Planning Minister rams through planning decision despite years of community consultation: ACT Greens


The ACT Greens have today expressed outrage and dismay at the ACT Planning Minister’s decision to again use his call-in powers to ram through a Development Application (DA), this time in relation to Common Ground Dickson - a decision that overrides proper assessment, scrutiny and community feedback to date.

A 'call-in' allows the Planning Minister to override the normal assessment and decision-making process for a DA, circumventing all-important community feedback. Normally, the assessment and decision-making is conducted independently by the Planning Authority without the Minister’s involvement. This gives the community confidence that planning decisions are not driven by political considerations, such as political commitments to anyone, or the timing of the upcoming September/October election. 

The ACT Greens today called on the Minister to reverse his decision, and instead, to allow the regular progression of independent approvals process that ensures the community gets a say on the issue

The development in question, at Section 72, Dickson, has already seen wide-ranging views canvassed among the local community about the use of the site over the past 5 years or more.

Community consultation was undertaken by the Directorate earlier this year on the proposal - the outcome of which has not yet been made public. The ACT Greens today call on the Minister to release what the community has already told the Government in relation to this issue.

Call-in powers were not used for the approval of Common Ground in Gungahlin when Minister Rattenbury was the Housing Minister.

This is the second time the Minister has overridden normal processes for this development.  In December 2019, planning changes needed for the project were given 'interim effect', which effectively over-rode scrutiny by the Legislative Assembly.

It comes ahead of Greens legislation from MLA Caroline Le Couteur that, if supported, would see both call-ins and 'interim effect' become disallowable by the Assembly. Clause-by-clause debate of Ms Le Couteur's legislation was deferred on 18 June this year to allow the major parties more time to consider it.

The Greens support public housing, and have committed to expanding Common Ground in Gungahlin as part of our $450 million housing affordability election commitment. The Greens believe that the Common Ground development, as with all other planning and development decisions, should be made in consultation with the community and in step with regular processes.

Comments attributable to ACT Greens Planning spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur MLA:

“Canberrans will be outraged to learn that an ACT Labor Minister has decided, of his own accord, to ram through development decisions in our city - with only the pretense of consulting with the local community. Controversial development should see more community engagement, not less.

“It’s especially disappointing that this Minister has made this decision before his party is called on to vote to ensure these kinds of decisions can be overridden by the Legislative Assembly. If my legislation was in force now, the Assembly would be able to override the Minister on this regrettable call-in. That would allow the normal assessment process to go ahead, with local residents' concerns properly considered.

Comments attributable to Rebecca Vassarotti, Greens candidate for Kurrajong:

“The community’s dismay at the lack of regard for their input on planning issues in their own neighbourhoods has been made loud and clear in recent months. All developments, including those with strong social outcomes need to be appropriately assessed against the agreed rules and community input should not be stymied. The Minister should explain to Canberrans why he feels there is a sudden rush to act on this issue at the expense of community consultation, given that by his own admission today, this has been in the works since 2014 - and his own Party made this an election commitment back in 2016.

“It is clear that we need to rebuild community trust in planning and development decisions. It's a real concern that community support for residents of an important social oriented development might be put at risk due to poor process and the inability for community input to shape and improve this development. Our community expects more than to be simply ignored. Why bother consulting if in the end, decisions are made on a political basis?”

Comments attributable to ACT Greens leader and Member for Kurrajong Shane Rattenbury:

“The Greens put community at the heart of everything we do. It is deeply disappointing that call-in powers have been used in this case. Our Canberra community deserves better than to have a project like this called in without even releasing the outcomes of the community consultation.”