In past couple of weeks, there has several stories that have highlighted the significant power that property developers have over people’s lives and the need for their practises to be properly regulated.
One major example relates to the partial collapse of the excavation site at Art Group’s Calypso apartments on Northbourne Avenue, which also took down several backyards and power lines. It was a miracle that no residents or construction workers were hurt in the incident (or in the incident in Woden earlier this year). As Dickson residents gathered for a roadside meeting to seek answers, the licensed builder fronted up (but maintained they were not responsible) and the developer, Art Group, was nowhere to be seen.
The Canberra Times also reported recently on the failure of Victory Homes, the developer of the Belle Apartments in Bruce, to rectify in the required timeframe the extensive building defects, despite having been issued with a rectification order by Access Canberra.
We still don’t know whether the developers will be compensating everyone affected and under the relatively lax regulatory system that developers and builders in the ACT are subject to, it’s hard to retain confidence that this won’t happen again and again.
The NCCC has written to the ACT Government multiple times in the past few years, pointing out the concerns around building quality, including the need for mandatory requirements around qualifications and licensing of those in the planning, design and building professions to ensure safety. If we want to guarantee building quality and ensure that developers accept liability for industrial practises and adverse impacts that can have such huge effects on the community, we need a regulatory system that is fit for purpose.
One doesn’t need to take our word for it. The ACT Branch of the CFMEU has similarly called for the speedy implementation of a property developer licensing system and recently commenced a campaign (which we fully support and recommend you sign their petition).
While the ACT Government has started to take steps to address some of these concerns, with legislation regarding ACT construction engineers due to be tabled next month and a Discussion Paper on licensing of property developers promised in the next couple of months, we can’t help but notice the length of time it is has taken for such issues to be confronted. We worry that this delay reflects the lobbying pressure from some developers, which could see any regulatory proposal watered down.
We therefore need to maintain the pressure on our elected representatives to address this. Property developer regulation needs to be implemented within the next year noting that, with an extensive construction pipeline in the works for North Canberra over the next couple of years, we can’t kick the can down the road on this any longer.
- Dickson walk-in centre re-opening in November: You may recall that the Dickson Walk-in Health Centre was closed last year to relocate staff to work at the COVID walk-in centre in Garran, at a time where there was a high demand across facilities. While we understand the rationale for the decision at that time, it is clear that the workload for the COVID centre has since decreased and it is time for the Dickson Walk-in Centre to be reopened.
Our colleagues in the Braddon Collective and the Dickson Residents Group recently wrote to the ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA to request that its re-opening be addressed as a priority. The Minister replied to advise that the centre is expected to open from 24 November.
This is great news and we thank all those involved for their advocacy and for the Minister’s prompt reply. The Dickson Walk-in Centre is particularly important for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the Inner North community who lack the means to easily travel to other walk-in centres around Canberra.
- Garden City Cycle Path: Several members of the NCCC and residents associations attended a stakeholder session to be briefed on the proposed route for the Garden City Cycle Path project. The $10 million Garden City project (co-funded on a 50/50 basis by the ACT Government and the Commonwealth Government) will provide North Canberra residents on the eastern side of Northbourne Avenue with more cycling paths.
The stakeholder advice to the project team was about safety (particularly the notion that the route should be safe enough that you would be happy for your kids to use it), the need to connect the cycle route with ‘park and ride’ options to effectively utilise the Light Rail and buses (including more bike racks at Light Rail stops) and the need to proactively incorporate areas of high population growth, such as the rapidly growing North Watson area.
We note the Commonwealth October Budget will include the full $5 million contribution from the Commonwealth, and we look forward to the ACT Government providing the remainder of its $5 million contribution in the next ACT Budget, noting that the feasibility stage of the project is nearly complete.
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
- Common Ground Dickson formally opens: The Common Ground social and affordable housing development in Dickson formally opened earlier this month. The 40-unit building, housing people who experienced homelessness, will be run by Community Housing Canberra with YWCA Canberra providing support for tenants on site.
The NCCC believes that more social and affordable housing is needed in North Canberra and that more should be built in residential zoned areas close to public transport and shops, particularly noting the trend of old public housing units being replaced with high rise apartments.
- Recent development announcements: The past month has seen a number of new development announcements in North Canberra, including:
- The Kamberra site (on the corner of Federal Highway near EPIC) has commenced public consultation on a draft variation that would allow the area to be developed for up to 2,500 residential dwellings (consultation closes on 18 November). If the variation is approved, development could commence in 2025.
- Community consultation on Block 3 Section 95 in North Watson is also now underway (this block is on the corner of Antill Street and Aspinall street) which would allow the site to be developed for residential purposes. Purdon Planning are holding an online information session on Wednesday 26 October. Details on the project, and how to register for the information session, can be found here.
- DOMA Group has lodged a Works Application with the National Capital Authority for the final stage in its Foothills development in Campbell (on the former CSIRO site near Limestone Avenue), bringing the total number of dwellings to 252. While the consultation period has closed, more details on the project can be found here.
- The Suburban Land Agency is in the final stages of completing the land sale for the block of land currently used as a carpark between the Melbourne Building and the Law Courts in Civic. The expectation is that this will be developed into office accommodation to be leased by the Australian Electoral Commission and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
- Traffic disruption in Civic: It’s going to get quite hard to drive over Commonwealth Avenue bridge and through City South for the next couple of years. This reflects the combination of the works on the Light Rail Stage 2a commencing, and the renewal works on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge (which is separate to the works that will be required for the next stage of the Light Rail) starting construction from late 2023.