ACT News

Light rail advocate new chair of the ACT Heritage Council

David Flannery
David Flannery Photo:

Light rail advocate David Flannery has been named as the government's choice to lead the ACT Heritage Council, two weeks after the body stymied plans for demolition of the Northbourne Housing precinct as part of the development.

Mr Flannery was appointed to a three-year term on Monday, after Duncan Marshall stepped down from the role at the end of his term.

David Flannery was appointed to a three-year term on Monday, after Duncan Marshall, pictured, stepped down.
David Flannery was appointed to a three-year term on Monday, after Duncan Marshall, pictured, stepped down. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

The managing director of David Flannery Architects, Mr Flannery is a researcher for Canberra Urban and Regional Futures – a joint venture between the University of Canberra and Australian National University, part funded by the ACT Environment and Sustainability directorate. 

Dianne Firth was reappointed as deputy chair of the council along with new appointees Phil Nizette and Gary Shipp. 

Last month the Heritage Council stopped short of protecting the entire Northbourne Avenue public housing precinct, carving off about 40 per cent of the controversial 1950s and 1960s buildings for permanent protection. 

The decision will protect one of the Dickson Towers, and some of the rundown pair-houses, three-storey flats, maisonettes and garden flats.

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr called the protection decision "absurd" and said the council was out of step with the ACT community on the decision.

He said the government would pursue all options to continue the plans for more than 1100 apartments in the area.  

The government wants to increase density and reap value from the land as part of its plans for a tram line to Gungahlin. It will demolish the precinct as part of plans to sell off $400 million of assets to raise money to fund development of the $783 million tram project. 

The ACT National Trust branch is considering launching its own appeal this week, seeking to win protection for all the buildings in the precinct, considered by some to be a significant example of the post-war international architectural style and an unusual example of public housing design. 

A spokesman for Mr Barr said on Monday no decisions had been taken about a possible ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal appeal by the government. 

Mr Flannery said it was too soon to discuss the Northbourne precinct's future, as he was yet to meet with government officials or other council members following his appointment. 

"I am accepting this position as a privilege. I am looking forward to taking on the big challenges over the next three years," he said. 

"There is a lot of important work to do in Canberra to bring about good urban outcomes." 

No conflict would exist between his public support for light rail and new responsibilities as chair of the Heritage Council. 

"It is just another arm to allowing some input and some research and leadership with regard to good outcomes for the city."

A spokeswoman for Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said Mr Flannery's views on light rail were not considered as part of the appointment process. 

Mr Gentleman appoints the nine council members, alongside the chief planning executive and conservator of flora and fauna. Three of the council members are representatives for the ACT community, the Aboriginal community and the property sector.

The remaining six members are chosen for expertise in areas including Aboriginal culture and history, archaeology, architecture, engineering, history, landscape architecture, conservation, and town planning.

Appointments are considered by cabinet and a Legislative Assembly committee. 

Mr Flannery has lived in Canberra since 1987 and has previously served on the Heritage Council from 2003 until 2005. A past president of the ACT chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, he has been involved in numerous heritage restorations and construction of new buildings.

Mr Shipp is a member of Wiradjuri people, a former Australian public servant and academic. Mr Nizette is a landscape architect, public art consultant and sculptor.

Last month, Environment Minister Simon Corbell appointed Canberra Urban and Regional Futures researchers Professor Barbara Norman and Professor Will Steffen to the government's Climate Change Council. 

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