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More Parking for Lawson

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am grateful to be able to bring this motion before the Assembly today. Lawson, which will be located in my electorate of Ginninderra from this year, is one of Canberra’s newest suburbs. The first blocks for single residences were auctioned off only six years ago.[1] Canberrans spent $80 million buying those blocks and others that were sold a few months later.[2] Across the same period, medium-density sites were sold to developers for a further $42 million.[3] Lawson Stage One consists of 184 detached dwellings and more than 500 units.

The plan is for up to 1,850 dwellings to be built in Lawson, with many of these in the next stage of the suburb, which was offered to developers as an englobo release. Unlike its predecessor, Lawson Stage Two has been zoned for no detached houses. Instead, more medium-density developments will be joined by high-density apartments near the shore of Lake Ginninderra, along with a small section of mixed-use development.

According to the ACT Government’s Lawson Concept Planning Study, quote, ‘The vision for Lawson … is to achieve a liveable, sustainable “urban village” that … maximises the positive attributes of the suburb … Planning for Lawson … envisages a well[-]connected, integrated and compact neighbourhood, where residential densities are higher than in surrounding established suburbs’. [4]

Higher residential densities have certainly been realised in Lawson Stage One and will be an even greater reality in Lawson Stage Two. Residents of Lawson, however, have serious concerns about whether this government’s promise that Lawson would be ‘liveable’ has been achieved. Over the past two years or so, the Canberra Liberals have heard from many dozens of residents who have raised with us serious complaints about how poorly the Labor-Greens Government has planned their suburb and how they have been treated with disrespect by the government since buying their blocks or units and moving in.

Madam speaker, my motion today addresses just one of those issues, and one that more Lawson residents have complained to us about than all the others combined: lack of adequate public parking. This is a persistent problem that affects both residents and their guests. The results are easily seen firsthand if one visits Lawson, reaching crisis levels especially in the evenings and on weekends, when most people are at home. Parking is of increasing importance in suburbs and cities. Sometimes people spend longer parking than they do driving. So when planning, it is common sense to set aside adequate land for parking. Traditionally, governments have believed that generous parking allocations provided benefits to residents.

However, this has fallen short in Lawson. There are far too few public parking places for all the homeowners and renters who live in Lawson, let alone for the people who want to visit those residents. This has created a situation of genuine desperation and disruption.

The daily difficulty of finding parking has been enough to make living in Lawson an exercise in sustained frustration for many residents. Beyond this, many Lawson residents have said to us that their friends and family have given up on visiting because they simply cannot find a place to park if they do.

I want to point out here, Madam Speaker, that as frustrated as Lawson residents are, overwhelmingly they are not frustrated with each other. Instead, nearly everyone has concluded that the chaotic situation in Lawson is a result of lack of appropriate planning in the suburb, a deliberate act of a lazy government that can’t be bothered providing an adequate amount of parking, or worse, an intentional attempt to force people to give up their cars and be dependent on public transportation instead! And yet there are currently no bus services within Lawson! So now the government seems to expects people not to have cars, not to have a bus, but just to walk everywhere.

In answer to a question on notice last year, Deputy Chief Minister Berry stated that bus service won’t commence until sometime in 2021 or even 2022.[5] In the meantime, the nearest bus stop for many Lawson residents is located on the University of Canberra campus, but they have no formal footpath that allows them to safely get to Ginninderra Drive to cross it. This is hardly the ‘well[-]connected, integrated … neighbourhood’ that this government sold to the buyers who handed over their life savings. I call on the government to provide that much needed footpath, for residents of Lawson to walk to the bus stop on the other side of Ginninderra Drive.

One Lawson resident pointed out that, although she lives in a development with 43 units, there are only two parking bays for visitors. Meanwhile, on-street parking has been intentionally limited, with parking spaces in streets such as Narrambla Terrace, Pipeclay Street and Solong Street separated into pairs rather than continuous.

Another frustrated resident talked about how many of the dwellings in Lawson are being used as share houses, with three, four or even more adults living in each one. Share housing inevitably increases the need for parking. This is not a surprising circumstance as Lawson is next door to the University of Canberra. At the same time, a quick search of the AllHomes website earlier this week revealed the following in Lawson, to give just a few examples: a four-bedroom house for rent with parking for only one car; a three-bedroom townhouse for rent, also with parking for only one car, and several houses for sale, each with six or seven bedrooms but private parking for only two cars.

Lawson residents are deeply frustrated, Madam Speaker. Just last week I spoke with a family who told me frankly that they regret building a home there. The Labor-Greens government was happy to take their money, they said, but now the government doesn’t want to hear from them about any problems they are facing, including insufficient designated parking.

Lawson residents are also worried. As bad as things are now, the fear is that this government will allow Lawson Stage Two, with its even greater densities, to multiply the problems readily apparent in Lawson Stage One. If residents and guests already cannot find anywhere to park, what will happen when close to another 1,000 dwellings are added into the mix?

My motion today is a straightforward response to these frustrations and fears, Madam Speaker. Lawson residents expect their government to increase the amount of designated parking in their suburb to alleviate the nightmare they are currently facing every day. That adequate parking was not planned for in the first place is a universally acknowledged failure that desperately needs to be addressed. Beyond that, Lawson residents want an assurance that the current ACT Government will make sure that adequate designated parking will be provided for both residents and visitors in Lawson Stage Two.

These are not outrageous demands, Madam Speaker. Canberrans rightfully expect their government to provide the basic services that make life reasonable and liveable. And when mistakes are made, they expect their government to acknowledge and then fix the problem. A government that refuses to do so is no longer fit to govern. I therefore commend this motion to the Assembly. Thank you.





[5] Select Committee on Estimates 2019–2020, QON No. E19 -473.

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