The transformation of West Basin into a great public place is gathering pace with the Commonwealth approval of works for the Acton Waterfront park and its naming as Ngamawari, which means “cave place” in Ngunnawal.
The National Capital Authority approval and naming was announced at a smoking ceremony this morning attended by Federal Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister Kristy McBain, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, NCA Chief Executive Sally Barnes, Ngunnawal Elder Dr Caroline Hughes and other Ngunnawal people.
The park, to be established on land reclaimed from the lake, will incorporate the stories and history of the Ngunnawal people.
Dr Hughes said Ngamawari, which recognises the cultural significance of the limestone caves flooded during the creation of Lake Burley Griffin, would celebrate her people and educate visitors about Ngunnawal, their country, history and language.
“And it is a gift to all Canberrans and all Australians that come to this place and they finally will know the truth of our history.”
Dr Hughes said it was a very emotional day and meant that finally Ngunnawal were part of the conversation about what happens on their land at Acton Peninsula.
But it went further than just the naming.
“It’s the informal education that people from all walks of life will be able to have about Ngunnawal and feel that they’re part of our culture,” she said.
“It’s an important opportunity for all Canberrans and, in fact, all Australians and international visitors.”
The ACT Government will undertake a public tender process for construction of the park’s early works in 2024, with the temporary park to open in 2025-26, followed by the permanent park in 2028.
The NCA will also deliver a new pedestrian path leading to the National Museum of Australia after procuring master plan proposals for the project.
Ms McBain said the Commonwealth wanted to see the area become a place for people and activities.
“We are working to improve the pathway to the National Museum and we want to see a 40 km loop right around this lake to enhance it, to make sure people are aware of what it is, what it does, and pursue further opportunities around the lake as well,” she said.
“This is a fantastic milestone to get the approval works in place and I look forward to continuing to work with both the ACT government, the City Renewal Authority and the NCA to make sure this place is the best it can be.”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the park was the next step in developing a mixed-use precinct at West Basin with a strong community focus that eventually would include housing, a hotel and other amenities.
He said the reclaimed land needed to settle, so it was thought best to establish a temporary park with grass, trees and pop-up infrastructure for recreation before moving on to the permanent features of the park.
The permanent park will feature Ngunnawal nature play, artwork and cultural trails, gardens, toilets, pavilions, event spaces, food and beverage facilities, shade structures, accessible and shared paths and lighting.
Mr Barr said the timing of land releases for the precinct’s residential and commercial components was a live question but they were closer than some people might think.
“There’s clearly a lot of progress that’s been made down here,” he said.
“Our objective was to have public infrastructure in place and being utilised before we issued residential and mixed-use land release.
“So don’t expect that in calendar year 24. But beyond that, it’s starting to get on the agenda.”
Mr Barr said it would be helpful to have some amenity built when light rail Stage 2A, which will provide two stops nearby, was completed.
City Renewal Authority CEO Malcolm Snow said the estate development plan, which would guide the ultimate subdivision and road layout, was underway.
“A multidisciplinary team are working on that, all with the objective of being able to bring those first sites to the market when government gives us the go-ahead,” he said.
The CRA is celebrating the extended boardwalk at West Basin, winning a national Master Builders award for Canberra firm Chincivil.