You're Canberra

    People - the ā€˜Pā€™ in planning - Winter 2019

    09 August 2019

    Terrace houses Canberra is growing and the importance of planning is as relevant now as it has ever been. My key focus as ACT Chief Planner has always been ‘the people’ and the vital contribution they can and do make to planning this great city.

    There are many ways people can have a meaningful influence on planning and one important area is through the development application process. Part of catering to a growing and changing population, is through managing growth through a compact built form, in appropriate areas – which ultimately means new developments.

    Many developments need a development application (DA) to seek approval to be built and during the 2018-19 financial year over 1,080 DAs were received with an estimated cost of works of over $2 billion. Once a DA is available online for comment, community members have 15 working days to look over a proposal and make comments. This feedback could be an objection to the development on the grounds it will affect you or you may wish to support an application. When commenting on DAs, you do not need to be a technical expert – you can raise general issues for the authority and other experts in the ACT Government to investigate further.

    Our DA team is always on hand to answer questions and during the 2018-19 financial year they answered more than 10,000 planning enquiries over the phone, online or in person at Access Canberra shopfronts. To find out about new developments happening in your area you can visit an Access Canberra shopfront, go to or download the DA Finder App.

    When it comes to significant residential developments you can get involved early on – before the DA is lodged. This is called pre-DA community consultation and is designed to give you an opportunity to have your say while the development is still in the conceptual stage. This allows for feedback to be provided to DA proponents that can be incorporated into the design of a proposal, before the final design is submitted for approval.

    And finally, where a development or project is expected to have broader impacts, a proponent may be required to submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which outlines the development impacts and how they will be mitigated. An EIS is required for developments that impact on protected species or habitat, or major developments like power substations and waste facilities.

    Your feedback plays a key role through your unique ability to communicate useful observations into issues that may affect your neighbourhood. The community has the collective power to achieve positive outcomes on development projects.

    As active community members we can all play a role in planning our city and I encourage everyone to make use of these opportunities. Planning is a key element to shaping Canberra’s future and having your say through the development application process allows us to take ownership and pride in the contribution we make.

    Planning for the future - Autumn 2019

    29 May 2019

    As expected, 2019 is shaping up to be a big year in the planning space, with some of our largest projects gaining momentum.

    The refresh of the planning strategy last year gave us the opportunity to update our policies for managing growth and change to meet contemporary challenges. The 2018 Planning Strategy also reflects the Government’s commitments to a carbon neutral future and the introduction of light rail as part of a modern public transport system.

    The policies of the new planning strategy are led by the key themes of: compact and efficient city, diverse Canberra, sustainable and resilient Territory, liveable Canberra and accessible Canberra.

    As we move to implement the strategy, we have some exciting challenges and great opportunities. Work has started on:

    • the Planning Review, including a review of the current Territory Plan and supporting framework
    • strata reform and
    • the ACT Building Regulatory System Review.

    Over the years, the Territory Plan has become complex and multi-layered—it’s more than 2700 pages long! Through the Planning Review we are working with the community and industry to determine what we like about our plan and planning system, and what we would like to change.

    We want to deliver a balanced, outcomes- and people-focussed plan that gives both certainty and flexibility. We want a system that recognises and values good design outcomes and places ‘character’ central to our decision making. We also want the system to be easier for everyone to use.

    To get great outcomes for our community we need a city-wide approach for planning, and we need to have a framework that supports consistent, clear and understandable decisions on development projects.

    We are prioritising simplification and quality. The strata reform project will look at the legislation that guides mixed-use development. Our current system was developed for single land uses (for example, only residential buildings or only office buildings) and does not acknowledge the emergence of mixed-use development. Mixed-use precincts offer a lifestyle that many Canberrans are choosing and we want to deliver a more modern and robust framework that will articulate and protect the rights and responsibilities of both developers and the purchasers buying units in these mixed-use communities.

