A message from our convenor, Howard Maclean

TL;DR - we need volunteers to help shape Canberra for the better. If you want to help out, head over to the form.

Last week, we saw the introduction of the new ACT Planning Bill to the Legislative Assembly, and before the end of this year we expect the release of the Draft Territory Plan and 9 Draft District Strategies.

As Convenor, I would have loved to be writing to you today to say that we expect each of these documents will be perfect, and that no input is needed from us to ensure that the future plans for a Canberra that is more affordable, sustainable and liveable.

Unfortunately, we are confident that this will not be the case. This means that over the next few months, our team will likely be extremely busy fighting to fix these 11 separate (but interrelated) documents. There’s likely to be somewhere in the ballpark of 5000 pages of content for us to get on top of.

In particular, it appears that the ACT Government will not be accepting our recommendation for simple, general upzoning across the city that allows for a fair, equitable and substantial increase of housing - particularly in the areas best connected to employment, amenities, and services.

We know from New Zealand and Californian experience that simple, universal and fair rules, like the ones we’ve pushed for, are the best way to actually get housing built.

Instead, the evidence of ACT Government officials in recent Estimates hearings appears to indicate that the Government is instead considering a “spot rezoning” of selected areas in each district. This will be achieved through each of the 9 District Strategies and district-specific provisions of the Territory Plan.

This is a fundamentally bad approach for a number of reasons:

  • It will only allow a fraction of the new housing we need, forced into small sections of the city.
  • It will deliver large windfall gains to some landowners but not to others.
  • It will likely create substantially different rules for building housing in different areas of our city, making the system more complex, harder to navigate and administer.

However, our work does not finish here.

If this is the path the ACT Government wishes to pursue, then Greater Canberra needs to be there in every District Strategy consultation session, advocating for a better Canberra, block by block, code by code, district by district.

That’s where you come in.

In short, we need people. We need you.

We need you to help us author our submissions to each District Strategy and corresponding District Code. We need your insight about how we can make your local neighbourhoods and districts more liveable, sustainable and affordable.

But the work doesn’t end there! We also need people to ensure that Greater Canberra can continue to make submissions in support of development applications for public housing and other worthy development proposals, and to engage in the heritage system to counteract bad faith heritage nominations. Just the other day, a heritage nomination was made to prevent Housing ACT from building more public housing in Griffith.

If you have skills in web development, graphic design or public communications, we need you. We’re looking for architects, lawyers (particularly ones with experience in ACAT litigation), urban planners and engineers to help broaden our expertise in the technical and legal areas of our work. If you’re one of those rare people that likes talking to strangers about planning reform, we also need you.

We’re looking for people from every part of Canberra - we want to make sure that we have the local knowledge we need about every district. Whether you live in the Inner North, Gungahlin, Molonglo Valley or Tuggeranong, we need you.

If you’ve already joined Greater Canberra and have been waiting for the call, this is it. Fill out the form and prepare to join the fun!

I can’t promise that we will get to onboarding everyone quickly - our priority initially will be bringing people onboard the District Strategy Teams. But rest assured we appreciate all the help we can get.

As we work towards the upcoming AGM this year, we will be looking at how we can formalise a governance structure that reflects what GC has grown into over the past year. I hope that many of you will consider putting your hands up to join the team for 2023.

Together, we can build a more affordable, sustainable and liveable Canberra.

I’m interested in volunteering - take me to the form!