Organisers of a community garden in Canberra say it was easier to set up a nuclear waste dump in the desert than build a community garden in the capital's suburbs.
Lyneham Commons committee member Meg Clark said a risk averse culture in the ACT bureaucracy contradicted the government's own calls for innovation in Canberra's green space.
"My partner managed the nuclear waste dump risk assessment in Kakadu, she said it was a piece of cake compared to this," Ms Clark said.
The commons' frustrations included being banned from keeping any equipment, including hoses, on site, filling out risk assessments for trees and buying an ACT-government approved sign costing four times more than the commons entire gardening supplies, including plants and tools.
"Everything was just over spec," Ms Clark said.
While Ms Clark hoped to have a shipping container on site to store equipment, she said it wasn't allowed.
"Every time we go down, we've got to take our wheelbarrow and buckets," she said.
Ms Clark said a government-approved tap in the gardens would have cost thousands, whereas a nearby apartment complex installed one for them for $400.
She needs constant access to the complex because she can't keep hoses on site.
Ms Clark had instead hoped to use recycled water from a nearby nursing homes gutter, capturing it before it went into the nearby stormwater drains.
"The corker was that we found that you cannot take water from someone else's block," she said.
The commons also had to fill out health and safety reports saying tree heights in the garden would be limited to three metres to prevent children falling out of them, despite six-metre-high trees being located just a few steps from the garden.
Volunteers are required to wear hi-vis, despite the garden being 100 metres from the nearest road.
My partner managed the nuclear waste dump risk assessment in Kakadu, she said it was a piece of cake compared to this.Lyneham Commons' Meg Clark
The group got the idea for the project five years ago, choosing an unused piece of land behind the Lyneham shops. Ultimately, it took the group two years to get through the red tape.
Fellow commons member Alison Stewart said the community projects like the garden resonated with people and the government couldn't be depended on to deal with environmental issues alone.
"They just need to get out of the way," Ms Stewart said.
In her submission to the inquiry, Ms Clark said "myriad" departmental mindsets and processes in the ACT government created "very frustrating and sometimes overwhelming barriers".
This culture, the submission said, contradicted the government's own ACT Planning Strategy Towards 2030, which said new, innovative infrastructure to "improve our city's sustainability" required the government "to alter our standards and expectations".
Ms Clark often had to deal with public servants who had to follow their department's rules.
"They're not trying to be nasty ... it's a public service culture that's not well integrated," she said.
"It's a risk averse culture."