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Community Facilities

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Ms Orr for bringing this motion before the Assembly. The Canberra Liberals will be supporting the motion and the amendments that have been proposed for it.

Our support should come as no surprise. The issues addressed in this motion are ones that I and my Liberal colleagues have been raising for some years now. In the 2015–2016 annual reports hearings, I asked the minister about the high and growing demand for access to community facilities and specifically asked what plan the government had to address this demand in future. The minister responded that the government’s strategy was to encourage community groups to, quote, ‘utilise existing community facilities’. In other words, those opposite had no plan for either the present or the future.

Later that same year, in Budget Estimates hearings, the government admitted that it was receiving ‘increasing requests for facilities’ that could not be met. In November 2017, in response to a question that I had put on the notice paper, the minister confirmed that community groups were being denied requests for events and meeting space owing to unavailability. Still, nothing was done.

Ms Orr’s motion twice mentions Gungahlin in the context of its population growth and lack of community facilities. I note here that in his inaugural address to this Assembly in 2016, my colleague Mr Milligan raised these same issues. On that occasion, he stated that Gungahlin needed ‘better local amenities’, including ‘improved social amenities’. He specifically mentioned a ‘town or district hall’ and ‘a focus on facilities for the growing youth population’. In the five-plus years since then, he has been a tireless advocate for these kinds of facilities in his electorate of Yerrabi.

Similarly, my colleagues Mrs Jones and Mr Hanson have for years been labouring to secure a community centre for the thousands of residents who have been moving into the Molonglo Valley over the past nine years. True to form, this government’s response has been much foot-dragging, and there is still no community centre.

I likewise note that in February 2019, Ms Orr moved a motion calling on the ACT Government to ‘explore the feasibility of establishing a dedicated community centre in the Gungahlin Town Centre’. Frustrated by endless exploring and no action, Mr Milligan successfully amended that motion to instead call on the government to ‘commit to a dedicated community centre’ in Gungahlin. In doing so, he summed up the situation in this way:

‘Every single resident in the outer north knows about the pain associated with this government’s poor planning. They build houses first and then try to retrofit infrastructure’.


‘We do not need a scoping exercise to understand there is a lack of meeting rooms and spaces, halls and venues for local community groups, let alone a range of other community assets’.

Six months later, Ms Orr was named the new Minister for Community Services and Facilities, making her responsible for some of the things that she had been asking for and is again asking for in this motion. Considering her expressed concerns, we could have seen significant improvements in this space over her 13-month tenure. Instead, today’s motion calls on all of us to acknowledge that demand for community facilities in the ACT continues to outstrip supply, resulting in ‘difficulty’ for community organisations in securing access to suitable facilities.

In July last year, the ACT Government advertised a tender for an experienced service provider to ‘undertake analysis of current [ACT Property Group] community facilities within the Belconnen and Woden regions [and] recommend options to inform ACTPG’s management of and investment in community facilities’. Ms Orr’s amendments today suggest that this review has now been downgraded to a mere ‘stocktake’, which ‘could’ – note that word could! – be used to inform future planning’.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen, and though past performance is not necessarily an accurate predictor of the future, we all know what this government’s past performance looks like when it comes to making sure that Canberrans have reasonable access to suitable community facilities. And this failure is nowhere more apparent than in those parts of the city with booming populations but no or virtually no facilities.

And so this motion calls on Labor and the Greens to engage with the community services sector to help them find their way out of this completely avoidable, entirely foreseeable planning mess. Frankly, I hope it works! Something needs to.

I therefore commend this motion to the Assembly. Thank you.


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