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Urban swamp needs draining

The ongoing saga of the proposed redevelopment of a heritage building near Manuka Circle ("Manuka residents knocked back in bid to stop development in Forrest fire station precinct", canberratimes.com.au, February 13), demonstrates the deficiencies of the ACT's planning regime.

This Byzantine system needs urgent reform if community interests and heritage values are to be respected and enforced.

At every point in this sorry episode, the system has been stacked against the residents who sought to raise their concerns about this redevelopment.

Despite the best efforts of the presiding member, ACAT's consideration of the case deteriorated into a lawyers' picnic – so much for cheap and fair access to justice.

The heritage concerns expressed by the residents do not appear to have been given any serious consideration by ACTPLA or the Heritage Council.

And, to cap it off, third party appeal rights in relation to this and other heritage precincts and residential areas were abolished by an obscure 2008 regulation.

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ACT politicians must honour their election promises to completely overhaul the Planning and Development Act.

It is time we drained Canberra's planning swamp.

Gary Kent, Inner South Canberra Community Council, Griffith

Potency of the placebo

In regard to the homeopathy debate it might be useful to summarise exactly what homeopaths believe, and let your readers decide if the methodology is sound.

The core belief is that "like cures like". Poison ivy gives rise to itching, redness, swelling and blisters, so if a patient presents with these symptoms, then it is believed that a dose of poison ivy will cure the problem, because poison ivy produces the same symptoms.

Obviously a large dose will make the symptoms worse, so the active ingredient, poison ivy oil in this example, is diluted repeatedly until typically not a single molecule (literally) of the active ingredient is present in the final medicine.

It is believed that the greater the dilution, the more potent the resultant medicine. At least the resultant "medicine" is harmless, being pure water, though the patient can suffer serious harm on account of delaying professional medical treatment.

People should be free to pay for homeopathy if they wish, though it should be a legal requirement, as recently enacted in America, for homeopathic potions and treatments to state they provide no scientifically established benefit beyond placebo effect.

Colin Dedman, Kaleen

Gain from a little exercise

Leon Arundell (Letters, February 16) complains about the Park and Ride trial (CT, February 9) using the car park at the Rock Garden, because users of the scheme would need to ride eight kilometres to work in Civic. Large numbers of cyclists already ride much further than eight kilometres to get to work, but obviously that is not to everyone's taste.

This provides a shorter option in a way that is pretty much cost free: no new trails are being built and an existing car park is used. Sixty-four car spaces are available, so the government is not expecting all of Canberra to use it.

I expect some people will use the car park and many won't. What is the harm in that? If a few more people can get some exercise, and a few less cars have to travel into the city centre, that is a good thing.

John Hutchison, Weston Creek

Hold it up to the light

All Canberra residents should check their ActewAGL Natural Gas Account. Mine for the quarter ending January 23 was twice that of last year.

In the summer, we use gas only for the evening meal. The statement says that the "actual" reading was 3156 (presumed to be on January 23).

On checking the meter on February 10 the reading was 3157, only one unit higher than the "actual" reading on January 23. Then, in working out the consumption charge, the bill uses the word "peak" xxxx MJ.

It would appear ActewAGL is not physically reading meters but using some algorithm to guess peak usage for a quarter.

The company needs to come clean on how it is, in fact, billing customers.

M. Flint, Erindale

I may have a solution for the many people suffering ActewAGL's pricing "policy". I had exactly the same problem with Origin in Victoria. Naturally meaningful negotiations were useless, so I contacted the Energy Ombudsman.

The operator sighed that 95 per cent of their complaints were about Origin pricing, the company fought every one individually, and rolled over immediately the Ombudsman became involved. If only these predators would adopt proper pricing we wouldn't need an Ombudsman.

Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains

Some clarity, please

Bruce Paine's call (Letters, February 9) for a "transparent and genuinely open inquiry" into projects such as City to the Lake is spot on.

Unfortunately the ACT government has shown no interest in letting Canberrans into their planning thoughts until plans are well under way and there is little chance of having input.

Their mantra is that they have consulted, but their consultation methods are not what I would call a genuine interest in engaging with the community.

Why has the government been saying some items are not negotiable, like the proposed private housing/business development at West Basin?

Does that mean the government has already made deals with developers?

I am not sure how one can have constructive input when the most important item is not allowed to be discussed.

The LDA has A Quality Assurance Standard for Community and Stakeholder Engagement and it would be a refreshing start to negotiations if these could be used as a basis for a review of West Basin development, both the Waterfront and the Building Estate.

Penny Moyes, Hughes

Don't forget Darwin

Seventy-five years ago on February 19, 1942, 242 Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin in two separate attacks.

They killed or wounded more than 600 people in the first two hours and the attacks went on across the Top End for 21 months.

Darwin was bombed on 64 occasions, but news of the attacks was censored to prevent panic in the south.

My dad, Stan Luck, was there as a 21-year-old gunner with the AIF.

Not long before he passed in 2012 he told me his story of the bombing of Darwin.

To paraphrase Churchill, this was not our finest hour. We were poorly trained and equipped. We failed to heed all the warning signs and there were many acts of looting after the two main attacks; 273 servicemen failed to report for duty the next day.

Amid all this there were some amazing acts of heroism, such as the 98 sailors on board the USS Peary, which went down all guns blazing.

