ACT News

Minister Yvette Berry says housing, equality and social inclusion are priorities

New Housing Minister Yvette Berry has pledged to talk with Northbourne Flats residents who face being moved from the city to make way for new development to give life to the Gungahlin tram.

"We need to stop talking about them and start talking with them about what the plans are for Northbourne Avenue," she said. "I think there's been a little bit of frightening behaviour from some people in our community scaring people unnecessarily."

Ms Berry raised the question herself in June last year, asking a series of questions of then Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury about the future of the 472 public housing tenants in Northbourne Avenue buildings now slated for demolition. She was concerned then that redevelopment would push tenants out of the city and turn Northbourne into a zone of "posh" apartments for the rich.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr made Ms Berry Housing Minister in Tuesday's frontbench reshuffle, also giving her a new portfolio of social inclusion and equality.

Mr Barr created new portfolios for roads and parking and urban renewal, signalling his determination to ensure the redevelopment of Northbourne Avenue and the development of new suburbs on the edges of the city does not cause the kind of chaos and anger generated by last week's closure of Tharwa Drive.

Mr Barr said he wanted a "smarter approach" to roadworks and parking, ensuring more coordination among government agencies, and furthering the Government's agenda towards walking, biking and public transport and a reduced reliance on cars. He wants more "park and ride" areas, delivering people into the city on public transport.

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Construction of the 12-kilometre tram line from Gungahlin over three years from 2016 has the potential to cause major traffic disruption as intersections on Northbourne Avenue are redesigned, but Mr Barr said light rail was only "one very small element" of the roads and parking portfolio, with the main focus on roads and parking needs in growing areas like Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, the Molonglo Valley and West Belconnen. The Government would learn from the Tharwa Drive closure, he said.

"I want to ensure through the next two years in particular as there are a number of significant transport related projects that there is greater integration across the territory government and having a minister responsible [Mick Gentleman] for roads and for parking is an important indication of the government's priority in this area," he said.

He has added transport reform to Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury's responsibilities, and he has established a new cabinet sub-committee on transport. 

Mr Barr took on a new portfolio of urban renewal, aimed at stepping up the program of shopping centre upgrades and paving the way for more private investment and events at local centres.

Announcing Ms Berry's role as Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Social Inclusion and Equality, both Mr Barr and Ms Berry reiterated their commitment to removing barriers not only for gay people but for young people, new migrants and people with a disability.

Mr Barr said the city had a way to go in social inclusion.

"Sexuality is one area but not the only area of focus for social inclusion and equality," he said. "We need to ensure recently arrived migrants are able to effectively participate in the community, and we have a great responsibility to ensure that young people and people with a disability that their voices are heard, that they have an opportunity to participate."

Australian Marriage Equality deputy director Ivan Hinton-Teoh welcomed the move.

"It is very important that the ACT Government has recognised that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us to build a community that is truly inclusive," he said.

Mr Barr said he would assess the performance of his frontbench at the end of the year before confirming the team to lead into the 2016 election.

Gaming Minister Joy Burch avoided a demotion after a messy reversal of her decision to allow $50 notes to be used in territory poker machines. Ms Burch will retain responsibility for education, police and emergency services, disability and the arts. 

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson called the changes "an incoherent jumble of portfolios" which saw ministerial responsibilities overlapping. 

"I don't see that this is going to end well. I think you will have ministers squabbling, competing for space," Mr Hanson said. 

He slammed Ms Burch's reappointment to education and gaming and said the community would be better served by her removal.  

 
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