    Finally, the ACT Building Regulatory System Review is strengthening protections for the community and creating certainty for developers and builders in terms of what our regulatory system will allow for in Canberra.

    These projects highlight just a few of the diverse, important and outcomes-focussed work this Directorate is progressing. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming months on the creation of a modified planning system that focusses more on creating places, not just buildings.


    ACT Planning, the year in review - Summer

    21 December 2018

    The people of Canberra have long preserved the narrative of Canberra as a bush capital - a concept supported by government (it’s no coincidence that we include in our remit environment, planning and sustainable development). Even today, no Canberra resident lives further than 3.5km from a nature reserve, national park or pine forest, with the average distance being only 977m.

    We’ve been able to keep that ‘garden city’ feel in large part to ensuring it remains a strong focus of our collective planning vision. The 2018 ACT Planning Strategy was released this month and embodies the idea that planning is about being agile to a changing climate and establishing resilience in our built forms, infrastructure and natural assets.

    This year we progressed work on Dickson Section 72 and we completed our first award-winning deliberative process for Housing Choices. The engagement demonstrated a bottom up approach to planning policy and recently won the ‘Public Engagement and Community Planning Award’ at the ACT Planning Institute of Australia 2018 awards.

    Other awards in our space this year included the public housing renewal program’s ‘2018 Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW/ACT for Excellence in Social Infrastructure’ and the ‘Best Energy Efficiency Program’ for our energy rating disclosure requirements.

    In 2019, we will continue the work we’re doing to shape Canberra’s future, respecting the past and creating a more liveable, adaptable city for people. We will continually strive to be innovative and creative in the way we deliver quality outcomes for the community.

    We will continue to enhance Canberra’s liveability, recognising that our city and community are connected with our surrounding bushland. And we will continue to collaborate and engage with the community and our networks to make sure we are informed.

    For now, thank you for your record participation in our engagements this year. Your passion, time and commitment is why You’re Canberra.

    I wish you a safe and festive break.


    Bringing planning to the people - Spring

    03 October 2018

    It’s spring, the blossoms are out – and it’s time for me to update you on the significant amount of planning work we have in various stages of completion.

    Dickson Section 72 is the focus for the inner north as Stage 2 engagement continues until the end of October. We will continue to work with the community and local residents to seek feedback that will help shape the future of this important precinct. Full details are available from Your Say.

    Earlier last month, the ACT Government agreed in-principle to the recommendation report on housing choices provided by the Collaboration Hub deliberative democracy process.

    The Hub’s report featured 13 recommendations with nine themes:

    • Affordability
    • Character
    • Environment
    • Lifestyle and diversity
    • Planning and approvals
    • Public housing
    • Quality of construction
    • Quality of design
    • Zoning

    Work is already under way to deliver on these recommendations.

    Consultation on the Planning Strategy Refresh closed last month after 13 weeks of invigorating engagement activities designed and delivered a little differently. Instead of producing a draft Discussion Paper for comment, we engaged with community early in the drafting process and provided opportunities to help inform and develop the final themes, directions and actions.

    From an online quick poll to a live-streamed speaker series; community and industry workshops to local ‘planning in the pub’ events, your feedback was captured and reported back as it happened, providing an active feedback loop during the consultation phase.

    We discussed the need to be more efficient with our use of space and resources, the need to revitalise our town centres and, as a group, respectfully debated many contentious challenges.

    This included looking at how we can meet the expectations of a diverse community with different perspectives, different needs and wants and who are in different stages of their lives.

    We asked where we will all live, and in what type of housing. We asked how we can move around the city in a way that allows us to choose where we live, work, shop and recreate. We also explored how we can plan for future growth in a way that respects our environment as well as being consistent with our commitment to being a net zero emissions city in 2045.

    If there’s one thing our speaker series showed, it’s that there is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Nor is there one solution.

