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Ask RiotACT: What is missing in Canberra?

Ian 6 January 2017 33

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Over the last 10 years Canberra has transformed and become something more grown up, more vibrant; but after many conversations with people who travel regularly, I can’t help feeling that something is still missing.

Many friends travel to Sydney or Melbourne for bargain shopping, to get a wedding dress fitted or to buy a new car but all of these things can be done here, and after you factor in travel costs, probably cheaper. So for me the drive for them to travel to shop is more about the experience and less about the economics of the transaction.

There are many things I can’t buy here in Canberra that I can in Sydney or Melbourne, but I just get them online, so unless I need it right now I do it that way.

So my question is really about trying to find out what people travel to other places to obtain and why? Is it the experience of the location? The ability to say something like “I got this in a little shop in Mosman” or just the variety of options available there?


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33 Responses to Ask RiotACT: What is missing in Canberra?
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Pandy Pandy 7:29 am 22 Jan 17

I’ll will tell you why I wont retire in Canberra:

-way too cold in winter. Way
-poor standards of housing in the older suburbs
-too far from the beach (and warmth up north)that the wife loves
-not enough good coffee places
-public servants
-town centres that are dull dull dull, especially at night
-no ethnic diversity besides a few Greeks, Chinese and Italian
-boring places to drive to on weekends within an hours radius (Yass, Cooma? – no thanks)
-no culture choices. Every day at the Arts precinct in Melbourne you could find something on whether it is a connect, play, ballet, opera. Canberra just has NGA with a couple of poles and an almost empty theatre
-when the bogans come to town it is a cause to celebrate. When bogans go to town in Sydney or Melbourne no-one bats an eyelid
-better choices for cars, repairs and restorations elsewhere
-a Labor/Greens town council that thinks it is up itself. Greens wont get a show in elsewhere.

So in summary: boring, dull, lifeless.

When I fly back into Canberra and look over the city, I think to myself “Get me outta here!”

See ya’s!

No_Nose No_Nose 9:49 pm 21 Jan 17

Des said :

Good cheap restaurants and a variety of shops are what I miss. Anyone who has lived in Melbourne would understand what I mean about the restaurants. The expensive restaurants are rarely worth the money. I’m happy to pay for quality but rarely the food is worth the high prices. The Braddon precinct, however, is raising the bar.
Almost all of the shops are chain shops situated in malls that have rents that would make your eyes water. The ‘individual’ shops tend to be small, few and far between.
Apart from these 2 holes in my life, I love Canberra. To fill the restaurant void, my cooking has improved and the markets provide great produce. Thanks to the climate and large blocks, growing veges and having chickens is easy.
For the shops, online (like Ian) shopping and bearing the cost of postage or the annual trip to Melbourne or Sydney just to have a great time.

Having lived in Melbourne I know exactly what you mean about good cheap restaurants.

As for the top end restaurants though I think for its size Canberra can hold its own on meal quality, I have had some great meals in Canberra that in my opinion would rank with some of the michelin stars I have been to overseas. That is the meal though, there is another issue.

The back of house is fine, but what has let them down is the front of house staff…starting with the ‘greeter’ being indifferent, wait staff having no knowledge of the meals and ingredients, lacklustre engagement, sommeliers without any idea of pairings (or staff not even knowing what a sommelier is, or no sommelier at all), incorrect cutlery provided, ignoring basics and many others. This seem to be consistent across Canberra’s ‘fine dining’ establishments.

There is not (and should not be) a lot of difference between the meal quality at good restaurants, it is the service pushes it into the top tier.

Des Des 6:15 pm 21 Jan 17

Good cheap restaurants and a variety of shops are what I miss. Anyone who has lived in Melbourne would understand what I mean about the restaurants. The expensive restaurants are rarely worth the money. I’m happy to pay for quality but rarely the food is worth the high prices. The Braddon precinct, however, is raising the bar.
Almost all of the shops are chain shops situated in malls that have rents that would make your eyes water. The ‘individual’ shops tend to be small, few and far between.
Apart from these 2 holes in my life, I love Canberra. To fill the restaurant void, my cooking has improved and the markets provide great produce. Thanks to the climate and large blocks, growing veges and having chickens is easy.
For the shops, online (like Ian) shopping and bearing the cost of postage or the annual trip to Melbourne or Sydney just to have a great time.

