Discussions with shoppers and local residents suggest there is a very low level of awareness about plans by Woolworths to buy an ACT government-owned, open-air car park at Hawker shops, says letter writer KARINA MORRIS.
THE ACT lurches from planning disaster to planning disaster as developers sweet-talk their way through the ACT’s rules and regulations, with their tantalising dollars smoothing the way.
It falls to under-resourced residents’ associations and similar voluntary community groups, often without a trained media spokesperson, to do what they can to mount a challenge.
Consider the current situation of the Hawker Village shopping centre. This is a smallish, low-rise shopping centre in the middle of an entirely residential area.
In addition to the current Woolworth’s Metro supermarket, the centre has several food businesses, a post office, pharmacy, an adjacent medical practice and several allied health practices.
The shops and services are well-patronised by older people and those with mobility difficulties, as well as by visitors from other parts of Belconnen, who are attracted by the accessible and convenient parking.
Discussions with shoppers and local residents suggest there is a very low level of awareness about plans by Woolworths to purchase, via direct sale, the 3748sqm ACT government-owned, open-air car park between the shops and Springvale Drive.
This would be the first step towards Woolworths’ proposed major redevelopment – “major” meaning not only “significant” but also “massive”.
The proposal is for a full-line supermarket (similar to that at Westfield Belconnen, 2.4kms away), additional retail shops and basement parking. The land currently used for the parking area would be incorporated into this development.
The current car park, with its trees and shrubs providing an important visual and sound buffer between the centre and the residences on Springvale Drive, would disappear – and with it, the convenient, street-level parking, which is intrinsic to the popularity of these suburban shopping centres.
The ACT’s planning system is seemingly designed to minimise community information and consultation for processes such as the transfer of public land to private ownership via a direct sale.
This process has allowed Woolworths to run their own show, with no government involvement.
What about an expanded Metro supermarket without encroaching on to the car park? Woolworths is not required to say.
Limited and methodologically questionable “community engagement” activities, conducted for Woolworths, partially during the July school holidays, resulted in a report whose predictable conclusions were crafted to support the company’s financial interests.
As the government considers the direct sale application, the fact is that many members of the community are saying that they have heard nothing about this proposal and are shocked when they are told what it involves.
There is a feeling of disbelief that anyone would seriously propose to replace convenient, open-air parking with basement parking, which is completely out of keeping with the character of a small suburban centre such as Hawker Village.
Karina Morris, Weetangera
Is there a new cultural breeze at Red Hill shops?
FEW would dispute Canberra is educated and culturally sophisticated. It prides itself on its galleries, theatres and music scene.
The arts have been fostered by some strong advocates, such as Jon Stanhope who managed to expand the range of sculptures coalescing with its citizenry. This sculpture program extended into the suburbs and may have reached new heights in Red Hill.
There, a new development has taken hold after the government sold off the Red Hill public housing estate, which has been redeveloped into “The Parks”.
In preparation for this new era in fancy housing, the Red Hill shops have had a facelift with a new supermarket moving in and new paving and benches provided by the government.
While concerns have recently been raised about the maintenance of that paving (“Ministers ignore woman injured on footpath”, CN October 26), a new cultural breeze has arrived there, but could almost be overlooked.
The new benches, although hard iron, are all painted in red (get it?). However, the pièce de résistance is a new sculpture erected in front of the main entrance, just two steps in front of the welcoming red bench.
It is crafted from plastic materials, very inviting and representative of modern square bins. The visitor sitting down to wonder at this offering is kept alert by the hard iron bench and encouraged to seriously contemplate what may be the answer to Marcel Duchamp’s famous “Fountain”, which he submitted to the Society of Independent Artists in 1917. About a hundred years later we may be witnessing the renaissance of the Dada tradition in some Canberra suburbs.
Ben Heubeck, Red Hill
Make the effort to report dangerous hazards
I REFER to Peter French’s letter (“Ministers ignore woman injured on footpath”, CN October 26).
I, too, had a trip in recent years due to a lack of maintenance to a footpath. However, in my case there were painted “signs” in the area where it happened.
