Last week, the ACT Government has been forced to break up the project of extending Light Rail to Woden. City to the Lake, and then onto Woden.
There has been wild speculation in the media about how much this will delay the project. To be honest, I do not know.
The good news is that by breaking it up, we can get work started on the first section, and get more Canberrans into work building it.
As far as the second part goes, that is in the hands of the National Capital Authority and their skills at delaying projects and stifling our community. I wanted Light Rail to Woden to be under construction by now, and I’m sorry the Government haven’t achieved it. With Interest Rates at one per cent, there has never been a better time for Government to invest in infrastructure.
When I run up Mt Ainslie and look out over Canberra, I compare it with the Burley Griffin plan. The plan was for a dense city of Government departments clustered around the Parliament, and Adelaide Avenue lined with medium rise buildings. When I look at what’s there, I see a dead heart, an open wasteland of nothingness. What should be the bustling centre of our National Capital is bleak, visionless and holding our city back.
As a Southsider, with an office in Civic, I travel through the NCA designated area most days. Whenever I can, I cycle to work. The connections are awful around the city area. Across the South side of Canberra, there is great cycling infrastructure, but then you hit NCA designated areas and you get lost.
Unless you are very familiar with the area, trying to get from the fantastic on-road cycling areas on Adelaide Avenue to the city centre is difficult. You have to go on bike paths, then on to footpaths, then back on to the road with limited designated cycling area. And this is only one example.
I’ve tried to walk around the NCA designated area, and it was not easy. What at first glance looks like grand national buildings in parkland is mostly inaccessible by foot. Anyone who has seen stranded tourists attempting to access Anzac Avenue from the lake by dashing across Parkes Way knows the reality: the NCA designated area is designed for cars.
Imagine if every second block of Washington, London, or Paris was demolished, asphalted, and used for parking? It’s not the way to run a city or show off our national monuments.
They say the purpose of the National Capital Authority is to protect the character of our national monuments. Protect them from what? From the people of Canberra? We are not savages. In fact, the people of Canberra have more interest in maintaining and improving the character of our national capital than anyone else. These areas are our most important asset, our biggest tourist attraction, and bring many business visitors to our city.
Nobody has more at stake in making these assets attractive than us.
Instead of improving the amenity of our city, the National Capital Authority applies its bureaucratic control to keep the dead heart of our National Capital stuck in 1969. It actively rejects the Burley Griffin vision, whilst loyally defending every planning mistake made since.
With the exception of the NCA area of control, we can see the vitality of inner-city communities from Braddon to Kingston. Whilst I like living in the suburbs with space for a motorbike and a dog or two, I meet a lot of people today who want to live in an apartment, they want to walk to a cafe, bar or restaurant, and enjoy a higher-density lifestyle. That was the Burley Griffin vision, and the lifestyle being embraced by many.
It’s time to abolish the National Capital Authority. It’s a waste of Federal Taxpayer expense and a roadblock to the development of our city. If it were not for the NCA’s commitment to preserving a museum of planning mistakes in the centre of our city, Canberra could keep improving its public transport, raise densities, and be a more pedestrian-friendly place for tourists.
Bec Cody is the Labor member for Murrumbidgee.