Mysteryman Mysteryman 5:07 pm 17 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

A lot of retired couples in Canberra are trying to live in dignity on about $30,000 a year. The cost of private health is now almost $5,000 a year, a car costs about $2,000 a year to register and insure and service (plus petrol), rates are about $3,000 a year home insurance about $1,500 a year and it goes on. There is no such thing as disposable income anymore for this growing demographic. Discounts for seniors are fast disappearing.

The current government really doesn’t have a plan to head this off, that is what is missing in Canberra.

That’s because the current government’s policies have contributed to, or are directly responsible for, the increase in many of those costs.

Roksteddy Roksteddy 4:42 pm 17 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

There is no mutual recognition between NSW and the ACT on this matter, possibly because the ACT doesn’t require fishing licences.
Maybe the Greens would consider an ACT fishing license to be tantamount to issuing a “license to kill”.

There is no mutual recognition because there is nothing to recognise. The ACT has not introduced fishing licences because it would cost more to administer than the funds that would be raised from its introduction. It has nothing to do with the Greens.

pink little birdie said :

There are many good fishing spots including the cotter dam and googong dam being Canberra’s water supply (You used to be able to fish in both).

Cotter dam is closed to fishing (for a number of good reasons) and always has been. But anglers can do well in and around Canberra. While many practice ‘catch and release’ anyway, you can eat the fish (except during blue green algae outbreaks). There are Murray Cod over a metre and Golden Perch in the urban lakes and in the Murrumbidgee and trout in the Cotter River (the open section).

dungfungus dungfungus 9:57 am 17 Jan 17

wildturkeycanoe said :

pink little birdie said :

Your rant isn’t factual
While the rivers around Canberra are pretty unpolluted particularly if you go to cotter, Casuarina sands or Woods reserve or any of those areas. Water ski-ing and power boating are allowed in the Eastern part of Molonglo river near Fyshwick. There was also a trial that allows water skiing training on Lake Ginninderra.
(https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/27/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDg0NTM2NjM4L3NpZC9mVVprRUh6NDlwNmxhbzYzY1dFeDd5RkNnWnBJMjFEYkNCVkNKcXN5eHJHd1BpMF9oWTclN0VFMmQxaEdxRkx1cUNIVlZoSVFzRzhxNW1ZOThYZnRHZG1MU2VkN3o1bmNsWWx6Qjc1T0FpMmFRdzh2TVVVUVNubjRZZyUyMSUyMQ==)
I think you are mainly objecting to the not being able to do it within a controlled environment and without consideration for other lake users. Mainly unpowered recreational and sports (rowing and sailing – We have some world class rowers and sail- boaters who train on LBG)
There are many good fishing spots including the cotter dam and googong dam being Canberra’s water supply (You used to be able to fish in both). Here’s an article from a fishing mag. I’m not sure about the eating part though I would suggest that the dams and rivers would have some eating fish but I’m not sure
http://flickandflyjournal.com/2015/05/26/the-best-fishing-spots-in-and-around-canberra/

If you think LBG, Lake Ginninderra and the Murrumbidgee rivers are unpolluted, I dare you to drink the water. They are either brown or full of blue-green algae, especially during summer. What is not factual about using my own eyes to see the clouded brown murkiness and reading government warnings to not swim in or drink the lake water?
With the amount of semi-submerged logs in the Molonglo, the government has closed it to skiing, so better check your facts there.
Getting to Cotter Dam to fish is almost impossible. The shoreline access roads are all sealed from the public with gates, so the only way up there is to walk. If you check your facts [as you have suggested I do], you will also find fishing in Cotter Dam is prohibited, as is fishing in most other dams up there. Googong is a good hour’s drive away too, just like Burrinjuck so not exactly in Canberra now is it? You also cannot fish the entire area of Googong as there are exclusion zones, plus only electric powered boats are allowed. The dam is only accessible between 8AM and 8PM during summer, 8-5 in winter, so the best times for fishing being dawn and dusk, are not available. Again, the fun police are ruining everything going for Canberra and surrounds.

