Are there too many advertisements in Canberra?

Dominic Giannini 31 August 2021 49
An ad at a bus stop

Advertisements are allowed at Canberra bus shelters. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s long-held ban on public advertising is under threat, according to activists who say “illegal ads” are proliferating across the city on bus shelters and vehicles.

Billboards have been banned in the ACT since the 1930s, although they can be approved on the sides of private buildings and private land through the development application process.

There have been multiple debates on the issue, most recently in 2016 when Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggested that a limited amount of digital display advertising might mitigate the proliferation of billboards on vehicles, including trucks and trailers.

Canberra’s ACTION buses can be fully wrapped in advertising and are highly sought after for their visibility while ads can also be placed on Canberra’s bus shelters due to an exception in the National Capital Plan.

It’s these loopholes that the Greens candidate for the seat of Canberra, Tim Hollo, wants closed.

He’s petitioning the ACT Government to remove advertising materials that block windows on buses and trams and introduce a specific offence for roadside advertising that used parked vehicles, describing it as “a socially, economically and environmentally destructive, and fundamentally undemocratic, practice”.

“It is also hugely unpopular in the ACT, having been the subject of sustained community campaigning to protect our relatively ad-free status,” he said.

The Greens have also been behind the proposed ban on election corflutes following last year’s election. That move was strongly opposed by other parties, including the Canberra Liberals and the Belco Party, who said they were an important way to build recognition, especially for lesser-known candidates.


READ ALSO: Ban election corflutes and gambling donations, ACT committee recommends


But partner and director of marketing agency Coordinate, Warran Apps, told Region Media that the ACT already had the strictest outdoor advertising requirements in Australia, and while the current framework should be reviewed, the petition’s “ban-all” approach was extreme.

“We would be calling for a more nuanced debate and a reasonable set of evidence-based regulations that recognise the need to prevent a proliferation of outdoor advertising against the reality of the more urbanised city we now live in,” he said.

“Experiences around the world, especially in places like Washington DC, demonstrate that well-regulated outdoor advertising in appropriate locations has a role to play in creating a more active and visually interesting built environment.

“It also provides smaller, local businesses with an important mechanism for local area promotion.”

‘Sign creep’ was identified as an issue in a 2017 ACT Legislative Assembly Committee review of the Territory’s billboard laws. The enquiry attracted a record 166 submissions, most of them strongly opposed to any changes.

The review subsequently recommended creating clear and accessible reporting avenues where the public could lodge complaints about signage in the ACT.

Following the Committee’s report, the government said it would review the complexities of the legal framework in 2018, but Planning Minister Mick Gentleman noted there was “no appetite from the community for Canberra to become Times Square”.


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49 Responses to Are there too many advertisements in Canberra?
ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 2:02 pm 06 Sep 21

During a recent road trip through Queensland, where billboard advertising is open slather, about half the billboards were advertising the space was available to hire. An eyesore. Billboards have obviously passed their use-by date.

rationalobserver rationalobserver 8:42 am 03 Sep 21

Imagine if the avalanche of overly officious “official” signage we have today was allowed to be supplemented by private sector marketing?
Not long ago there was a hand drawn sign at the Federal Highway border complaining about the number of signs, and once your attention was draw to it there were signs everywhere in that few hundred meters. Enough.

Margaret Tuckwell Margaret Tuckwell 1:36 am 03 Sep 21

No sure about billboards, but road signage is an over kill, speed limits, bicycle paths take a look from Parliament House to Civic

Sarah Baker Sarah Baker 4:21 pm 01 Sep 21

It's one of the noticeably pleasant things when visiting Canberra. I think most of us are just so over being advertised AT and so I would LOVE for this to be implemented everywhere tbh.

Janet Heap Janet Heap 3:47 pm 01 Sep 21

Public transport was never meant to run at a profit. Read our Constitution. It's an essential service. Profits usually end in the pockets of CEOs.

Janet Heap Janet Heap 3:45 pm 01 Sep 21

Quality of life is about more than intruding on our space with glaring advertisements just to make money. Makes for scrambled minds!

