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Gentleman seen as weak link in getting action on Gungahlin Town Centre

Ian Bushnell4 June 2021
Mick Gentleman

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has been unresponsive and indifferent to community concerns, says Gungahlin Community Council. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Yerrabi MLAs have been praised for bringing the plight of the Gungahlin Town Centre to the attention of the Legislative Assembly, but Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has been blasted for his indifference to community concerns about too much high-rise residential development and the lack of employment opportunities there.

Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford welcomed the Assembly passing the Greens’ amended motion on the Town Centre on Wednesday (2 June), saying the community was grateful to the local MLAs for their focus and advocacy on issues the council had been raising for some time.

But he condemned Mr Gentleman’s apparent lack of interest and questioned whether he and the Planning Directorate would actually do anything as a result of the motion.

Mr Elford said Housing and Suburban Development Minister Yvette Berry had been extremely responsive and eager to speak to the community, and the Suburban Land Agency had responded with suggestions on alternative ways to bring land to market similar to that proposed in Greens MLA Andrew Braddock’s motion.

They had been willing to listen and acknowledge the community’s concerns, he said.

“That’s the complete opposite of the response of the Minister for Planning,” Mr Elford said.

“He has not provided any formal response to any correspondence we have sent him.

“He has given a speech in the Assembly that doesn’t address our concerns and doesn’t make any specific recommendations on solutions to address the matters we have raised. And frankly, he seems to be adopting an ‘it’s all fine, move on, nothing to see here’ attitude.”

Mr Elford said Chief Planner Ben Ponton had laid bare the failings of the planning system, and there was no more perfect example of that than the high-rise development in Gungahlin that had occurred under Mr Gentleman’s watch.

Andrew Braddock

ACT Greens MLA Andrew Braddock: the Assembly resolution is a positive step. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mr Braddock’s amended motion, arrived at after negotiations with Labor, commits the government to no reduction of commercial or community-zoned land in the Town Centre, and calls for it to actively encourage employment there, including a submission to the Federal Finance Minister on the benefits of moving new or growing Federal agencies to Gungahlin.

The motion calls for the SLA to put jobs at the heart of its land sale program, allow for bigger commercial premises in leases and encourage place-making by releasing larger blocks.

Overall, the motion commits both the government and the SLA to greater consultation, particularly about what community facilities and commercial uses are needed.

“This is a really positive step toward developing a Gungahlin that is vibrant and sustainable,” Mr Braddock said.

Mr Elford said the community wanted a whole-of-government response to these issues instead of the fragmented approach by individual agencies, and it could not wait for the review of the Territory Plan to be finalised.

“We need something better now,” he said. “We would like to see a forum where all the agencies come together with industry and the community to work together to ensure the Town Centre is viable.”

A big picture strategy and single point of contact in government were needed, he said.

Mr Elford called for a place-based view of how development happens and resources are committed because that unified approach is how residents view things.

A spokesperson for Ms Berry said the government would implement the actions outlined in the motion, including making representations to the Commonwealth and considering greater consultation.

“The CEO of the SLA and Minister Berry met with the Gungahlin Community Council in early May prior to this motion coming forward,” the spokesperson said.

“The Minister heard their views about the need for commercial development, and as a result instructed the SLA to develop a consultation plan for future sales.

“The SLA will work with the GCC on the place making of future land releases in the Gungahlin Town Centre including engagement on how the sale of these future sites are brought to market.”

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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