3 May 2016
The Wesley Uniting Church Hall is noted for hosting classical music concerts. But on Thursday 28 April it was filled by about 400 angry residents.
They were attending the meeting organised by the Inner South Canberra Community Council and its member Associations the GNCA and The Kingston Barton Residents’ Group. And they were angry, because of the way the government has handled the Greater Western Sydney/Grocon redevelopment proposal. This involves building a 140,000m2 development including 1,000 new apartments, a 200 room hotel, 10,500 m2 of office and 10,100 m2 retail space, and a licenced club, on less than 2 hectares of land around the Manuka Oval (see the associated paper for further details of the proposal).
The anger was threefold, because:
- The government has kept the proposal secret for nearly two years;
- The proposal to construct such a large development on such a small area of land is so unrealistic it should never have been entertained; and
- The Government has never produced a Master Plan for the whole of the Manuka Precinct which reflects input from the community.
The meeting was addressed by Gary Rake, Deputy Director General and Chief Operating Officer, Environment and Planning Directorate, and Tony Harris, a former NSW Auditor-General. Mr Rake outlined the processes the government is using to deal with this un-solicited bid and admitted that the ACT Government had first received the bid in August 2014, earlier than had previously been admitted by the Government (the date of lodgement was initially reported as November 2015, and then changed to November 2014). Mr Harris described his experiences with un-solicited bids and the risks, both to their own integrity and the prospects of optimal outcomes for the public at large, when public servants find themselves up against determined and experienced commercial negotiators.
The meeting passed motions calling on the government to:
1. Ensure that any proposal restricts development to sporting facilities and other improvement of Manuka oval, and not include shops, residential or other development;
2. Reject the Greater Western Sydney Football Club and Grocon unsolicited proposal to redevelop the Manuka Oval precinct;
3. Initiate a comprehensive planning process for the Manuka Oval precinct and surrounding areas, in full partnership with the community and relevant stakeholders. It would take into account adjacent heritage and precinct plans, and would seek to agree on:
- Objectives for any future development;
- Strategies for achieving those objectives; and
- Mechanisms for continuing community involvement;
4. Review the current arrangements for any events at Manuka Oval, including for parking, transport, access, and concerts, particularly in respect of parking and road closures;
5. Revise the guidelines for unsolicited proposals with a view to strengthening transparency and to ensure the publication of reasons for decisions; and
6. Ensure that MOCCA, a longstanding community-based childcare centre in Manuka, is taken care of financially in any redevelopment of its current site.
The next step will be to persuade the government to implement these resolutions.