And you need a NSW fishing permit to dangle a line at Googong.
There is no mutual recognition between NSW and the ACT on this matter, possibly because the ACT doesn’t require fishing licences.
Maybe the Greens would consider an ACT fishing license to be tantamount to issuing a “license to kill”.

bruce_lord bruce_lord 9:56 am 17 Jan 17

I’m thinking of creating and selling a new Blue Green Bacardi Breezer. I get water straight from Lake Tuggeranong, slip in a shot of vodka, bottle it up and get Josh Dugan to shout it from the rooftops. “Tuggers Blue Green – The drink that stops a Nation”.

I’ll be so rich my retirement fund will attract the attention of the Centrelink debt recovery system.

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 7:01 am 17 Jan 17

pink little birdie said :

Your rant isn’t factual
While the rivers around Canberra are pretty unpolluted particularly if you go to cotter, Casuarina sands or Woods reserve or any of those areas. Water ski-ing and power boating are allowed in the Eastern part of Molonglo river near Fyshwick. There was also a trial that allows water skiing training on Lake Ginninderra.
(https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/27/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDg0NTM2NjM4L3NpZC9mVVprRUh6NDlwNmxhbzYzY1dFeDd5RkNnWnBJMjFEYkNCVkNKcXN5eHJHd1BpMF9oWTclN0VFMmQxaEdxRkx1cUNIVlZoSVFzRzhxNW1ZOThYZnRHZG1MU2VkN3o1bmNsWWx6Qjc1T0FpMmFRdzh2TVVVUVNubjRZZyUyMSUyMQ==)
I think you are mainly objecting to the not being able to do it within a controlled environment and without consideration for other lake users. Mainly unpowered recreational and sports (rowing and sailing – We have some world class rowers and sail- boaters who train on LBG)
There are many good fishing spots including the cotter dam and googong dam being Canberra’s water supply (You used to be able to fish in both). Here’s an article from a fishing mag. I’m not sure about the eating part though I would suggest that the dams and rivers would have some eating fish but I’m not sure
http://flickandflyjournal.com/2015/05/26/the-best-fishing-spots-in-and-around-canberra/

If you think LBG, Lake Ginninderra and the Murrumbidgee rivers are unpolluted, I dare you to drink the water. They are either brown or full of blue-green algae, especially during summer. What is not factual about using my own eyes to see the clouded brown murkiness and reading government warnings to not swim in or drink the lake water?
With the amount of semi-submerged logs in the Molonglo, the government has closed it to skiing, so better check your facts there.
Getting to Cotter Dam to fish is almost impossible. The shoreline access roads are all sealed from the public with gates, so the only way up there is to walk. If you check your facts [as you have suggested I do], you will also find fishing in Cotter Dam is prohibited, as is fishing in most other dams up there. Googong is a good hour’s drive away too, just like Burrinjuck so not exactly in Canberra now is it? You also cannot fish the entire area of Googong as there are exclusion zones, plus only electric powered boats are allowed. The dam is only accessible between 8AM and 8PM during summer, 8-5 in winter, so the best times for fishing being dawn and dusk, are not available. Again, the fun police are ruining everything going for Canberra and surrounds.

Chris Mordd Richards Chris Mordd Richards 1:12 am 17 Jan 17

It’s not what’s missing in the Canberra that is the problem, it’s what is still here. If we could just excise Parliament House itself and keep the rest, then we’d be a long way ahead imho! /s 😛

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:53 pm 16 Jan 17

“Over the last 10 years Canberra has transformed and become something more grown up, more vibrant; but after many conversations with people who travel regularly, I can’t help feeling that something is still missing.”