    I’m confident that the breadth of Refresh engagement activities provided a new depth to your voice on planning and in a way that will translate to the pages of the new strategy, and ultimately the Territory Plan. I look forward to sharing the 2018 Planning Strategy with you soon.

    Planning with the people - Winter 2018

    30 June 2018

    A focus this quarter on planning with the people has seen a wide variety in our design and delivery of community engagements.

    Our first deliberative democracy in the Housing Choices Collaboration Hub has regularly met to consider the competing demands, ideas and options for what should be allowed in different planning zones. The Hub has considered best practice, expert advice and community preferences and is now preparing to draft its recommendations.

    In parallel, work on Demonstration Housing is progressing well, with the team busy evaluating applications for the first stage of this innovative project.  Our youth engagement with planning work around Section 72 is yielding fantastic participation and contribution rates; and we’re about to embark on a conversation with the Canberra community about planning that’s also a bit different.

    It’s time to refresh the 2012 Planning Strategy for the ACT and set the direction for the Canberra and ACT we want in the future. A lot of the current strategy remains relevant - but we need to refresh the strategy to take into account the changes our city is undergoing, notably light rail, ongoing urban renewal and a growing population.

    We know that Canberra has a highly engaged and informed population with an impressive understanding of planning issues and pride for their communities. So along with traditional engagement methods, a Speaker Series has been designed to stimulate meaningful conversations within the community on key issues that underpin the Planning Strategy, including transport, climate change and housing.

    We’ve heard a great deal from our consultations in recent years, and one that sticks out is that you want to be included early in planning issues. The Planning Strategy Refresh is an opportunity to contribute early on planning issues that will affect us all. The work will build the backbone for government policy in important areas of transport, climate change and planning this year, but will also lead into a significant piece of work next year on the Territory Plan Review. The Review will progress the Planning Strategy work into the statutory framework.

    I encourage you to visit Your Say to see how you can get involved in the Planning Strategy Refresh in a way that suits you – there’s even a live stream and interactive Q&A feature. Be challenged about the way you think about these issues, how they interlink and how they have, do, and will impact the growth of our city.

    Planning for the people - Autumn 2018

    28 March 2018

    Welcome to the first You’re Canberra column. I’ve spoken about how I want to bring you along on the planning journey and this column is part of that commitment. Here I will share my vision for Canberra and show how, together, we are planning a sustainable city that caters for our growing population.

    Like all capital cities in Australia, we’re growing rapidly and we’re at a pivotal point in planning for the future. Across Canberra we’re seeing a critical focus on urban renewal and the new infrastructure required to support a city which will be home to 500,000 people by 2030.

    Canberra's city lights at nightAs ACT Chief Planner, my planning focus this year is on projects and generating the right conversations to inform a refresh of the ACT Planning Strategy. It’s true that we can’t continue to expand our ecological footprint, but we also need to look at how we best use our available land and adapt to a changing climate. Into the next decade and beyond we need to look at where we live, the schools and hospitals we’ll need and how we will easily move around the city.

    Our recent conversations with the community have included active dialogue about Housing Choices, City and Gateway Draft Urban Design Framework and Section 72 in Dickson. In my next update to you, I will report on key outcomes and successes of these engagements. Stay tuned.

    Another important element in the planning statutory world is the work performed by the Gateway Team in my Directorate in helping industry and the community with all things planning. The figures are in from last year and they’re impressive. In addition to releasing the pre-DA community consultation guidelines, last year alone, the team answered more than 5700 enquiries over 1300 hours, held 206 pre-application meetings and accepted more than 1100 development applications. Whether it’s over the phone, in person at a shopfront counter or through the DA app finder, these services are at the core of what we do – deliver better outcomes for our city.Row of townhouses

    We will look to refresh the Planning Strategy Refresh in the coming months that will optimise the benefits from urban renewal and addresses themes and trends that are emerging from these conversations and engagements. It’s going to be an exciting year in planning and there are many opportunities and ways to get involved and have your say on the kind of city you want Canberra to be.

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