning bureaucracy. 

We have been here before with the ACT Greens trying to look serious while ultimately achieving not much except to ensure that they honour their agreement with ACT Labor to behave themselves.

The politics of planning in this city remains murky. This very unsavory state of affairs is about to deliver (to quote the Liberals) a planning regime that will be “anti-community and anti-environment”.

The highest priority of ACT Labor politicians is to obey Andrew Barr and fall in line with his outdated ideological economic thinking. Planning concerns raised by residents are not treated seriously – or simply ignored.

The ACT Greens still trade on the worthy aspirations of voters who no longer vote ACT Labor. They talk a lot of stuff and boast about “Building a Better Normal”. For them it’s well-paid jobs thanks to Barr and their agreement to behave that trumps humane and intelligent actions.

As for the Canberra Liberals – 16 months out from the next ACT elections, the electorate remains doubtful. So much is unknown. Who among them will stand with residents on the many affordable housing, development, urban design, social housing and urban environmental issues?

Sadly, those in the ACT’s government coalition parties lack the common sense and the commitments to stop Barr’s development deregulation madness. Let’s hope I am wrong.

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


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Paul Costigan

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One Response to Who among them will stand with residents?

cbrapsycho says: 7 June 2023 at 10:55 am

Thankyou Paul for continuing to raise these issues. Hopefully enough people will pay attention to push for change, but we really need some capable politicans to push the current self-centred morons aside. They do NOT represent residents, actively opposing us.


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