Perhaps because so much of the change and transformation has really been about more of the same, and about efforts – often cringeworthy (look at the sorts of names bestowed upon some of our residential buildings) – to mimic the class and sophistication of some other cities. While Canberra is becoming slightly less homogenous, it is still, for all the try-hard puffery and statistical manipulation to the contrary, a public sector town – with all the attitudes, anxieties and neuroses which go with that. The Christmas-January exodus/close down is just one example of that.

That said, and as other have noted, there are many good things about Canberra and if there are people who choose to head off to Sydney or Melbourne to do some shopping, let’s now worry too much about that!

dungfungus dungfungus 3:02 pm 16 Jan 17

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

I think that the cost of living in Canberra will force more retired people and others on fixed income to leave Canberra.

Good, hopefully they go far away – say to the Gold Coast – so that my rates won’t have to cover the escalating costs of their healthcare.

The Gold Coast has a tram – this could draw a lot of people who like trams away from Canberra.

Actually a fire engine knocked a Gold Coast tram off its tracks yesterday. This won’t happen in Canberra, of course.

http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/20-passengers-being-assessed-by-paramedics-after-tram-and-fire-truck-collide-in-surfers-paradise/news-story/9fb8daab9314761f29199c0c6b8b671a

dungfungus dungfungus 2:58 pm 16 Jan 17

HenryBG said :

rommeldog56 said :

Makes the proposed ACT number plate slogan “Canberra-Age Friendly City” a total joke.

The only sensible slogan proposal was “Get a Dog Upya”.

Absolute gold.

dungfungus dungfungus 2:58 pm 16 Jan 17

HenryBG said :

I travel to Queanbeyan to do my supermarket shopping because they still hand out at the till the environmentally friendly thin, degradable plastic shopping bags.

Not to mention it’s a lot cheaper too.

pink little birdie pink little birdie 2:32 pm 16 Jan 17

wildturkeycanoe said :


As for the question why people leave Canberra, these are my thoughts.
Recreation. Where can you go for a swim in nice clear waters without paying through the nose and getting chlorine in your pores? You can go to the coast or the mountains to find fresh, non-polluted fun. It beats the green algae and murky brown of our local watering holes. Aquatic activities like water skiing, jet skis and tubes aren’t available anywhere locally except for Lake Burrinjuck, also an hour’s drive away.
Whilst on the subject of water, fishing is virtually non-existent here [certainly not if you want to eat any of it], but a hop-skip and jump away you have the abundance of estuaries and ocean, or the alpine lakes for something more relaxing.

Your rant isn’t factual
While the rivers around Canberra are pretty unpolluted particularly if you go to cotter, Casuarina sands or Woods reserve or any of those areas. Water ski-ing and power boating are allowed in the Eastern part of Molonglo river near Fyshwick. There was also a trial that allows water skiing training on Lake Ginninderra.
(https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/27/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDg0NTM2NjM4L3NpZC9mVVprRUh6NDlwNmxhbzYzY1dFeDd5RkNnWnBJMjFEYkNCVkNKcXN5eHJHd1BpMF9oWTclN0VFMmQxaEdxRkx1cUNIVlZoSVFzRzhxNW1ZOThYZnRHZG1MU2VkN3o1bmNsWWx6Qjc1T0FpMmFRdzh2TVVVUVNubjRZZyUyMSUyMQ==)
I think you are mainly objecting to the not being able to do it within a controlled environment and without consideration for other lake users. Mainly unpowered recreational and sports (rowing and sailing – We have some world class rowers and sail- boaters who train on LBG)
There are many good fishing spots including the cotter dam and googong dam being Canberra’s water supply (You used to be able to fish in both). Here’s an article from a fishing mag. I’m not sure about the eating part though I would suggest that the dams and rivers would have some eating fish but I’m not sure
http://flickandflyjournal.com/2015/05/26/the-best-fishing-spots-in-and-around-canberra/

HenryBG HenryBG 1:27 pm 16 Jan 17

rommeldog56 said :

Makes the proposed ACT number plate slogan “Canberra-Age Friendly City” a total joke.

The only sensible slogan proposal was “Get a Dog Upya”.