Janet Heap Janet Heap 3:37 pm 01 Sep 21

I agree.

Adele Craven Adele Craven 3:23 pm 01 Sep 21

And please no illuminated advertising masquerading as EV charging points. Using emissions reducing tech to promote consumption is objectionable. Providing a slow power outlet at an advertising sign so it produces two streams of income is greedy

Mark Chenery Mark Chenery 2:51 pm 01 Sep 21

I moved to Canberra from Sydney six years ago and love how free of advertising this city is. Outdoor advertising is both ugly and offensive. I like being able to walk and drive around Canberra without being screamed at from every angle to buy more stuff. That’s the last thing this city needs.

    Brisal Brisal 8:56 am 02 Sep 21

    I would have mentioned this but you beat me to it. Anyone who has been to Sydney can’t help but see the absolute blizzard of advertising that hits you from every angle, all the time. It’s the visual equivalent of leaf blowers that never switch off. Coming back in to Canberra is bliss in comparison.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 2:18 pm 01 Sep 21

I reckon Tim Hollo should be more concerned about the 730 bus stops his party were involved in removing across Canberra for the new bus network in 2019.

I reckon more than a few people in Tuggeranong and Belconnen would happily take back their old bus route wrapped in advertising and their nearest bus shelter.

Looks like Another case of the Greens getting their priorities wrong.

On reflection, Maybe Rattenbury and Barr took away people’s buses to save them from seeing the advertising? ?

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 1:43 pm 01 Sep 21

The wraps on the trams look terrible. Almost as bad as the SA trams. Bus stops are OK.

Jason Waight Jason Waight 10:34 am 01 Sep 21

Oh and parking fees. Bloody Nora!!!

Jason Waight Jason Waight 10:34 am 01 Sep 21

And speed cameras too

Warren Morris Warren Morris 10:11 am 01 Sep 21

I think advertising in the bus shelters and on the busses is ok. The bus system already runs at a huge loss, so that extra revenue is needed.

    Warren Morris Warren Morris 2:56 pm 01 Sep 21

    Tim Hollo for Canberra wow 😯

    I thought it would be more…

    They better start wrapping more busses up with ads then!! 👍😉

Robert Azzopardi Robert Azzopardi 9:33 am 01 Sep 21

Why don’t we go the whole hog and ban shop names … no more Coles sign outside a err err Coles store, no more advertising of specials outside a err err well you know a Coles store .. and as for those pesky restaurants no more signage outside K !!!

tim_c tim_c 9:27 am 01 Sep 21

ACT has at least two huge billboards – one at the intersection of Pialligo Ave and Fairbairn Ave, and another at the intersection of Constitution Ave and Corranderrk St (the latter being a traffic hazard as it is far too bright at night, particularly in contrast to Constitution Ave where the street lights don’t seem to work half the time). There are also a few smaller ones on Monaro Hwy (between Morshead Dr and Newcastle St) – you can’t seriously tell me ACT has a ban on billboards.

    ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 1:45 pm 01 Sep 21

    Our largest billboards must be the ones on the Canberra Centre. How they were ever approved beats me. Should be investigated by the anti-corruption mob.

    JC JC 6:55 pm 06 Sep 21

    They are exceptions which are covered in the article.

Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 8:19 am 01 Sep 21

I find political corflutes MUCH more offensive! Overall the bus shelters are neat and clean. I love the bus wraps. Without them it would cost more for the services to run. ( i.e an increase of bus fares ) The real eyesores are the northside multi story appartments.

Barry Finch Barry Finch 1:26 am 01 Sep 21

I would certainly support a complete ban on advertising on trailers, particularly but not limited to political advertising. In fact I'd support a complete ban on political advertising

Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 9:09 pm 31 Aug 21

Bus shelter ads are relatively harmless, but the line that’s been drawn must be respected. One of the many things that we love about Canberra is the lack of public ads and billboards.

Tracy Gorman Tracy Gorman 8:36 pm 31 Aug 21

Ahh.. why are there “activists” cranky about advertising?? Seems you can be outraged by the most minuscule of things these days

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