Gungahlin was included in Stage 2 of the National Broadband Network (NBN), with the first fibre optic cable installed in 2012 as part of a complete fibre-to-the-home deployment across the entire district. As a result Gungahlin has by far the best NBN infrastructure in Canberra … unless you happen to live in Casey Stage 1.
For reasons that have been lost in time, the first portion of the suburb of Casey that was constructed (Casey Stage 1) was not included in the fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) deployment and instead received NBN services over lower quality fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology. This resulted in some streets having FTTP-connected homes on one side of the street, and FTTN-connected homes on the other. Residents in the affected area (see map below), with the strong support of the GCC, have campaigned to have this anamoly fixed for may years.
Map showing the southern part of Casey – yellow areas are NBN Fibre to the Node connected (April 2023) – others are Fibre to the Premise connected (Source: https://nationalmap.gov.au/, NBN All Technologies Types)
In 2020 a possible solution emerged in the shape of a $4.5B Federal government initiative to upgrade portions of the NBN by “taking fibre deeper into neighbourhoods serviced by Fibre to the Node (FTTN) technology, enabling on demand fibre upgrades and speeds of up to 1 Gbps”. The GCC called for Casey stage 1 to be included in the program, and worked with the Combined Community Councils of the ACT to campaign for Canberra to get its “fair share” of this upgrade program. As result, in mid-July 2021 NBNco confirmed “the part of Casey that is currently not served by FTTP is on our list of suburbs that we intend to perform an FTTP-enabled upgrade in.”.
Work commenced in late 2022 on this upgrade and in the first week of May 2023 residents began to receive offers to upgrade and been placing upgrade orders with their Internet service providers.
“To deliver a planning system that is clear, easy to use and that facilitates the realisation of long-term aspirations for the growth and development of Canberra while maintaining its valued character.”
“Enabling the sustainable growth of the city without compromising its valued character
Providing clarity of processes, roles and outcomes for the city’s community
Providing flexible assessment pathways that are appropriate to the scale and scope of development”
Response to ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project – Draft Territory Plan and Draft Gungahlin District Strategy
The Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) is a voluntary, not for profit, community-based association operating in the Gungahlin district of Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory. Our objective is to preserve and improve the social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being of Gungahlin and the Gungahlin community. The Gungahlin Community Council receives funding support from the ACT Government.
This submission covers both the Draft Gungahlin District Strategy, and aspects of the Draft Territory Plan relevant to Gungahlin.
Response to Draft Gungahlin District Strategy
The GCC strongly supports the adoption of a spatial approach to planning at the district scale. We have some generic concerns and recommendations about the role of district strategies within the Reformed Planning System, and some specific concerns and recommendations regarding the Draft Gungahlin District Strategy.
There needs to be an immediate and substantial improvement in how the District Strategies are further developed. The ACT Government must use a genuine and well-structured, rather than “rubber stamp”, community engagement and co-design approach on the district strategies, including by promoting the community engagement processes widely, at accessible times and places, with reasonable timeframes for comment, and by providing good quality, high resolution maps and data overlays and other information to support the community in providing better informed feedback. The process needs to be continuous and living – not aimed at producing a whitepaper that sits on a shelf. This is especially important in view of current community feelings of disempowerment and the experience of not being listened to.
