I am very pleased to be able to speak on the importance of genuine public consultation in the ACT, something that is important to me as both a citizen and a member of the Legislative Assembly. It is something that is central to this government’s way of governing and this parliament’s way of functioning.
Certainly the Canberra community is one of the most politically engaged communities in Australia. We have a strong advocacy at a grassroots level all the way up to our federal representatives on the hill. When it comes to local politics, the ACT government has a special responsibility—acting as both a local and state government.
Our Chief Minister is both the premier and a mayor, and our ministers are charged with managing everything from public transport and hospitals to garbage disposal and lawn mowing.
It is important to reiterate that the people elect a government to govern, to do things and improve our way of life. How we go about that, the details, will sometimes be the source of disagreement, and that is, of course, when we realise the full benefit engaging with the public, presenting all the facts and working together for the best outcome. Canberra is a place we all love and we are all proud of. Most of us, I believe, want to preserve and improve the lifestyle we have here, renew our urban areas and protect our beautiful natural environment. I know I want my children to grow up in a city that is flourishing, fun and full of opportunity. How we do that must involve public consultation and engagement if we are going to work out the best ways to achieve our aims.
You only need to look at the time to talk website and listen to Minister Gentleman on the range of issues the government consults on every day, every week to see the wide range of issues this government is talking to the community about. Time to talk is a great initiative and highlights how committed this government is to engaging the Canberra community in the development and delivery of its policies, programs, public works and services. It is the place to have your say online on local issues that affect or interest you. It provides a variety of ways to do this, including posting a comment, sending in a submission, participating in a discussion, completing a survey or using Twitter and Facebook.
Some of the issues currently up for consultation on time to talk include a survey about lakes and waterways to help improve the region’s water quality, a package of draft variations for individual sites across the territory to support our public housing renewal program, a draft biosecurity strategy, the proposed location and setup of outdoor fitness stations in Gungahlin and Phillip, the upgrade of play space equipment at Point Hut Pond District Park and reforms to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related harms, to name a few.
As you can see, this is a wide-ranging list of issues the ACT government is currently working towards and that the community is asked to provide input on. Some recent public consultations have included the potential health risks of e-cigarettes, the strategic bushfire management plan review, Canberra brickworks development and the visionary West Basin waterfront plan. The West Basin plan for an enlivened waterfront on the western banks of Lake Burley Griffin was released for public comment on 5 June 2015, and it is a central component of the broader city to lake project.
The community have been invited to provide feedback on the revised design, have their say on the types of commercial activities, community facilities and events they would like to see at West Basin in the future. The feedback received during the community engagement process will inform the design of the West Basin waterfront and assist in developing a strategy for the wider precinct. The consultation period used qualitative and quantitative social research methods. New consultation tools were used to engage with the target audience, such as providing feedback over and through social media or posting comments directly on to the design using an interactive map.