The federal election campaign is in full swing, as evidenced by the corflutes dotted around North Canberra’s roads and front gardens. What makes this election different however is the wide range of candidates who are genuine contenders to represent North Canberra at a federal level.
While many of the issues often raised by the North Canberra community generally fall under the jurisdiction of the ACT Government, we have been tracking the North Canberra-specific announcements by the federal candidates. A (non-exhaustive) list of such election commitments from the major candidates is detailed below.
Labor has recently pledged $5 million for cycle path upgrades, which would run through Watson, Downer, Dickson, Ainslie, Braddon and City.
The Liberals are yet to make a North Canberra-specific funding commitment (to the best of our knowledge) but we note the Liberals committed, earlier this year, to the development of an Indigenous Cultural Precinct on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
The Greens, noting community concerns around the National Capital Authority (NCA) in recent years such as around their community consultation on the War Memorial expansion, have pledged to undertake reforms of the NCA to ensure it is fully taking the views of the local community into account in its planning decisions.
The Independent candidate David Pocock is advocating for the construction of the Civic Stadium and a major renovation of the Canberra Convention Centre.
The Independent candidate Kim Rubenstein (who met with NCCC members at the February meeting) has pledged to advocate an increase in the ACT’s senate representation (from 2 to 4 senators) to ensure the community is better represented.
There are many other candidates for the ACT Senate and seat of Canberra (the full list is available here and here). We recommend checking out the various candidates’ websites for the full list of policy commitments before voting next Saturday.
- Variation 369: Living Infrastructure: Variation 369 (Living Infrastructure) was approved by the ACT Minister for Planning and Land Management earlier this month. The Variation, which seeks to achieve 30% tree canopy cover (or equivalent) and 30% permeable surfaces in urban areas by 2045, has received media attention over the past few months, particularly around whether the proposal goes far enough (especially when considering the value of trees in reducing the urban heat island effect, which will be a growing problem for Canberra as climate change accelerates).The variation, and these related issues, will be a topic of discussion at the NCCC’s May General Meeting, to be held tomorrow (18 May). Peter Cain MLA and Rebecca Vassarotti MLA will both attend the meeting to listen in and participate in the discussion on the reform. If you would like to attend but have not received the Zoom login details, then please email the NCCC Secretary for more details.
- Build-to-rent scheme in Turner: At the NCCC’s April meeting, the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) delivered a presentation on their build-to-rent proposal for the old Northbourne Flats site in Turner (Block 4, Section 57, which is opposite Haig Park). In late 2021 they undertook a market sounding process which identified the site as well suited for build-to-rent, with submissions received from developers and community housing providers and an intention of opening to market in late 2023.NCCC members raised questions about it can be ensured that the build-to-rent scheme would not be capitalised on by developers so that they sell the property (and the tenants are kicked out) when the property value reaches a given threshold. The SLA advised that this concern was also raised in the market sounding and that they would be looking at designing the program to ensure there is greater certainty for tenants.
A question was also raised about whether there will be an actual requirement for rents to be cheaper to ensure more affordable housing. The SLA advised that while Government decisions are yet to be finalised, a proportion would be reserved for affordable housing. This would be determined by eligibility criteria or affordability metrics (e.g. capped at 75% of market rent).
- Proposed development on Allara Street: At the April NCCC meeting, residents from the Forum Apartments (which is opposite Civic Pool) updated the committee on Geocon’s proposed development at 70 Allara St, which will be twice the size of the adjacent Forum Apartments. The residents do not oppose the construction of apartments on that block but they noted the 9 storey development will lead to major overshadowing of the adjacent apartments.
The discussion highlighted the unusual nature of the ACT’s planning system in that development applications in this part of South Civic fall under the remit of the National Capital Authority (a Commonwealth entity) whereas developments just a few blocks north fall under the jurisdiction of the ACT Government.
Local news and updates
- Inquiry into Housing and Rental Affordability: Earlier this month, the ACT Legislative Assembly established an inquiry into housing and rental affordability. The Chair of the Economy and Gender and Economic Equality Committee, Leanne Castley MLA, said ‘We look forward to hearing from as many people as possible about the rapidly increasing cost of renting or buying a home in Canberra’.The terms of reference for the inquiry can be accessed at the Committee website, with the submission period closing on 29 July.
- ABC Canberra Community Spirit Award: Every year, ABC Canberra showcases a local community individual or team and highlights the amazing work they’ve done in our community. Noting that the North Canberra Residents Associations are full of such individuals, you can nominate yourself or a colleague at this website. Nominations close on midnight Thursday 19 May.
- Community Garden Grants for 2022-23 now available: Earlier this week, the ACT Government opened the 2022-23 round of the Community Garden Grant program (with $40,000 in available funding). The program covers a variety of garden types, including indigenous food gardens, micro-forests and urban gardens that improve amenity and generate community attraction. Applications close 8 July, with details on the program available here.