19 April 2016

An events park for central Canberra

| Paul Costigan
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Central Canberra needs a dedicated open space for large special events at any time of the year.

In amongst all the talk (and lack of action) about the rejuvenation of Civic, there is one concept that needs to be seriously debated before lobbyists have their way. For instance, the Property Council talks about bringing more activity into the centre of Canberra (a good idea) but they often list the need to bring more events into Civic’s open spaces (bad idea).

As I have canvassed in former posts, there needs to be some creative lateral thinking to bring a different range of commercial activities into Civic to offer people something different to that offered in the nearby big box mall. At the moment events such as the Multicultural Festival take over most of the open spaces within Civic.

This brings in people for that weekend but does little to make the place attractive and active for the rest of the time. Whatever good ideas are developed to rejuvenate Civic, they should not include hosting major events that crowd out open plazas and hinder access to the shops and cafes. Such large events need to be staged nearby, but not in Civic itself.


Meanwhile, over the other side of the central areas, the ACT Government has announced the beginnings of the City to Lake developments. The first stage is to be the construction of the west basin parklands.

This is a great initiative. The government is to be congratulated for the proposed improvements in walking access alongside the lake and for introducing more green spaces. However these recreational areas should not be used for major events.

glebe-P1000966Likewise I have heard someone say that Glebe Park could be used for some major events. Decades ago the local residents won the battle to stop a former government from attacking the parkland to make way for what was eventually to become Floriade. Glebe Park is a precious and much loved green space beside Civic that needs better care but definitely should not be set upon to stage major events.

There has been discussion of late that the National Capital Authority has requested that the ACT Government no longer stage Floriade in Commonwealth Park West. This is a stupid decision that points to the real problem we have here in Canberra.

While I acknowledge that Canberra has a national function as well as being a regional city, I think the time has arrived to seriously reconsider the role of the NCA especially in the management and uses of Commonwealth Park. The City to Lake initiative, if managed sensitively, will deliver some overdue changes to the areas beside the lake and closer to Civic. However it is hampered in its total scope because Commonwealth Park remains under the management of the NCA. This needs to change.

When researching Commonwealth Park I noted that the NCA fails to list information about this important parkland. I also happen to have a booklet on the history and design of Commonwealth Park – yet there is no mention of this by the NCA. Maybe all this is the NCA’s way of demonstrating its lack of interest in and commitment to this important local asset.

CommonwealthPark-P1110890All of the parklands on the northern side of the lake should be handed back to the ACT Government with special agreements to recognise that the parklands have a national as well as a local focus. In the case of Commonwealth Park West, this is already listed by the NCA for special events. But why is the NCA the body to handle an open space events park in Canberra?

The ACT Government needs to make submissions to the Commonwealth Government to have this asset handed back to the ACT Government. Floriade belongs in this parkland and should not be moved just to suit the weird bureaucratic thought bubbles of the NCA. Other local major events, such as the Multicultural Festival, could also be allocated a permanent time slot in Commonwealth Park West.

Commonwealth Park West should be enclosed with a permanent boundary fence (well designed of course) so that many paid events could be staged there. At other times, the gates could be left open to allow for casual public use. Commonwealth Park West (maybe with a new name) could eventually become a well-known location for a range of Canberra events and attract more visitors to the city.

Central Canberra needs a dedicated events park. We have one already close by. It is just that it is presently in the hands of an irrelevant authority — the National Capital Authority. This needs to change. Once this local events park is established as a local asset, the initiatives to rejuvenate Civic need not be hindered by the concept of trying to use Civic’s open plazas for staging major events.

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creative_canberran9:13 pm 20 Jun 15

Commonwealth Park needs a revamp and needs to have Floriade either decentralised from it, or removed entirely. The old english garden design needs to be abandoned and parts of it totally replaced, particularly toward ANZAC West.

Paul Costigan2:06 pm 17 Jun 15

A follow up to my post:

I mentioned a booklet on Commonwealth Park. It is called ‘A park for a nation: the story of the evolution of Commonwealth Park at the heart of Australia’s national capital”.

I remember the first time I read it (over a decade ago) and wondering about the term ‘”A park for the nation” – as I suspect that visitors to Canberra have not appreciated that Commonwealth Park exits for them. I remain unconvinced about the marketing spin!

But do not get me wrong – Commonwealth and Kings Park remain great assets.

As the City to Lake proposals are developed, Commonwealth Park and Kings Park need to be rethought as major parklands and other facilities for the people of Canberra – and visitors. This would require it to be no longer being under the auspices of the NCA – but I hesitate at this point because of my serious doubts about how ACT Government planning is being currently managed. (or not managed).

Also as I said – the NCA has not bothered to promote Commonwealth Park (to locals or to the nation). So for those who want to know more about this parkland – I did find this on the National Trust site


“Whatever good ideas are developed to rejuvenate Civic, they should not include hosting major events that crowd out open plazas and hinder access to the shops and cafes. Such large events need to be staged nearby, but not in Civic itself.”

I think you’ll find most of the shops and cafes benefit more than they loose. Also holding events in the very centre is often what actually what makes them such large successful events.

Really though commonwealth park is for the nation. I understand the NCA wanting to move floriade. We have so much other parkland that we could use. Let the NCA keep the commonwealth park, they can design their own plan for that place as is their charter.

We have west basin that could become so much better for events than old stage 88. For a big staged area we have the arboretum now aswell. Foriade could be just as good at black mountain peninsula or Weston park.

The NCA’s management of Commonwealth Park needs to be seriously questioned.

Recently I came across a dog club, running a dog show up the eastern end, which had driven all their heavy 4 wheel drives and trailers all over the lawn area, ignoring the sealed car park just a short distance away. Apparently they get the right to abuse this public parkland all day for a paltry $120 which would hardly pay for the damages should anyone bother to fix all the ruts and dead grass they create.

Considering the number of cars this had to be the cheapest all-day parking in Canberra.

On a separate matter, the portion of Commonwealth Park closer to Commonwealth Ave is regularly used for Floriade and other major events. Every time ugly, temporary hire fencing is used to surround the area.

A lot of money and even more aesthetics would be saved by modifying the landscaping to have a permanent hedged enclosure with formal gates and entrances.

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