On 11 November 2021, The Minister for Planning, Mick Gentleman, released the ACT Government’s response to the petition and the two motions that were key elements of the GCC’s “Stop the Sales of Land in the Town Centre campaign”. The responses are summarised in a Ministerial Statement given in the ACT Assembly, and detailed in a letter to the Clark of the Assembly related to the Petition and a Statement in Response to the motions. A detailed summary of the lead up to and the actions undertaken as part of the Call to Suspend Lands Sales was published recently by the Canberra Planning Action Group (CPAG) – see The Gungahlin Town Centre – A Failed Planning System Case Study.
As a reminder, the only other formal response to the GCC’s campaign was the immediate response and commitment by the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) as detailed in their letter of 6 May to:
“offer the opportunity to work with the GCC on the place making of future land releases in the GTC [Gungahlin Town Centre]. This would include engagement on how the sale of these blocks are brought to the market, the provision of open space and interface with the linear park and future public realm.”
The responses to the petition and motions add very little to the SLA’s commitment. It’s hard to see how the government will achieve the goal set out in the Gungahlin Town Centre Report 2010 of “reserving enough land for up to 200,000 m2 of office space sufficient to accommodate 10,000 office jobs.”
There are 18 “asks” (or “calls”) in the two motions. The government has indicated that 7 are AGREED, 2 are NOTED and 9 and AGREED IN-PRINCIPLE. “Agreed in-principle” usually means that no further action will be taken, and this is certainly the case regarding this response which cite the flawed consultations undertaken by EPSDD in recent years, the promise of change as part of the Reform of The ACT Planning System which is unlikely to be in place until 2023-24 and hence too late, and process and policies that have demonstrably failed.
The only additional “actions” that the GCC has been able to identify in the response to the motions, in addition to the SLA’s commitment, are that:
- The Government will “prepare an employment prospectus on the benefits of Gungahlin and the Gungahlin Town Centre … provided to the Commonwealth Finance Minister” (which has been done many times before, so not much confidence this will achieve a result), and
- “traffic flows will continue to be monitored and any necessary improvements will be considered by Government” (hardly very convincing).
Similarly, the response to the petition does not acknowledge the validity of the community’s concerns and includes no further actions other than the “employment prospectus” noted above.
Overall, the responses to both the petition and the motions are largely dismissive and devoid of any creative thinking.
Focus now falls to how the government’s (overdue) response to the inquiry into DV364. The GCC has asked for the issues identified to be acknowledged, and specific, timely actions to address the specific and unique issues in Gungahlin – it may well be that a failure to do so will result in the current campaign extending into a second year.
The ACT Government had indicated they will respond to the recommendations of the Inquiry into DV364 by 30 January 2022, but have not done so yet.