HenryBG HenryBG 1:26 pm 16 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

I think that the cost of living in Canberra will force more retired people and others on fixed income to leave Canberra.

Good, hopefully they go far away – say to the Gold Coast – so that my rates won’t have to cover the escalating costs of their healthcare.

HenryBG HenryBG 1:15 pm 16 Jan 17

I travel to Queanbeyan to do my supermarket shopping because they still hand out at the till the environmentally friendly thin, degradable plastic shopping bags.

Maya123 Maya123 12:06 pm 16 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

nd phone / internet services which is another $2,000 a year.

Not much of that $30,000 left to live on is there?

I agree that’s a lot out of $30,000 and there are a lot of unavoidable expenses, but it is possible to get much cheaper phone and internet deals than the money you quote. I pay MUCH less than that.

Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 10:09 am 16 Jan 17

Separated pedestrian paths, like the one near Ramsgate Beach in Sydney, where people can walk without fear of bicycles (which have their own separate path).

dungfungus dungfungus 9:18 am 16 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

“Canberra has transformed and become something more grown up, more vibrant;”
There go those fancy catch-phrases again. Are we grown up because we’ve adopted laws and strategies that are exclusively found in the hipster cities of Central Europe? Is it because we are putting more floors on the buildings along the “transport corridors”? Maybe our number plates should reflect these government innovations. “Canberra – The vibrant territory”. I mean, what exactly makes it so vibrant? It certainly isn’t the design or colour of the buildings, the number of trees planted around the place or the happy smiles of the shoppers dashing around, quickly gathering their products before the free two hour parking is expired. Maybe it is the fluorescent orange, temporary barricade fencing used to envelop construction sites and roadworks that seem to take forever to complete. Perhaps the colourful language and arm signals used by pedestrians and Canberra drivers every time a cyclist encroaches their part of the transport infrastructure.

As for the question why people leave Canberra, these are my thoughts.
Recreation. Where can you go for a swim in nice clear waters without paying through the nose and getting chlorine in your pores? You can go to the coast or the mountains to find fresh, non-polluted fun. It beats the green algae and murky brown of our local watering holes. Aquatic activities like water skiing, jet skis and tubes aren’t available anywhere locally except for Lake Burrinjuck, also an hour’s drive away.
Whilst on the subject of water, fishing is virtually non-existent here [certainly not if you want to eat any of it], but a hop-skip and jump away you have the abundance of estuaries and ocean, or the alpine lakes for something more relaxing.
As for shopping, I don’t really know as we don’t buy much more than the bare essentials. However, even within Canberra I have noticed I have to go to the larger shopping centers to buy some products from the same brand of store we have locally, because the range is broader. It seems the myriad of shops sprouting up in the suburbs are limited on variety and they keep pulling stuff off the shelves, so I am forced to go further in to town to buy what I need. I think they have just spread themselves too thin and can’t maintain their stocks due to cost.

I think that the cost of living in Canberra will force more retired people and others on fixed income to leave Canberra.

This will create a dilemma for most as in old age, access to specialist health care is the number one priority and most specialists are in the capital cities only – Canberra doesn’t even have a full compliment of them.

I have friends who have relocated to other towns in the region where the cost of housing and living is much less that Canberra but they all find it is impossible to get immediate access to a GP and when they do and if a specialist is required they are referred to one in Sydney or Melbourne, not Canberra where family or friends can help out with accommodation etc.

A lot of retired couples in Canberra are trying to live in dignity on about $30,000 a year. The cost of private health is now almost $5,000 a year, a car costs about $2,000 a year to register and insure and service (plus petrol), rates are about $3,000 a year home insurance about $1,500 a year and it goes on. There is no such thing as disposable income anymore for this growing demographic. Discounts for seniors are fast disappearing.

The current government really doesn’t have a plan to head this off, that is what is missing in Canberra.

I forgot to add energy costs of about $2,000 a year (knowing it is “green” is cold comfort) and phone / internet services which is another $2,000 a year.

Not much of that $30,000 left to live on is there?

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