June 2022 Newsletter

The ACT Government recently released a guide for how to integrate climate-wise landscape design principles in new developments. It is intended to assist in the planning and design of climate resilient landscapes, including merging green landscapes with urban structures where possible and maximising trees and plants on the block.

The guide is worth reading for anyone interested in the principles of climate resilient planning, but it’s another question entirely as to whether these principles can be integrated into new developments. A recent article by The RiotACT’s Ian Bushnell on a new dual occupancy development in Torrens highlights this tension, describing a new development on a Mr Fluffy block that takes up most of the site, with pools to swallow up what’s left of the backyards. As Ian notes, the development is hardly in the spirit of moves to maintain green spaces in neighbourhoods. It is certainly difficult to see how the development could meet design standards outlined in the ACT Government’s climate-wise guide.

It remains to be seen whether reforms such as Variation 369, which will set minimum tree canopy cover requirements for new developments when it comes into effect in September, will help to prevent cases of a similar nature. Can the planning system be reformed to create better standards around climate-wise design, or will there continue to be a proliferation of developments dominating their blocks and adding to the urban heat island effect?

NCCC updates

  • North Canberra census data: Following the release of the recent Census data, one of our NCCC members did some digging into the data for the North Canberra community and found some interesting results.

From 2016 to 2021, North Canberra’s population grew by 8,000, including an additional

2,500 families. Private dwellings increased by 4,500. North Canberra’s 10,078 apartments

account for almost a third of the 32,669 apartments in the ACT. Over 44% of dwellings in North Canberra are rented. Median weekly rents have gone from $390 in 2016 to $476 in 2021 (with Canberra having the highest rents nationally), while mortgage repayments declined slightly, likely due to interest rate falls in 2020-21. The data raises the question of whether more requirements around affordable housing and renting should be mandated for new developments, and also around how much more urban infill North Canberra can be expected to absorb without more services, public infrastructure, and amenities?

The majority of North Canberrans live in family households, report “no religion”, have fewer

vehicles and walk to work more often, on average, than other Australians (and have fewer weddings, with 56% of adults in this district never married). Thanks to Margaret Henderson for compiling this data.

  • NCCC’s June Committee Meeting: At the June meeting, the NCCC Committee discussed the NCCC Submission to the ACT Government’s Planning Bill. The Submission highlighted the NCCC’s concerns around the opaque manner in which the Planning Review had been developed over the past year, with little substantial detail made available to inform a proper consideration of the limitations of the current system.

    The NCCC’s submission also highlighted some of the things that the NCCC would like to see in any new Planning Bill, including clear definition of ‘desired outcomes’ capable of enforcement, particularly for energy efficiency, common goods, green space, affordability, supportive/social housing and design.

    The next NCCC General Meeting (held on Wednesday 20 July) will feature a presentation from Alice Hathorn from ACT Woodland and Rescue on the restoration of a pocket park in Weston Creek and her experience of increasing biodiversity in urban communities.

  • Public housing tenant relocations: response from Minister Berry and Minister Vassarotti: You may recall from the previous newsletter that the ACT Government’s ‘Growth and Renewal’ public-housing relocation scheme had been causing distress for a number of the tenants who were being evicted. While the ACT Government advised that tenants would be able to apply for a discretion which means they may not have to move, the process was vague and appeared to be stacked against the tenants.

    Minister Berry and Minister Vassarotti have responded to the NCCC’s letter, advising that ACT Housing are supporting tenants in the relocation and offering new housing options. The NCCC does not dispute that some tenants may be comfortable with relocating, but considers the policy should remain opt-in in order to cater for those tenants who do not want to have to leave the community they’ve lived in for decades. The full reply has been placed on the NCCC website.

 

You can find out about new DAs in our area, including information on how to lodge a submission, by accessing this ACT Government website or by visiting the NCCC website.

Local news and updates

  • YWCA call in: In late June, the Planning Minister Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers to approve the YWCA’s second development application for the supportive housing block in Ainslie.

    The initial development application had been approved but overturned by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal after it was found, via an appeal from the Ainslie Residents Association, that the proposal had not development requirements. ACAT found that the site was too small for a 10-unit development and would not provide sufficient outside space or adequate sunlight.

While the proposal was resubmitted with 9 units, the Ministerial call-in ultimately prevents any further appeal through which it could be ascertained if ACAT’s reasons had been fully addressed. You can read more about the story in the RiotACT.

  • Northbourne block in Turner sells for $59 million: The block on Northbourne Avenue in Turner, adjacent to Haig Park, has sold for $59.3 million. The site is zoned CZ5 Mixed Use and comes with sustainability conditions such as all-electric connections and electric vehicle charging units to meet the Green Star Buildings 5-star rating.

    There is no requirement for affordable housing however, which is particularly disappointing given the public housing that previously occupied the site.

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