This was the most serious attack ever to have occurred on Australian soil. More bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbour and more ships were sunk, and more civilian lives were lost.

We can do better as a nation to honour the sacrifices made in Darwin during that period. Not many vets are left now as we approach the 75th anniversary.

Gary Luck, Fadden

Renewable rushed

Re "Why attack renewables, Mr Turnbull?" (Editorial, February 11, p.16) Because a reckless haste to deploy renewable electricity generation is uncalled for and is partly to blame for the unreliable power supply in the grid [is why].

Australia's fossil-fuel-fed electricity generation contributes about 0.4 per cent of the world's carbon footprint.

Feasible changes to our power generation mix will not have a significant effect on global warming, so a co-ordinated and modest rate of change is appropriate.

On the other hand, if the projections of global warming are correct, the following challenges are nation changing and require huge investment: (1) Efficient use of water in irrigation; (2) development of agriculture in the changing north; (3) catchment of water along the east coast and securing the water supply for all; (4) amelioration of bushfire threats and strategies for the containment of large fires; (5) adapting to rises in the sea level; (6) living with climate change.

The rush to the delusive 100per cent renewable target by the ACT government is an expensive ideological pantomime that makes one wonder whether any of our locally elected representatives can see the big picture.

John L. Smith, Farrer

Blind Freddy sees

My thanks to Julian Cribb for his excellent article on the thousands of deaths that arise and will arise directly from climate change in Australia. ("They joke with their coal but this is serious", February 15, p.21).

While Treasurer Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce play games in Parliament with a lump of coal and the government plays footsies with the fossil-fuel dinosaurs, the need for urgent action to address the existential threat fossil fuelspose to humanity is becoming clearer and clearer.

Julian Cribb has helped make clear the life-and-death reality of climate change and the fact that we have a government that has all the vision of Mr Magoo.

John Passant, Kambah

Location loco

As the rabid mountain lion persists with transferring federal agencies away from Canberra and any cost unbenefit analysis being predictable, let's try and help Barnaby save our taxes by selecting the most appropriate locations.

Centrelink to Alice Springs and Immigration to Bordertown are obvious.

Let's add Health to Crookwell and Food Standards Australia to Cooktown.

Send the National Library to Bookham and Water and Sewerage to Dunedoo. I'm not sure if Climate Change goes to Iron Knob or Coalcliff. That decision is for wiser minds.

Phil O'Brien, Flynn

Pass the parcel

On two occasions in the past 10 days Australia Post has delivered a parcel to my house: at least that is what they were supposed to do.

What actually happened was the contractor to whom the job had been outsourced arrived at my house, made a completely inadequate attempt to announce his presence, and after about 30 seconds left a card with collection information, and then raced off to provide a similarly unsatisfactory service to the next customer. Leaving me to make a special trip to the GPO to collect the parcel.

This is just one more example of how outsourcing may make the bottom line look better to bean counters, and perhaps enable CEOs to get paid exorbitant bonuses, but service to the public goes down the drain — in many cases accompanied by any in-house expertise the government may previously have had.

Roger Quarterman, Campbell

Knowing their place

The proposed development of a major office for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection at the airport highlights the need for the Commonwealth to centralise decisions about office location in Canberra.

Decision making by individual departments leads to decisions that fail to adequately consider the social, economic and environmental implications of location.

These costs include additional car travel and the consequent increases in congestion, greenhouse emissions and infrastructure costs and the detrimental impacts of businesses at existing locations particularly the Belconnen Town Centre.

By intervening in the process the Turnbull government would show its commitment to sustainable smart city development.

Mike Quirk, Wanniassa

Baby on board

What scares and angers me in equal measure about our tailgaters is that infant seats are fitted at the back of the car and would receive the direct hit of a rear-end collision.

Would our territory consider introducing particularly harsh penalties to help rein in this specific breed of busy drivers? Common sense does have a hefty price tag attached to it these days.

Luca Biason, Latham

TO THE POINT

PAINT COMPANIES PROFIT

Paint companies make millions out of the misguided misfits who spray graffiti on buildings and infrastructure projects.

It would be interesting to know the percentage of spray cans actually used for repairing or restoring items.

Paint companies also sell clean-up chemicals.

Maybe the Territory Government could ban the spay can?

Gary Wood, Braddon

POOR VISITOR GREETING

Many airports feature greeting signs such as "Welcome to Adelaide – gateway to the Barossa". The guests I welcomed on Wednesday were confronted with a big sign proclaiming "Marriage Equality". Is immediate immersion in a political battleground really the best we have to offer by way of greeting visitors to Canberra?

Robin Eckermann, Campbell

PARK PARKING HEADACHES

A big reason for the low attendance to cricket matches at Manuka is lack of car parking. The ACT government don't help with big "No Parking" signs on the areas suitable for overflow parking.

John Skurr, Deakin

FINE-TUNED THRESHER

"The administration is running like a fine-tuned machine", says Donald Trump). A threshing machine?

Eric Hunter, Cook

Trump is a really nasty bastard. He chummied up to Russia! Russia will find out just how simpatico he is, much to its chagrin.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

DIRTY MONEY DEALINGS

A $1 billion hand out. This is what the Turnbull government is going to give Adani to build a dirty coal mine.

Sue Cory, Edge Hill, Qld.

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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