This indicated to me that the government had been made aware of the danger. It is its way of marking/warning of possible issue areas.
I needed surgery, as did the elderly lady in Dr French’s letter at Red Hill. I contacted my solicitor, who proceeded with a claim against the government.
The immediate result was for the government to again mark the area with white paint.
I was advised by the closest householder that it was some years since they had brought the matter to the government’s attention and, ultimately, it was another two and half years before the area was rectified.
I am advised the government carries its own insurance cover and I believe that it then relies on the fact that most incidents would not be reported or claims made against it.
Of concern is the fact the government argues that if it is not aware of any danger, it’s not liable for any injuries that might happen.
Most of us have experienced a nil response from the government and it’s no wonder we are reluctant to report an issue. But it is important that Canberrans make the effort to report any dangerous areas they notice. It only takes minutes on the online “Fix My Street” resource. While this is no guarantee that issues will be attended to, it does give some form of protection to individuals suffering future incidents. It could be your mother or relative that is involved.
Ken Griffiths, via email
All we get is neglect from this ‘comfortable’ government
PETER French’s letter (“Ministers ignore woman injured on footpath”, CN October 26)rang many bells for us. My husband and I have lived in Red Hill for over 30 years. The footpath situation has been disastrous for all of that time.
Being in our seventies, we are of course noticing it more these days. It has also been exacerbated in the last couple of years by “The Parks” development, which has meant an increase in traffic, which is fine if you live in The Parks, but if you are in any of the adjacent streets, that have no footpaths at all, you are often obliged to walk on the road. Given the increase in traffic, this can get quite dangerous.
Endeavour Street going to Cygnet is a case in point; no footpath, a corner that makes visibility impossible, and dusty, slippery verges with exposed tree roots. Or alternately, plantings on the nature strip that make it impossible to walk there.
We pay more than $6000 a year in rates, more than in some eastern suburbs of Sydney. What we get for it is neglect from this all-too-comfortable government. Bring on the Teals in Canberra!!
Libby Porter, Red Hill
‘Healthy’ e-scooters offer high risk of injury
TRANSPORT Canberra recently described e-scooters as “sustainable transport”, even though they have a larger carbon footprint than most alternative transport modes.
Now Transport Canberra claims that e-scooters “provide a healthy travel choice”, even though they offer a high risk of injury and less health benefits than walking or bicycling.
Such claims erode the credibility of Transport Canberra, and of the ACT government.
Leon Arundell, Downer
The hand-me-down horror of Halloween
I FEEL I’m not alone, with the hounding knocks at my door on an evening that has escalated rapidly from senseless, disturbing and evil greed. Halloween.
Another hand-me-down tradition thrust upon us from the US with its ghoulish, disgusting, skin-crawling sights, as neighbourhoods flock to this unimaginable cult.
Is it a wise decision for parents to let their children parade along the streets alone, some dressing up but, more than often, just carrying a pillow case and being obnoxious?
As this Halloween greed escalates, and our children do not get what they want, could it lead to violence and property damage? These are the questions that we need to face in giving into these “trick or treat” demands!
How did it all come to this? It doesn’t matter these days what our very young children witness from their innocent eyes, it seems. What unseen scars and real nightmares cling disturbingly to our children in seeing hideous houses dressed up and clad in their Halloween displays.
It all stems, of course, from television and those so-called children’s games that influence our society on what a disgusting, thought-provoking, sad world we are living in!
Valarie Jones, Tuggeranong
Would it have been the Voice of activists?
I AM grateful to Jon Stanhope (“How ‘yes’ means ‘no’ for the ACTgovernment”, CN October 26) for his well documented criticism of our territory government, in this case regarding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander predicament.
Like Jon Stanhope I voted “yes” in the Voice referendum. But, while I felt it was the right thing, I voted with the reservation that government action had been tried and why was it going to succeed this time, and concerned that, if approved, the Voice would be that of political activists.
The only Aboriginals I see regularly are those I visit because they ask the St Vincent de Paul Society for help. I try to show solidarity and friendship with them with the hope that their prospects for a better life will improve.
