ACT Land and Property Services chief executive David Dawes says he is fighting for development on all fronts, from every back street of Canberra to Commonwealth legislation to protect the environment.
Recruited from the Master Builders Association to head the ACT Government’s affordable housing strategy, Mr Dawes will be promoted soon to head up a new economic directorate under recommendations of the Hawke review into the ACT public service.
His challenges on affordable housing and infill development surfaced in a candid address to the Australian Property Institute ACT Division’s annual meeting yesterday.
Mr Dawes said the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act Commonwealth protection of nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places was causing him grief.
He said in days past there was a different mantra, ” If it moves, shoot it, if it’s in the road, run it over.”
More recently, he said he had not realised the ACT harboured so many endangered critters. After the meeting he said his light-hearted comments were to show how far people had changed in respecting the environment.
”Forty years ago we didn’t worry what we bulldozed over. I think we are far more responsible.”
At the meeting he said the ACT Government had lost much development land when the Commonwealth withdrew Central Molonglo from the wider subdivision which will eventually house 55,000 people. (The National Capital Authority wanted Central Molonglo’s 560ha of yellow box-redgum grassy woodlands permanently protected.)
Mr Dawes was on a panel at the institute meeting with major Canberra developers Jure Domazet and Josip Zivko. Asked why the ACT did not develop the city’s ridges, buffers and hills, along with horse paddocks near Curtin, Mr Dawes said there were no development plans for the paddocks. But the Government should look at the hills, ridges and buffers, which were protected under the National Capital Plan.
”Today, it’s a bridge too far, it will probably come later as the city grows, probably after my time.”
Mr Domazet said the undeveloped areas, except the horse paddocks, were a nice feature of Canberra. He had no interest in developing them. Mr Zivko said physical impediments would make them too costly to develop. Mr Dawes said strong opposition to infill development included a public meeting the ACT Liberals called on Monday night over Jamison Inn’s proposed redevelopment. Mr Dawes said 225 people attended.
”Two were for it and the rest were against it,” he said.
The development proposed 322units, but residents at the meeting had wanted 700 car parks. Mr Dawes later told The Canberra Times concerns were also raised over the scale of the Jamison project, and he was disappointed the developer had not consulted more.
He supported Government Architect Alastair Swayn’s call for developers to consult more before lodging development applications.
Mr Dawes said the Government announced last year 17,000 blocks to be released in coming years, but he had missed his key performance indicator of having enough blocks available where residents could kick the curb before they bought one.
John Thistleton, Canberra Times, 1 April 2011