The GCC has serious concerns about how effective District Strategies will be given their scope is much broader than land use planning. Section 4 (Delivering the District Strategies) identifies many implementation pathways (12) distributed across a range of directorates and legislation which will require significant commitments by the ACT Government to cross-organisational culture change and ongoing financial investments. The following “action items” for the ACT Government are extracted from the Draft District Strategies are specifically relevant to Gungahlin and the experiences of the GCC over the past decade:
“Integrating transport and land use will require strong and ongoing collaboration between ACT Government directorates to realise the full benefits of major transport investments” (p. 77)
“Some of these factors are physical and can be facilitated through the planning system, such as through land use zoning, permissible uses and other planning controls. Successful innovation precincts require both physical and non-physical initiatives, including sustained and ongoing effort and collaboration between governments and the private sector” (p.78)
A program of interventions to help drive revitalisation and positive change may include:
upgrades to open space
improvements to local traffic and transport arrangements
new or upgraded community facilities
changes to planning controls to support new investment and types of uses, including additional retailing and opportunities for employment” (p. 79)
“Future development in some parts of Canberra needs to include initiatives to bring amenity and density together to achieve ‘urban improvement’” (p. 80)
“requiring a cohesive approach and collaboration across ACT Government to align plans for these pieces of infrastructure with the objectives and aims of the district strategies” (p. 81)
“Having clear governance and agency responsibility or clarity of a body that has responsibility for being an ‘urbanising agent’ can be an important part of this” (p. 82)
The GCC strongly supports the notion of an “urbanising agent” noting that for the district strategy to be effective there must be an entity/position accountable for delivering against the strategy.
Overall, the Draft Gungahlin District Strategy lacks any true strategic vision. It does not articulate a “future state” for Gungahlin and much of it identifies work and projects that are already underway or are “business as usual”.
The introductory “Future Vision for Gungahlin” (p. 7) does not start well, stating:
“The district is fully developed” – which is clearly not true; not only are some residential suburbs and local and group centres yet to be developed, the district is critically lacking a wide range of transport, community and recreations/sporting infrastructure
“Trees have matured providing a good tree canopy” – Gungahlin has the worst heat island footprint of any ACT district (a fact reflected on p. 87 of the District Strategy – “The district is an urban heat ‘hotspot’, with most suburbs hotter than the Canberra average during hot weather”)
“These newer northern suburbs are connected by regular public transport services to the town centre and the light rail network” – the bus network to the outer suburbs is sparce and the bus interchange itself is not efficient
“The town centre is now thriving. It provides jobs closer to home for the district’s residents after a long time where it was primarily a destination for shopping. It has a diverse range of commercial uses, while still supporting the local needs of residents” – The Gungahlin town centre is a spectacular example of the current planning system’s failing approach to mixed use development, and the governments uncoordinated/non-existent investment and business development functions (see below)
“Gungahlin District has a range of schools and other community facilities that serve multiple functions and cater to a diverse community and needs, including for arts, sports and activities for youth and older people” – Gungahlin is critically lacking a wide range of transport, community, and recreations/sporting infrastructure
Further comments are grouped under the Big Drivers below.
Overall, the GCC supports the implementation plan for the blue-green network driver. Additional emphasis needs to be placed on activating and improving the quality of “new connections in the blue-green network to address … recreational and social values in open spaces across the district, including in new greenfield suburbs” consistent with the Community and Recreational Facilities Assessment—Gungahlin District.
Economic Access and Opportunity Across the City
The GCC strongly supports the focus on future employment opportunities in the town centre, as this has been our primary objective over multiple decades, particularly in the past 5 years. Based on that advocacy, we are concerned the proposed initiatives lack concrete action as they are mostly about “detailed analysis” and “prepare a plan”.
We also strongly disagree that this driver is solely the responsibility of EPSDD, as this driver requires genuine all-of-government coordination and investment (as outlined above), particularly around transport, roads, and economic development. Expecting land use planning to deliver the desired mixed use outcomes within the Gungahlin Town Centre by themselves is naïve.
Please also note the recommendation to produce a Mixed Use Design Guide, under Response to Territory Plan below.
Strategic Movement to Support City Growth
The GCC strongly recommends that the Gungahlin district strategy includes an initiative to complete the Gungahlin arterial road network. This includes the complete duplication of Horse Park Drive, duplication of Clarie Hermes Drive, Gungahlin Drive, and Mirrabei Drive, and analysis and timely rectification of problematic intersections and congestion points.
The GCC welcomes the plan to investigate rapid transport between the group centres (Casey, Moncrief, Amaroo) and the town centre, particularly given the increase in density of institutions (schools, aged care) and high-rise residential in the vicinity of Casey.
Further development of the active travel network is required, and the GCC would hope that the Gungahlin Town Centre Active Travel Feasibility Study will be published, further refined, and implemented to improve active travel/micro-mobility paths into the town centre.
