April has presented us with some interesting options based on the calling of the Federal election. Senator Seselja’s two major announcements for this district while welcome, aren’t front and centre of people’s thinking at the moment. The first announcement about removing blockers for release of more land to be made available for housing centred on the Ginninderra Project (formerly the Ginninderra Field Station), in our view misses the mark about availability and affordability. The major blocker is the lack of progress to bring together the parties (CSIRO, ACT Government and the National Capital Authority) to develop agreements on how the project moves forward from a plan on a page to a going concern. Once this occurs (and it won’t happen until after the Federal Government comes out of caretaker mode) then CSIRO should be able to secure a development partner to progress the project to a basic development application footing.
The second announcement was the long awaited upgrade to the AIS. We wrote to the Federal Sports Minister in 2020 and were assured the money would be forthcoming once the review was completed. Unfortunately, those assurances ran into blockages of their own with the Federal Government blaming the ACT Government for not coming to the party with a share of the upgrades. In our view, that’s akin to a landlord asking their tenant to paint the walls, fix the leaks, plumb the new pipes and make their home liveable under local and national standards; all while asking them to pay additional rent to ensure the landlord doesn’t incur any costs. Similarly, the less than $12m will barely cover the costs of upgrading seating and fire/emergency systems; at this point that money is restricted to the AIS Arena and nowhere else.
I’ve been asked why we aren’t running a candidates forum for this election and I can say our Committee has been consistent for a number of years on this. We are funded by the ACT Government under terms that provide us with some flexibility around political activities, but no money flows to us from the Commonwealth to conduct any activities on their behalf. While we welcome the Member for Fenner and our two ACT Senators to our monthly meetings to provide updates on how they are working with the ACT Government to deliver infrastructure and services, there is no remit to provide an election forum for them and other candidates to promote themselves and their policies. But what we have done this time is offer incumbents and candidates 30 minute briefings on what is important to our community; for those who live, work and play in our district. There are plenty of opportunities for the candidates and community members to interact, and our monthly meetings have always been targeted to meet those expectations; we don’t want to encourage one off forums every three years. What we do want is for that conversation to happen every month at our meetings, to see and hear from our federal representatives every four weeks from February to November each year; to make their efforts felt across the whole electoral cycle. With that in mind, we have started the conversation with our ACT MLAs in Ginninderra on a three monthly basis, meeting online to keep abreast of issues and matters of importance to our community. The first meeting happened just before our March meeting (and our thanks to Jo Clay and her office for making it happen), our next will be in early June once the Federal election circus has moved on.
As always, we look to you for new ideas and thinking. Please reach out if you’d like to help our sub committees in the months ahead as we maintain our Belconnen district as “The Jewel in Canberra’s Crown”.
Belconnen Community Council
19 April 2022