Complexity, planning and fuzzy responsibilities in Canberra since self-government

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On 1 January 2015 the embargo on the 1988/89 cabinet papers held at the National Archives of Australia was lifted. The information that has become accessible sheds new light on a critical transition point in the history of the Australian capital, the imposition of self-government on the Australian Capital Territory. The city had been a kind of national government company town since its inception in the first decade of the 20th century, subject to various forms of departmental control but with no self-government. The systems of planning and governance persisting up to 1989 were based on public ownership of land and, for long periods, high levels of political and financial support from national government – a kind of planners’ paradise. These conditions led to the development of a city which has been described as a perfectionist manifestation of ideal concepts in planning (Fischer 2013; Fischer & Weirick 2013). The belated imposition of self-government in 1989 – against the wishes of its citizens – marked the beginning of a period of turbulent reforms. The way in which this was handled, from Cabinet level to administrative sectors of the bureaucracy, led to increasingly complex, fuzzy governance relationships and spatial planning verging on the dysfunctional. In the light of recent policy changes in Canberra and based on the newly released archival material together with interviews conducted since 2000 the paper traces the changing nature of planning and development in Canberra since self-government through the windows (Altrock & Fischer 2014) of planning complexity and fuzzy responsibilities.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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