It is understood that TCCS has major concerns regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of the Gungahlin Bus interchange. Addressing these issues needs to be included in the District Strategy given its crucial role in enabling efficient public transport within and to/from Gungahlin and its impact on the amenity of the Gungahlin Town Centre, including on active travel. These in turn need to be integrated with any remedial work to undertaken on the town centre road network and parking.
Ensuring the public transport network provides effective connections through to all employment hubs, including Belconnen, Woden and ultimately Tuggeranong, as well as Civic, is crucial to Gungahlin because of Gungahlin’s low level of employment.
The GCC believes most of the Sustainable Neighbourhoods initiatives are in line with what residents expect – better lived experiences.
Further investment is needed to improve the canopy cover in Gungahlin to reduce the heat island impact.
Inclusive Centres and Communities
The GCC is encouraged that the chronic lack of community and recreation facilities has been recognised by the ACT Government as the GCC has been highlighting this for some years. The shortfall is also supported by the Government’s Community and Recreational Facilities Assessment—Gungahlin District, as illustrated in the diagram below:
Community facilities in Gungahlin that are not meeting demand (red) – including primary schools, health and child care, community spaces, aged care, youth services, indoor multipurpose courts and outdoor courts – probably not meeting demand (yellow), and possibly meeting demand (green) – from Community and Recreational Facilities Assessment—Gungahlin District
The initiatives under this driver are some of the most crucial in the Draft Strategy as they are crucial to the wellbeing of Gungahlin residents. The GCC is concerned this initiative needs to move quickly from strategy to implementation. Timely, significant and sustained investment is required to actually build the facilities required.
Finally, the GCC is encouraged that one of the proposed change areas (block 348, the Gungahlin Homestead site) is being considered for a large-scale retirement community and aged care facility. These are services needed in not only in Gungahlin but across northern Canberra.
Perhaps some of these “Key sites and Change Areas” could also be considered for the Northside hospital and/or a future National Convention Centre. Other creative opportunities are likely to emerge from a more substantive co-design process on the next iteration of the District Strategy.
Response to Draft Territory Plan
The increased residential densities that have been allowed within the current Planning system to emerge in Gungahlin, particularly within the Gungahlin Town Centre, are intended to provide greater amenity for residents in the form of shops, jobs, community and recreational facilities, public transport, and high-quality public spaces within close walking distance of residences.
They have failed for several reasons, including:
The planning controls in the relevant Precinct Codes rarely require commercially adaptable ground floors or active retail frontages on mixed-use sites.
The LDA/Suburban Land Agency (SLA) have not put in place lease conditions that would require or actively encourage commercial or community use on mixed-use sites.
The relevant objectives for the CZ5: Mixed Use Zone in the current Territory Plan are vaguely worded and open to interpretation, to the point of being practically unenforceable.
An over reliance on planning and planning rules to achieve outcomes that require coordinated investments from multiple directorates to deliver incentives and facilities necessary to deliver on the mixed-use vision.
In short, the current planning system is not delivering mixed-use development which meets community expectations. The result is a loss of valuable floorspace that could be home to small businesses and sorely needed facilities that benefit the wider community. It is not apparent that this has been addressed in the Draft Territory Plan.
The GCC strongly recommends that EPSDD develop an ACT Mixed Use Design Guide (the Mixed Use Design Guide) to accompany the proposed ACT Urban Design Guide and ACT Housing Design Guide (as proposed by the Molonglo Valley Community Forum). This document should contain benchmarks and guidelines to ensure developers deliver building spaces that are attractive and useable by prospective tenants. Consultation should be undertaken with the local business community and community service providers to ensure the guide is tailored to the specific needs and commercial realities of the ACT. The Mixed Use Design Guide should also be informed by the recommendations of the consultancy report into mixed use undertaken by the Planning Directorate’s as part of the reform.
