Molonglo Valley: much done, more to do

We all desire to be good parents, and one of the most common regrets is not having taken the time to do it better. The Molonglo Valley has come a long way since 2004, but will take as long again to complete. Those born in 2004 are likely to have children themselves before it is complete.

Molonglo Valley Community Forum

The first meeting of the Molonglo Valley Community Forum was on 18 March 2021 in preparation for forming a Community Council. Community Councils are not local councils, as the ACT is a territory with only two levels of government. However, they perform an important function as a sounding board for the interests of the local community. 

Molonglo Valley has been a hot topic with the ACT Government trying to do better than they did in Gungahlin. I personally like Gungahlin, but there is the perception that urban development could be done better. Improvement is always good. 

The Molonglo Valley Community Forum opened with the politicians. The politicians that turn up are the ones that have and make the time. Junior MLA (local MPs from the ACT Legislative Assembly) turned up as messengers, as did the Liberal opposition. Keep in mind, as an MLA you will be paid anyway, so showing up is a good sign of their interest. 

It is often the silence that speaks loudest. There is an old game of covering several objects with a handkerchief. Then remove one and ask the player to remember what is missing. Our brain finds this extraordinarily hard to do this. It is, therefore, worth noting who was not in the room. 

  • Minister Chris Steel – To be fair he at least promised to come. Chris Steel has endless energy but seems to be bombarded with the demands that his department has neither the time or resources to do. 
  • Chief Minister Andrew Barr – Admittedly, he is a busy man as he is both Chief Minister and Treasurer. I do not think that Australia would want to have a prime minister who was also treasurer at the same time. Andrew Barr admits himself that this cannot last, but he appears to be the only person who is qualified to be treasurer.
  • Minister Shane Rattenbury – After the exit of Gordon Ramsey at the last election, Shane Rattenbury has taken over the Attorney General function.

Minister Yvette Berry

Yvette Berry is highlighted here as in any estate development her role is essential. 

Yvette Berry has achieved a magic trick of whisking the elephant from the stage without anybody noticing. She has branded herself as the minister for women, children and sport. The elephant in the room is estate development, which is what she responsible for as Minister for Housing and Suburban Development. Yvette Berry is missing in action as she never seems to turn up to any of the meetings with Community Councils. Write a letter to here about estates and she does not respond (Shane Rattenbury and Chris Steel respond quickly). Suburban Development seems to be her unloved child, which is unfortunate, as new estates are Canberra´s children. 

The role of Yvette Berry in the current ACT Legislative Assembly:

– Deputy Chief Minister
– Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development
– Minister for Housing and Suburban Development
– Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
– Minister for Sport and Recreation
– Minister for Women

Berry-Yvette – ACT Legislative Assembly, accessed 19 March 2021

How can Yvette Berry get away with this? Selling blocks through estate development is an important source of income for the income starved ACT Government. Many would say the priority to make money with ACT new estates tends to be in the foreground at the price that many other priorities get neglected. Building the John Gordon Drive bridge “last” makes sense in this context as from a business perspective, it is necessary to first sell enough blocks to raise the capital to build it. 

Yvette Berry appears to have little interest in the Molonglo Valley and not enough time and/or interest to turn up to the Molonglo Valley Community Forum. Her responsibility as Minister for Housing and Suburban Development seems to be a well-kept secret. 

Planning woes

It should be mentioned when discussing the Molonglo Valley that it has been accepted that ACT has a problem with its building code. Developers say it is too complicated. The Chief Planner has stated that he would like the code to be one page long, in acknowledgement that it is much longer than that. 

It all starts with the Territory Plan. Since the ACT´s inception in 1988, the Territory Plan has been amended to and it has got longer and more complicated. The Territory Plan is a statutory document. The word “statutory” has legal implications. Changing (amendments to) the Territory Plan requires the approval of the ACT Legislative Assembly. The Territory Plan has reached the point where nobody seems to understand it. 

The Territory Plan is not the only statutory document. Other statutory documents flesh out the details. One such document is the Estate Development Code (EDC). This is the bible for developers. Unfortunately, much of what is required for active travel has not been added to it yet and one of the reasons that active travel is poor in new estates. 

Key documents – Standards and guideline documents which should be used in the planning and design of active travel facilities. These are listed in Sections 2.2.3 to 2.2.7.

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)

At the beginning of the last legislative period, it was recognised that ACT planing apparatus had become a Frankenstein and it was finally time to create a bride. The ACT Government failed to start the revision process in the last legislative period. It was not until just before the last ACT Election that the ACT Government was required to factor the effects of climate change into its decision making. Now finally, the work has begun, but the complexity of the task cannot be underestimated and it could take years before there is a draft that is ready for the Legislative Assembly. 

Building an estate takes a lifetime

Imagine becoming a parent. In a year the baby may be able to walk, with three they start preschool half days. With ten we are amongst the oldest in primary school and looking forward to high school. With sixteen, things are getting serious with a sense of the end of childhood and the beginning of college. After college university or work is thrust upon, which is for many a rude shock of independence. Life continues and according to official statistics, the average person would become a parent by about 35 years. The evolution cycle complete and starts again. 

An estate takes 35 years to be born and another 40 to 50 years until the rejuvenation begins (Woden). The planning for the Molonglo Valley started in 2004 and in 2021 it is just 20% complete. Molonglo Valley Town Centre will not be completed until 2034 to 2035. At that time stage 2 of the Molonglo Valley estate development on the south side of Molonglo River will have been completed. By 2040 the Molonglo Valley is expected to be completed, assuming no delays, with a population of 55,000 people. 

In 2040, the Molonglo Valley will be finally there. The ACT is the mother of the Molonglo Valley, and the pregnancy has reached its fifth month. In terms of duration it is about halfway done, but only reach 20% of its sizes. From here on things will happen much faster.  

Update 2041 in doubt and 2050 more likely

The available information for Molonglo 3 and the history of the Whitlam development would suggest that a 2041 completion of the Molonglo Valley is unlikely and 2050 seems more realistic. The exact date is not so important as to accept that it will take much longer than 2041. Read Molonglo 3 East: timeline uncertainty.

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