ACT may relax its ban on billboards
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ACT may relax its ban on billboards

The ACT could relax its ban on billboard advertising, after Chief Minister Andrew Barr foreshadowed a planning committee review into the large scale advertisements on Wednesday.

Mr Barr said a review into the policy was overdue as current rules were being "stretched".

The billboard featuring two Muslim Australian girls was removed  in Melbourne following complaints from some constituents.

The billboard featuring two Muslim Australian girls was removed in Melbourne following complaints from some constituents.Credit:Victorian Government

"The recent national conversation about billboards and the local concerns about 2016 ACT election corflutes has raised the issue of outdoor advertising in the community," Mr Barr said.

"There are many examples of outdoor advertising, such as billboards on trucks, utes and motorbikes - both parked and being driven around the city - and large banners draped from buildings, that stretch the current regulations.

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"Digital billboards are another modern change to advertising that was not considered when the original regulations were developed.

"It may be that establishing a small number of designated areas for such outdoor advertising might reduce the proliferation of questionable outdoor advertising material occurring across the city right now."

But Greens planning committee chair Caroline Le Couteur has hit out at the chief minister's 'thought bubble", saying there was not community support for relaxing the restrictions.

"Of course the Chief Minister can move a motion in the Assembly and ask the planning committee to look at this issue if he wants to, but quite honestly I don't think he's going to get much support from our community for it," Ms Le Couteur said.

"Of the planning issues that people have - and I've heard about lots about them - billboards are not one of them.

"We love living in Canberra, it's the bush capital of Australia and such a liveable city. Not being bombarded with big business advertising 24/7 is part of what makes our city such a great place to live.

"Quite frankly reviewing the billboard restrictions sounds like a thought bubble from Andrew Barr."

Mr Barr said if the planning committee was not interested in examining the billboard ban, the government would consider an internal review.

Billboards have been barred in the ACT since the 1930s.

An ordinance banning advertising on Commonwealth property without approval has been in place since 1937.

The issue of outdoor advertising was hotly debated in the 1980s before the Minister for the Capital Territory decided to continue to enforce the ban.

However an amendment of the National Capital Plan in 2000 allowed them to be displayed at the Canberra Airport.

In other areas of the city the ban has not been strictly enforced.

In 2014, the giant advertisements on the side of the Canberra Centre were found not to comply with planning laws with no record the Environment and Planning Directorate approved the signs, although the centre said the billboards were approved as a part of their development application.

A year earlier, the government floated plans to allow a few ads to raise some cash.

The Canberra Theatre Centre and the National Convention Centre both host digital billboards, which is a murky area.

Canberra Theatre Centre has this week used theirs to display the image of two Muslim girls celebrating Australia Day that caused controversy in Melbourne.

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The image has remained in rotation on the billboard, despite reports of violent online threats against the centre.

"I think all Canberrans can see the difference between a temporary public service announcement from the government supporting multiculturalism and inclusion; and 24/7 commercial advertising from business," Ms Le Couteur said.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.