There are numerous examples of mixed use and commercial design guides in effect elsewhere in Australia. One such example is the Quality Design Guidelines for Commercial and Mixed Use Areas used by Melbourne’s Glen Eira City Council. These guides clearly describe and illustrate desired outcomes for mixed-use sites at a variety of scales, including the preferred ratio of commercial floorspace per square metre of site area for strategic development locations. They also articulate how major new mixed-use developments should be designed to deliver significant, community-wide benefits.
The overarching objective of the Mixed Use Design Guide should be to facilitate the development of sustainable and usable spaces for businesses and community service providers within mixed-use buildings and precincts. It should discourage spaces that are likely to remain vacant due their cost, size, or usability, and encourage building layouts that provide safe and comfortable separation between residential and non-residential uses. There is an opportunity for the Mixed Used Design Guide to graphically illustrate how smart building design can be employed to successfully manage the competing demands of buildings which feature a diverse range of uses.
The GCC has launched an ACT Assembly petition, sponsored by Yerrabi MLA Michael Pettersson, asking for the ACT Government to take immediate action to increase the number of police in the Gungahlin district and upgrade and expand the Gungahlin Police Station. Click the button below to sign!
The ACT has the lowest police-to-population ratio in Australia. For a city experiencing significant growth, the number and resources of police are not growing with it. The number of operational police per 100,000 people in 2021 was the lowest in the country (219). This has resulted in a reduced capacity to meet the needs of the Gungahlin community.
In the ACT, Gungahlin is the fastest-growing district, with an estimated population of 87,550 according to the 2021 census and as high as 100,000 according to the post-COVID estimates. As a diverse and multicultural community, Gungahlin poses many challenges to ACT Policing, which has to be cognisant of many cultural, religious, and ethnical factors that are impacting the community and how it interacts. The police are required to perform more tasks with less resources. In addition to being police officers and upholding the law when attending incidents, police officers are required to act as ad hoc counsellors, mental health responders, youth workers, and first aiders..
In Gungahlin patrol, the station has six team, structured to consist of a Sergeant and eight team members each (9 in total). However, due to shortages and the impacts of low resourcing teams consistently operate at a lower capacity, consisting of a Sergeant and four to five members. This reduced capacity allows for a maximum of two patrol vehicles per shift to service the entire population. A significant portion of the shift response if responding to incidents such as sudden deaths, suicides, property crime offences, family and domestic violence.
All other stations in the ACT have six teams consisting of a Sergeant and nine members on their teams (10 in total). This discrepancy is not isolated when it comes to Policing in the Gungahlin District. The following key aspects also exist:
The Gungahlin Police Station is the smallest and most under-resourced of all police stations. The facilities are inadequate and do not allow for growth in police numbers. Desks and equipment are lacking to accommodate a sustained increase in police numbers.
In addition, the building facility is not conducive to providing privacy to victims of crime, witnesses, or persons in custody who are conveyed to the station due to no sufficient dedicated areas within the building, coupled with an open area carpark at the rear of the building, which is flanked by apartment buildings.
No dedicated areas, meeting rooms, dining areas, or storage facilities exist to allow members to conduct business in a professional or safe manner.
There are often water leaks in the station roofing during periods of heavy rain, it is not adequately heated or cooled in the winter/summer months, and it lacks a victim support space and an additional interview room facilities.
Members are overworked, sick leave incidents have increased, and members are not taking advantage of their annual leave due to a shortage of personnel within their team and station.
As a result, police officers are subjected to an additional burden of stress, welfare issues, leave, court and training requirements, backfilling, and special events, including guest of government meetings, protests, COVID responses, and other annual events, teams are rarely fully staffed. In Gungahlin, the community is dissatisfied with the low resource levels to deal with juvenile and recidivist offending, commercial burglaries, stolen vehicles, etc., and this fatigue may have contributed to the decline in the satisfaction rating.
Request the assembly to call on the ACT Government to:
Provide an improved new office space within six months of replacing the smallest and least equipped police station in Gungahlin
Increase the number of police officers to meet operational needs in the ACT’s budget for 2023-24
Develop and commit to a timeline for increasing ACT policing resources to meet the demands of the growing Gungahlin community
Ensure that a proper community consultation procedure is followed in order to mitigate the problem
A set of Policy Direction Papers were published in November 2020. There was no opportunity for consultation or feedback on these papers.
