Planning – Kim Fischer

The universal right to shelter

Speech given to ACT Labor Annual Conference (29 July 2017)


Today, we are each taking time out of our weekend to try and make the world a better place. The values and principles we are debating today define Labor as the party which is prepared to commit to big ideas to solve big problems.

We fight for universal health care and we should equally fight for a universal right to shelter.

There is no more fundamental human right than access to safe and secure shelter, yet in the ACT we have the second-highest rates of homelessness in the country.

How is it that we have 2000 homeless people living in Canberra, while the Federal Government has nearly 200,000 square metres of unoccupied government offices in Canberra alone?

The only thing standing between homeless people and opening up government offices is bureaucracy and a lack of political will.

In Canberra’s cold July, the lack of action in opening up those government offices, just a third of which could shelter all of Canberra’s homeless, is unacceptable and cruel.

According to the most recent Productivity Commission statistics, in the ACT we fail to provide accommodation solutions to more than 34% of people seeking accommodation support. 16% of people requiring homelessness assistance are migrants from countries where English is not the main spoken language – almost double the national average.

I acknowledge the ACT government is looking into housing affordability and homelessness, and I hope that opening up of government offices is part of that solution.

Delegates, I urge you to support this amendment.

Why the CSIRO won’t be subject to Territory planning laws

There appears to be some confusion about the difference between National Land and Territory Land for the purposes of planning laws in the ACT. This is particularly relevant to the potential development of the 701 hectare Ginninderra Field Station site near Crace.

The relevant sections of the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 are:

6  Functions of the Authority

(1)  The functions of the [National Capital Authority] are:

                     (g)  … to manage National Land designated in writing by the Minister as land required for the special purposes of Canberra as the National Capital.

27  National Land

(1)  The Minister may, by notice published in the Commonwealth Gazette declare specified areas of land in the Territory to be National Land.

(2)  The Minister shall not declare an area to be National Land unless the land is, or is intended to be, used by or on behalf of the Commonwealth.

28  Territory Land

At any time when any land in the Territory is not National Land, that land is Territory Land for the purposes of this Act.

29  Administration of Territory Land and the taking of water on National Land

(1)  The [ACT Legislative Assembly] Executive, on behalf of the Commonwealth:

                     (a)  has responsibility for the management of Territory Land; and

                     (b)  subject to section 9 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, may grant, dispose of, acquire, hold and administer estates in Territory Land

In short, these sections mean that the ACT government has no planning powers over National Land. The National Capital Authority has full management and planning control. If the CSIRO site is developed while it is National Land, the democratically-elected Assembly has no say in what gets done on this site and when.

I have written further about the consequences of this situation on the Canberra Times and the RiotACT.

Mix it up: Why mixed-use developments are key to Canberra’s future

With the release of the draft Kippax Town Centre Master Plan, I discuss the benefits of mixed-use developments and how they make our town centres more vibrant, safe, and sustainable:

Planners now recognise that mixing residential developments with commercial developments is an important “eyes on the street” solution. By creating public spaces where residents and shop patrons are potentially watching at any time, people feel safer and crime levels drop.

Read full article

Time to strengthen ACT Assembly governance over Canberra

The CSIRO is looking to redevelop its 701 hectare Ginninderra Field Station site to hold up to 15,000 homes. Due to a quirk of self-government provisions, as a National Land site it would be the NCA approving this development, not the ACT government. This is undemocratic and needs to be addressed:

There is no justification for the NCA to ever approve developments that aren’t expressly needed for Federal Government purposes. The Act relating to National and Territory Land status in the ACT should be amended to ensure that land must revert to Territory Land status in the event that it is no longer required for Commonwealth purposes.

Read full article

Summary of Draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan

The full draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan is over 80 pages long, which can be a challenge for time-poor workers and parents to read.

In the interests of better public awareness and debate, I have created a summary of all salient points and proposed activities arising from the master plan, with page references back to the full document:

Summary of Draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan (DOC)

Twenty five years after ACT self-government, Commonwealth government is still in control


In my op-ed piece for the Canberra Times, I argue that the National Capital Authority should not have the right to unilaterally approve residential developments such as the 701 hectare CSIRO Ginninderra site in the ACT, and particularly outside of Designated Areas of national significance:

The NCA does not have to seek approval from the ACT Government or reference the Territory Plan. It does not have to align with the ACT’s planned land release program or environmental standards. It can literally write its own planning rulebook.

Read full piece here

RiotACT post: A new look for Belco?

The draft Town Centre Master Plan will see big changes coming to Belconnen:

By transforming Lathlain St into a community hub and a “destination” with brand recognition similar to Kingston, New Acton and Braddon, the draft master plan aims to encourage greater commercial activity, particularly after hours, in the town centre.

These plans present opportunities as well as challenges for Belconnen.

Read full article

RiotACT post: Dancing in the streets? Nope, too much red tape

In this week’s RiotACT article, I look at the complexities of holding public events in the ACT and ask if there’s more that could be done:

The ACT government’s recently-launched Access Canberra site promises coordinated approvals assistance for events, which is a very promising step forward [..] They should consider maintaining a central list of community rooms and facilities available for hire on Access Canberra, and providing a simple, online process that allows groups to book and use any of these facilities.

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