I rise today to talk about the Defence Housing Australia development of new dwellings for Australian Defence Force personnel in Weston Creek, which is part of my electorate. There are eight suburbs in Weston Creek. The region was conceived as housing for 34,000 people and, at the last census in 2006, the population was put at 22,886.
For those not familiar with this part of Canberra, Weston Creek has been described by a former planning authority as being one of the most picturesque parts of the national capital. Currently Weston Creek is home to the Australian Defence Force College's Defence and Strategic Studies and the Australian Command and Staff College Centre. DHA wants to develop 73 allotments for single dwelling lots and three multi-unit sites and wants to build houses for Defence families on 50 of these lots. As of 1 February this year, there were 240 Defence families in private rental accommodation, and that proportion is about 13 per cent within the Defence and DHA target of 15 per cent. This project will help DHA ensure that the current private proportion of Defence families in the ACT who use private rental accommodation does not exceed that 15 per cent threshold.
DHA will ensure that the dwellings are built to silver level core liveable housing design elements to ensure appropriate disability access and that they will also achieve a minimum six-star energy efficiency rating as certified by an independent accredited assessor. I understand the proposed development also complies with the North Weston concept plan and the deed of agreement developed by ACTPLA.
This proposed development was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. In my submission to the committee I registered my support for the proposal. Before I wrote my submission I met with the DHA and I was delighted to see that the sustainable development provided in the proposal factored in the environment, public and private transport, growth and the need for quality community services.
When I wrote my submission I had been advised by DHA that there had been extensive consultation with the local community.
However, as the committee's report makes clear, and as I later found out, that was not the case. The committee received four submissions. While the need for development was made clear and the proposed scope of the works was also deemed suitable to meet the needs, and the committee was satisfied that the projected cost of $39 million was adequately assessed, there were significant concerns about the consultation process.
The committee commented that it would be to DHA's advantage to engage in initial notification to all near neighbours, followed by widespread and ongoing consultation on all current and future projects, regardless of whether or not such neighbours might have anticipated concerns.
The committee also encouraged DHA to monitor feedback and stated that it was critical that DHA engage in widespread proactive and ongoing consultation with stakeholders. I maintain my support for this development. However, I am displeased about the level of consultation and strongly encourage DHA to heed the committee's recommendations on consultation.