A range of (lightweight) consultations were underatken during 2021 resulting in a Listening Report published in December 2021. You may have attended the 2 hour evening session on District Planning or perhaps provided some input via the Have Your Say website.
A Inquiry into the Planning Bill 2022 was undertaken by the ACT Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services starting 21 September 2022. The GCC provided an updated submission (copy below) and appeared at a committee hearing. The Committee’s report was published on 22 December 2022 and included 49 recommedations, and two dissenting reports; the ACT government must respond to this report by 22 April 2023.
GCC Submission to the Inquiry into the Planning Bill 2022
The Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) agrees that ACT Planning System needs reform.
For over five years (starting in December 2016) the GCC has advocated for changes to the ACT Planning System to ensure that the Gungahlin Town Centre meets the expectations of Gungahlin residents. We have learned through this process that:
Community-initiated changes to the existing Planning System are extremely difficult, and easily “hijacked” and diluted.
The rule-based, block-by-block mechanisms of the current Planning System cannot be trusted to “do the right thing” as they do not deliver the intended outcomes (particularly in a Town Centre). This is further exacerbated by a lack of enforcement when the rules are applied in the real (commercial) world.
For planning to be effective it needs to be backed by coordinated investments and incentives.
The GCC had hoped the Reformed Planning System would identify, enshrine, and defend the needs and interests of the community against the expertise, resources, and commercial intent of the development industry, and (potential) short-term decision making and lack of investment by government.
More importantly, we hoped the process of reform would restore trust in the Planning System. To do this we expected the reform would be collaborative, allowing the community to understand and be part of the change, rather than being a victim of it – “Building trust in the Planning system should be a priority”. Unfortunately, despite a promising start (the Community Engagement Workshops in May 2019), this is not how the reform has unfolded to date, with most “consultation” taking the form of slideshow presentations followed by a short Q&A at a small number of sessions where no pre-reading was provided, or preparation required.
The consultation undertaken on the new Planning Bill itself is consistent with our concerns. An Overview document, a series of Fact Sheets and many hundreds of pages of draft legislation were provided for community consideration. A very high level of assumed knowledge was required to be able to consider the material provided and it was clear that any stakeholder that might wish to respond to the consultation would need a strong background and/or expertise in ACT legislation and planning to do so.
The Planning Bill is almost impossible for the average citizen to comprehend, and no serious attempt has been made by the Directorate to make it “relevant” to Canberra residents. The Planning Bill was presented without the new Territory Plan or District Strategies which might have made it clear “what goes where” and “how things will work”. It may also have helped if “Further detail on the proposed approach to detailed structure and content will be provided during the public consultation period” (from Planning Bill Policy Overview) had been actioned; unfortunately, this detail has not been forthcoming. Even now that the draft Territory Plan and District Strategies have been provided it’s unclear what’s changed and how.
The GCC lacks the legislative and planning expertise that many of the other Community Councils have access too, and consequently our feedback and recommendations are very high level. We encourage the inquiry to place significant weight on the feedback from all Community Councils, all of whom place the interests of the residents of Canberra first.
The GCC does not support the removal of Pre-DA consultation – If the Planning Directorate is of the view that Pre-DA Consultation is ineffective it needs to be fixed. Pre-DA consultation has proven to lead to better outcomes in several instances in Gungahlin and is consistent with the goal of ensuring that engagement is early and informed.
The GCC does not support the notion that the Principles of Good Consultation are at the whim of the Minister – These principles should have be a mandatory part of the act and genuinely co-developed with the community and industry (not proposed for comment). The principles have been included in the Bill, but do not encompass the output of the workshop conducted at the Environment and Planning Forum (EPF) for expressly this purpose (see Appendix A)
The GCC does not support the suggestion that the Planning compliance and enforcement powers are fit for purpose and comprehensive – In the past decade there have been several compliance issues in Gungahlin and there is widespread community perception that there is little enforcement and what there is has little impact or consequence on the infringing proponents
The GCC recommends that the ACT Government:
Fund an independent review of the proposed Planning Bill by an external (non-ACT government) legal counsel to validate the objectives of the Bill are correctly and validly drafted.
