The North Canberra Community Council (NCCC) has expressed both surprise and disappointment at yesterday’s shock announcement by the ACT Government proposing residential development in Dickson between the Dickson Pool and Dickson Playing Fields. It is known formally as Dickson Section 72 and informally as Dickson Parklands.
NCCC Chair Mike Hettinger stated that yesterday he had attended, as an observer, a meeting with the Land Development Authority (LDA) requested by the Dickson Residents’ Group (DRG), with participation by the Downer Community Association (DCA). The DRG had requested the meeting because the LDA and other agencies, contrary to earlier undertakings, had not contacted any community group to follow-up a workshop-style public meeting on Dickson Parklands held in December 2014. At this meeting, attendees opposed residential development in Dickson Parklands, instead supporting reserving and developing the area for further community use.
Community representatives at yesterday’s meeting with the LDA understood that the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss, for the first time, whatever proposal(s) the LDA might have in mind for Dickson Parklands, with a view to negotiate and conclude in the future a mutually acceptable future for the area. The LDA provided the community representatives with their preferred proposal for the area but did not let on that it was already locked in and to be made public within hours.
“I’m gobsmacked. At no time during the meeting did any LDA representative let on that they not only considered their just-revealed proposal for Dickson Parklands a done deal, they were spring-loaded to announce it to the media, if they had not done so already,” Mr Hettinger said.
“The horse had bolted before we entered the building, let alone the room.”
“What made this particularly galling,” Mr Hettinger continued, “is that the ACT Government agencies involved told us that they would consult with us following the Christmas break. Instead, we heard not a word back from them for over seven months, even though we tried to raise the issue. So there is no excuse for behaviour like this. We expected better from the ACT Government.”
“What we see now is that over a hundred attendees at workshops last year did not tell the LDA what it wanted to hear, so it went to ground,” Mr Hettinger said. “I suppose the LDA concluded that by remaining silent and not engaging further with community representatives, opposition would evaporate to what’s clearly an attempt to flog valued land to private interests for a fistful of dollars.”
“The LDA’s media release is therefore a fitting end to what can only be described as a sham engagement from the start with community organisations and the public,” Mr Hettinger concluded.