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.
Likewise 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.
All 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.