To build trust in the Reform process going forward, establish a substantive panel of relevant community and industry stakeholders that are given the necessary training to interpret the Planning Bill (and the Reform more broadly), and to genuinely contribute to the co-development of the new Territory Plan and District Strategies.
To build trust in the District Strategies, fund a representative group for each District group/forum to inform and oversee the ongoing development and implementation of the District Strategies. Such a group might include relevant MLA’s, representatives from different community sectors (eg. Business, Sporting, Aged, Youth) and community representatives, perhaps chosen by ballot from interested volunteer candidates.
Provide specific examples of how “outcomes based” works when compared to the current Planning System.
Work with the Gungahlin community to explore how the recommendations from the consultancy on mixed-use planning might be implemented in the new Territory Plan and/or Gungahlin District Strategy.
Identify how the recommendations of the four consultancies commissioned in support of the Reform have been actioned.
WHAT THEY SAID
Principles of Good Consultation
After solo and pair work to share what good consultation looks like, EPF members compared their thoughts with the proposed eight principles for good consultation (EPSDD Fact Sheet). The following themes emerged:
Need for government to listen to community
Discussion must be well informed (for both the community and the government)
Engagement must be early in the process
Community views must be taken into account (and project not just rubber stamped that consultation has been done)
Good consultation means the government goes to the people affected rather than people having to seek out the engagement
“20220331 – Environment and Planning Forum – contributions by Members – Principles of Good Consultation”
The ACT Government is inviting all recognised ACT peak sporting and active recreation bodies, ACT district community councils and ACT Licensed Clubs to contribute to the establishment of a register of potential sport and recreation infrastructure projects in the ACT.
As an eligible organisation, you can submit up to fifteen (15) priority sport and active recreation infrastructure projects using the survey link provided below. The survey is now open and will close on Friday 28 April 2023.
Once completed, this register will assist the ACT Government to consider a list of priority sport and active recreation infrastructure projects for inclusion in an ACT Government sport and active recreation infrastructure plan to guide potential development in the short to medium term (next 10 years, through to 2032). Given the important role this plan will play in future infrastructure provision, it is critical your organisation provides its priority projects via this survey.
It should be noted that any priority projects included in the proposed ACT Government sport and recreation active infrastructure plan will still need to be considered in the future by the ACT Government as part of an annual Budget process or via a funding application, and in light of circumstances at the time. Therefore government support for the project is not guaranteed and should not be presumed.
The following business rules will assist eligible organisations to complete this survey.
All potential sport and active recreation infrastructure projects to be included as part of the survey must be located within the ACT.
Where an organisation wishes to identify more than one project, the projects must be entered in priority order(i.e. the first project entered will represent the highest priority project for the organisation). There is not capacity for projects to be considered as an equal priority (i.e. an organisation can’t submit two projects and detail that both are considered to be a number one (1) priority.
Only ACT Peak Sporting or Active Recreation organisations (or equivalents), ACT District Community Councils and ACT Licensed Clubs are eligible to complete this survey. As a result, peak body organisations (e.g. state sporting organisations) are required to include any relevant projects that may relate to their respective affiliated clubs/organisations. It will be the responsibility of the applicable peak body organisation to undertake any necessary consultation with the affiliated clubs/organisations to complete this survey.
Examples of a peak body organisation include – Capital Football or Gymnastics ACT
Professional sporting teams that are not part of an ACT peak sporting body (e.g. Canberra Cavalry) need to work through the relevant peak body organisation to include any relevant projects (e.g. Baseball ACT).
Commercial or for-profit organisations are not eligible to complete this survey.
Please note the survey is being conducted using Smartygrants which requires all users to be registered with the platform. If your organisation isn’t registered with Smartygrants, you will be asked to do so before you can complete the survey.