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The Conservation Council has produced policies around our focus areas leading up to the October 2016 ACT election

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Australia’s cities and towns of the future must successfully integrate the needs of people, the built and natural environment. Environmentally sustainable development means we can enjoy a high quality of life while we retain and enhance our biodiversity, have a developed infrastructure that gives efficient and equitable access to services and utilities preserve the essentials of the ‘Australian lifestyle’ and contribute to the economic wealth of the nation.

The ACT Government has gone some way to improve the sustainability of its operations and decision-making. The ACT Government has developed some tools to facilitate this however more is needed.

Government policy should achieve sustainability

  • Sustainability Policy: Overarching sustainability policy co-ordination to provide a strategic basis for agency action on sustainability with formal legal requirements for agency compliance and for Directors-General and CEOs to deliver sustainability outcomes
  • Sustainability (TBL) Assessment: sustainability (TBL) assessment of major policy, legislation, programs and projects assessment at beginning of process of key decisions – note:
    • A proper sustainability assessment would include climate change analysis
    • Cabinet consideration of the sustainability impacts at decision point
    • Evaluation post-event to ensure they are delivering key outcomes.
  • Agency Sustainable Procurement: mandatory requirement for agencies to prepare ‘green’ procurement plans including only procuring goods that can be recycled or reused
  • Sustainability Reporting: a clear mandatory sustainability reporting framework that covers both Government progress and community progress on key strategic objectives – i.e. zero net emissions for the ACT as well sustainability reporting analysis of outcomes of major Government expenditure items as requested from time to time by the Legislative Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee or other Committees of the Assembly
  • Independent Sustainability Review: Major review of Government’s sustainability performance by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment every four years with annual commentary in the Commissioner’s Annual Report
  • Maintain independent role of Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment: The independence of the role is vital to ensure that Government actions do not adversely affect the environment. 

Community consultation and engagement are key to positive outcomes

We support the aims identified by the ACT Government in ensuring greater openness in government and engagement and collaboration across sectors to maximise positive outcomes, and propose policies and initiatives under each aim:

  • Citizen participation to improve the wellbeing of our community’
    • Government and business engagement should ensure the community has a direct say in shaping future developments, especially for planning and development
    • That the government adheres to its Guide to Community Engagement[i] which matches the type of engagement process (inform, consult, involve, collaborate) and associated maximum timeframes (6 weeks, 10, 16, 16 + weeks) with the complexity of the issue. The more participatory processes and the maximum timeframes and timeframes should be the default position, not the shortest – six weeks – as currently applied by ACT Government Directorates
    • The Government should provide a response to the community on all community consultations, or should make the decision that was consulted, within the same timeframe offered to the community for consultation i.e. 8 weeks of consultation followed by Government action within a further 8 weeks
    • Develop a ‘one-stop shop’ approach for citizens seeking to arrange public demonstrations on matter of public interest
    • Utilise advisory groups to implement participatory processes (ref Guide to Community Engagement) through involvement and collaboration with the government for example a Public Transport Users Group.
  • ‘Transparency in process and access to information’
    • Adopt a new Freedom of Information Act based on the default position that most Government information is public information and limit the type of information deemed not to be in the public interest to release
    • Provide genuine access through Freedom of Information by releasing legible, searchable documents in the same colours as the originals
    • Provide that all documents tabled in the Legislative Assembly are simultaneously published on the internet
    • Enable access to all Development Applications through an archive facility rather than removal from the ACTPLA website
    • Publish all Cabinet ‘triple bottom line’ assessments including environmental assessments for all major decisions and developments and for decisions that will have an impact on the environment.
  • ‘Community, business and government working together to deliver integrated responses that benefit all Canberrans’
    • Apply the Social Compact in relations between all Directorates and community organisations[ii]
    • Trial and implement ‘deliberative democracy’ approaches across a range of Government actions and decisions
    • Maintain and enhance the Environment Community Partnerships Program.

[i] ACT Government, Engaging Canberrans – A Guide to community engagement, 2011, p13

[ii] ACT Government, Social Compact – a Relationship Framework between the ACT Government and Community Sector, 2012.