March 2022 Newsletter

March 2022 Newsletter

While the phrase ‘urban renewal’ is often used to characterise the pace of development in North Canberra in recent years, the phrase feels particularly jarring when considering social housing tenants who have lived in North Canberra for decades who now found themselves facing a forced relocation away from their homes.

As reported by the Canberra Times, hundreds of inner north ACT housing tenants have been served with eviction notices to facilitate the ACT Government’s ‘Growth and Renewal Program’.

Last week, we released a statement requesting the ACT Government reconsider its decision to evict the tenants. Our statement also called for any further engagement be done in a humane manner that does not exacerbate the stress on already disadvantaged tenants.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has also spoken out and recently met to discuss the issue with Minister for Housing Yvette Berry MLA and Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services, Rebecca Vassarotti MLA. In a positive step forward, the Ministers agreed to review the process by which highly vulnerable public housing tenants can receive a discretion that allows them to remain in their homes.

Although the Ministers did not put a timeframe on the review, ACTCOSS said that “given the widespread distress caused to many of the over 340 people affected, the review should be completed quickly and that new discretion arrangements should be implemented as soon as possible.” The NCCC strongly concurs.

NCCC updates

  • New planning legislation available for comment – The ACT Government has commenced consultation on the draft Planning Bill. The draft Bill proposes key changes to the planning system set up under the existing Planning and Development Act while retaining the features that have worked well under the current system and will remain fit for purpose in the reformed system.

    The NCCC has previously raised concerns around the nature of the proposed changes. While ‘flexibility’ is identified as a key principle for the changes, “flexible” pathways for development assessments risks creating a more ambiguous set of rules with a broad range of interpretations.

    It could also accentuate a power imbalance between developers with greater legal resources and capacity to advocate for a specific interpretation and residents who generally lack legal resources and instead rely on clear and unambiguous frameworks in order to support or contest a particular development application. Consultation on the draft Planning Bill runs from 16 March to 15 June on the YourSay Conversations Page.

You can find out about new DAs in your 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

  • 2022 ACT Heritage Festival: There are many NCCC members and affiliated North Canberra Residents Associations who are participating in the 2022 ACT Heritage Festival (such as the Roaring Twenties event being hosted by the Reid Residents Association. The full program for the festival, which runs over April, can be found here.
    • An event that may be of particular interest to any NCCC members who deal with Development Applications is the panel on ‘What Makes a Good DA on a Heritage Site.’
    • Town planning expert Prof Roslynne Hansen AM will highlight the key factors considered when assessing the DA including any adopted guidelines and will look at some recent case studies.Tickets for the event, which will be hosted at Hotel Kurrajong from 6-7pm 12 April, are available here.
  • Upgrades to Verity and Odgers Lane: You may notice a significant amount of construction work around the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings from mid-2022, as the ACT Government commences works on façade restoration for the historic buildings.
    The details of the works, which include upgrades to the laneways and street lighting, are available here.
  • Play space near Canberra Tech park: Over 570 people responded to a recent survey from the ACT Government which sought interest in the development of a new play space adjacent to the Canberra Technology Park in Watson (near Phillip Avenue).

While the Canberra Technology Park is being developed into a new campus by the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, the adjacent green block could provide for a new recreation park with facilities for people of all ages.

The feedback from local residents was overwhelmingly positive, with the future of the park project subject to future ACT Government funding decisions.

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