On that matter, I differ with Jon Stanhope, at least in the case of the younger generations. Despite all the adversity that Aboriginal people face, the buck stops with them. There is goodwill towards them.
Here the aspirations expressed by Senator Jacinta Price ring true. She appeals as a leader and it is not out of the question that she will become prime minister, thereby providing an Aboriginal voice without changing the constitution.
John L Smith, Farrer
Proud Canberrans on Voice
I REFER to Sue Dyer’s letter (“Proud to be a Canberran”, CN October 26), waxing lyrically about the ACT being the only jurisdiction in the country to poll a positive vote on the Voice and quoting Chief Minister Barr as saying it was due to “the fact that Canberrans took the time to engage with the issues”.
Bunkum! I predicted in a letter to the media, before the referendum, that the ACT could be expected to vote about 63 or 64 per cent for the Voice, in line with the way they vote Labor/Greens in elections.
Ms Dyer and others may pat themselves on the back for being so much more clever than the rest of the country, but maybe it just shows again the “Truman’s World” that is Canberra.
Max Flint, Erindale
The talk is that tradies routinely use drugs
COLUMNIST Michael Moore’s article “Reforms not the end of the world as we know it” (CN, November 2) is overly optimistic about the decriminalisation of drugs.
He mentions several well-known drugs, including cocaine, heroin, MDMA and amphetamines; and advocates the continued possession of these “in small quantities”.
I wonder if Mr Moore is aware of the talk on the grapevine that some “tradies” use drugs routinely.
Particular mention is made of amphetamines, which are not only a powerful stimulant when your job begins at 7.30 am or earlier, but can cause paranoia, hallucinations, confusion, irritability and mood swings. Amphetamines are also reputed to give the user almost superhuman strength, and to make drivers who use them a menace, even a danger, on the roads.
I’m not so sure that relaxing the policing of drug use, especially by drivers, is such a wise move.
Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
When opportunity knocks, the Libs have heads in the sand
MARIA Greene (“Like nappies, governments need changing regularly”, Letters, CN November 2) is right about the lacklustre Canberra Liberals apparently being doomed to stay in opposition forever.
If they keep supporting the same narrow conservative policies, they will of course get the same result, particularly with the ACT electorate, which is known to take a progressive stance on many issues.
Another recent example of this is provided by deputy leader Jeremy Hanson who, in a TV interview, said the Liberals if elected would wind back the phasing out of wood heaters, as announced by the ACT government.
With over 60 per cent of Canberrans supporting the phasing out of wood heaters, why would the Liberals go against this and support the 10 per cent of Canberrans who still use wood heaters, creating a major air pollution problem for the wider community?
The resultant air pollution has very large associated health costs which are well known in the academic research community, including the multi-university Centre for Safe Air (safeair.org.au), which brings together air pollution and medical researchers across Australia.
As the Centre for Safe Air has stated: small improvements in air quality can drive large population health and economic benefits.
In the ACT, wood smoke pollution often exceeds WHO and Australian recommended levels.
Leading respiratory physicians such as Prof Guy Marks at UNSW Sydney and Dr James Markos in Launceston also support the phasing out of wood heaters, as do the various asthma bodies such as Asthma Australia.
When opportunity knocks, why do the Liberals adopt the same retrograde head-in-the-sand approaches, bound to guarantee electoral oblivion, yet again?
Murray May, Cook
So many contractions, what are they doing?
DO the Greens/Labor team in the ACT know what they are doing? They keep contradicting themselves.
Their latest bombshell move is they have legalised drugs even though it is known they can kill or destroy brains. Yet they have banned cigarettes in all indoor settings and some outdoors. Anyone caught having drugs, it is a $100 fine, drive less than 15km over the limit and it is a $316 fine.
There’s pill testing at music festivals, even though most people who die at concerts are from drug overdoses not dodgy drugs.
Young people can’t drive until they are 16, yet they think they know what they are doing to be responsible to vote at 16.
When we get to all-electric vehicles, will they ban petrol vehicles coming from interstate into the ACT?
Vi Evans via email
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