ACT Planning Authority December Meeting

February 25th, 2010 by Russell Leave a reply »

I would like to thank Caroline le Couteur MLA for representing the issues I have raised in my previous letters with the ACT Planning Authority. In her response, which is posted on this site Ms le Couteur indicated she would take this issue to the next meeting. She has kept her word and I applaud her for doing so.

In a comment left on this site on the 21st Feb 2010 she has posted part of Hansard which documents the proceedings of the committee meeting. I recommend that anyone interested in new suburbs and broadband coverage read page 53 (document page 23) and pages 69-70 (document pages 39-40) of the transcript of evidence from the Standing Committee on Planning, Public Works and Territory and Municipal Services, Annual and financial reports 2008-09 which sat on the 11th December 2009.

Transcript from http://www.hansard.act.gov.au

What interests me most about the meeting is the details provided by Mr Neil Savery and Mr Ben Ponton on the questions asked by Mrs Dunne.

MRS DUNNE: Sorry. Ms Le Couteur asked the question and you talked about the national broadband. I am asking: when you actually design the suburb, are you saying there will be trenches that will take these sorts of things et cetera?

THE CHAIR: That is a different question.

Mr Savery: Through the chair, we do not get into that level of specificity in our designs. That is for estate developers to provide. It is up to governments to set policies as to whether or not they want internet provided to every home. That is not for a planning agency to determine. We do not get to that level of design.

MRS DUNNE: No, but, when suburbs are being planned, do you tick off or have any consciousness of whether the trenches, because everything is underground these days, are capable of carrying gas, water, electricity, cable, fibre, whatever? Is that sort of element ticked off? It is about the common trenching policy, I presume. It may not be
called that anymore.

Mr Ponton: In the estate development plan we seek advice from various agencies. We also ask developers to speak with communication providers to ensure that communications, including internet, can be provided to the estate. At the moment it is possible for common trenching; so we do this without issue. We do not get involved in the detail of that but we have to be satisfied that it can be provided.

MRS DUNNE: So you do tick off on the capacity to deliver all these services?

Mr Wurfel: That is right.

Page 39 and 40 of the transcript of evidence from the Standing Committee on Planning, Public Works and Territory and Municipal Services, Annual and financial reports 2008-09 which sat on the 11th December 2009.

It would appear that telecommunications delivery is NOT part of the ACT Planning Authority’s scope of responsibilities. What is indicated through the responses provided by ACT Planning Authority representatives is a situation where critical services are subject to a relationship which is controlled by the developer. I would consider this to be a significant flaw in planning where both policy and governance are weak and very little “planning” is done to provide assurance to the home buyer.

The planning committee seem to accept the fact that critical services including Gas, Electricity and Telecommunications only need to pass a capability test, that is can a trench accommodate a Gas or Electricity service? It seems to be inferred by the statements above that actual access to the common trench is controlled by the developer.

How can the residents of a land release be assured that a service will actually exist? The planning Authority does not seem to have a plan to provide open or fair access to these resources. They deal with fair access to Sun light and Solar resources but can not ensure fair competition is achieved for the delivery of  services to houses.

The ACT Planning Authority and the Members of the Legislative Assembly¬† should seriously consider the implications of restricting access to the “common” trenches by leaving developers without clear guidelines on use. I may be wrong and there may be controls in place, but the comments made above don’t support that in my opinion.

This lack of policy and governance could the reason why Canberra has such patchy and inconsistent services geographically. As the choice of service providers is controlled by the developer each area has services provided by different organisations and without competition. With out fair use policy I contend that competition is discouraged as service providers would attempt to establish exclusivity with the developer and discourage other providers of a similar service. Gungahlin is a prime example where Telstra is the only provider of telecommunications services in some suburbs without Optus or TransACT services available to residents. It may be that some providers declined to be involved but that is not consistent with other areas of Canberra where wires are placed above ground.

In my opinion this lack of guidelines on trench access has contributed to the issues in Gungahlin. As Tesltra is the exclusive provider in the majority of this area, they have no competition. The lack of competition is the reason why the bare minimum service has been rolled out and why residents suffer. The MLA and the ACT Planning Authority need to provide guidelines to developers as well as supporting legislation to ensure developers do not limit access to common trenches to a single provider.

The new suburbs in the Molonglo development are a good chance to correct the past mistakes. I urge Caroline le Couteur MLA and others to ensure all future developments that use common trenching take the true meaning of the word “common” and ensure open access to all.

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1 comment

  1. The term broadband has been used so much lately and still some people have no idea what it is. The term is mostly applied in telecommunications and can have different meanings depending on where it is being applied. But in lay man’s language, it is high data rate internet access.