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Barr in background as Manuka Oval plan lands

By Charlotte Harper - 17 February 2016 50


Whether by strategic design or not, the ACT Government has not been closely involved in the reveal this morning of an unsolicited plan by the GWS Giants AFL club and Melbourne property behemoth Grocon to revelop Manuka Oval and its surrounds.

The $800 million redevelopment plan, called Manuka Green (, would feature 4750 new permanent seats to replace temporary seating and standing areas at Manuka Oval, new roofing covering 80 per cent of seating, a landscape upgrade including a new running track linking Manuka Oval to Telopea Park and the Kingston Foreshore, a 4-star hotel, serviced apartments, residential, commercial and retail precincts, a licensed club and up to 450 additional car parking spaces

Grocon plan for Manuka Oval

If Mr Barr’s distance was intentional, then it may have been a smart move. While the plan (see artists’ impressions above and below) was unsolicited, Chief Minister Andrew Barr first flagged a major redevelopment of the site in 2009 and would no doubt welcome the news that a player such as Grocon wants to play a major role.

A design from the Giant's Manuka Oval plan

Mr Barr may not be so keen, however, to face the wrath of the residents of the Inner South in an election year should they react negatively to the plan.

The Chief Minister made few friends in the Inner South last year with his plan to move the Manuka Childcare Centre (pictured below) to the Telopea Park Tennis Courts to make way for a Canberra Services Club/Defence Housing development in Manuka. That plan is no more after extensive lobbying and campaigning by the communities of the school and childcare centre.

MOCCA campaign

The Inner South community is likely to react swiftly to news of a development with the potential for impact on iconic sites such as historic Manuka Pool (pictured below) and leafy Telopea Park, community hubs such as the Manuka Arts Centre (home of ArtSound and PhotoAccess), the Canberra Fire Museum (with its neighbouring former fire station homes), and the Kingston Organic Community Garden behind the Canberra Baptist Church.

Manuka Pool

The parents and friends of Telopea Park School will be watching closely to see whether a further attempt to repurpose its tennis courts or to encroach on its playing fields will ensue, ready to leap into action as they did last year (see campaign material below). No doubt the impact on parking will be a concern for staff and parents too.

Telopea Park School banners

A spokesman for the Giants provided the following response to our question about the impact on the aforementioned sites:

“The site for the proposed development of Manuka Green is the area around the oval excluding the pool, caretaker’s cottage and their setting. The Jack Fingleton scoreboard is proposed to be moved closer to those two buildings while a new landscaped setting of these buildings extends towards the oval to create a new grassed “hill” at the northern end of the oval.

“There is no intention to develop beyond the existing land that surrounds the ground – not in to the tennis courts and park to the west, but the project will be funding off site precinct upgrade works including; a new running track through Telopea park to link Manuka with the Kingston Foreshore, a new grand square at the southern end of the stadium to aid the links between the stadium and Manuka shops, and landscape upgrades at the northern end of the ground to best link the stadium precinct and heritage square surrounding the Manuka Pool to Telopea Park.”

He did not comment on the Manuka Arts Centre but a spokesman for Mr Barr had this to say:

“The intention always was for those arts facilities to move to the dedicated, purpose-built arts facilities being built at the Kingston Foreshore. In that sense, the development of the Arts centre site is OK to consider as part of the broader Oval redevelopment. The Chief Minister has made it very clear though that there wouldn’t be any attempt to move arts facilities out of Manuka until the site at Kingston was ready.

“As part of the consideration of the proposal, we would of course have to speak to anyone using the Manuka Arts Centre.”

The Canberra Services Club would have been seriously impacted by any major plan to redevelop Manuka Oval had its premises adjacent to the Oval not burnt down in 2011. It is currently housed in the former site of the ACT Rugby Union Club in Barton, but seeks to find a more suitable permanent site in time.

SCG Members

The RiotACT has also asked the Giants whether the plan contains a Members section along the lines of those of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney Cricket Ground (Members’ pavilion pictured above), and if so, where that seating/facilities for such a section would sit in the plan. Such a move would provide guaranteed annual revenue to fund the upkeep and development of the site as well as building a loyal community around the Oval that would operate world class cricket and AFL events.

The Giants spokesman responded:

“The project includes new dedicated space for elite sports to use as corporate and hospitality spaces but, in addition, the new hotel and club could provide catering and support facilities required to meet the demands of a members section, or something similar. But ultimately this would be a consideration for the community-owned trust that we propose is set up to manage the ground for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.”

The football club will announce details of a design competition for the precinct in coming days according to a statement announcing the proposal which says, “The GIANTS will also hold a design competition, if the ACT Government proceeds with the proposal, with a design brief that is informed by the community’s ideas.”

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Barr in background as Manuka Oval plan lands
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dungfungus 10:47 am 24 Feb 16

miz said :

This whole thing is weird. How is it this massive corporation thinks it can just buy us off? Someone, somewhere has been giving the wrong impression.
I am wondering if Mr Barr comes from Melbourne? Because he doesn’t seem to get Canberra and keeps wanting to superimpose Melbourne-like, un-Canberran things on us. Now he wants to convert genteel Manuka oval into a Docklands AFL stadium clone.
Ugh, I don’t want that for Canberra.
I can’t see why a new stadium can’t be somewhere else, e.g. Tuggeranong, where it would actually be appreciated (it would be ‘finally, an infrastructure project for the whole city here in Tuggeranong!’) and there is actually space. Bruce was considered to be a long way away when it was built, so I don’t see why he’s trying to wreck historic, lovely Manuka. And it would be more even handed to distribute this kind of project amongst the town centres instead of inner, inner, inner.

Yes, he is from Melbourne (the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere).
I cannot understand why Barr keeps backing losers – sporting arenas and conference centres are really sunset industries (not to mention light rail also).
Then again, they are only the “sprat to catch the mackerel” aren’t they?

HenryBG 12:47 pm 22 Feb 16

farnarkler said :

Combine it with an indoor 50m pool and gym and it would be extremely well used.

Yes, by those patrons who fit into the proposed 500-space carpark.

What the other 19,500 people will do for parking will remain a mystery.

rubaiyat 10:02 am 22 Feb 16

dungfungus said :

rubaiyat said :

gooterz said :

Is this the increased density that light rail was going to bring? Isn’t it a little far from the nearest stop….

No it is the increased density you and many of the others are closing your eyes to despite its inevitability.

It will find the best most lucrative and marketable locations. In this case it is the availability of land in a highly desirable location, with a potential seller/leaser who was granted land for a public good, the promotion of sport, and like others is cashing in.

It is just part of the increasing random unsustainable collapse of planning. Even though it would be one of the anchor destinations of an extension of the Light Rail to Inner South Canberra, that I have proposed over and over again, I’ll put money on this all happening arse backwards. Development without the necessary transport planning in place.

Both sides of politics can see a potential very good friend in Grocon. I suspect the planning on this was done in the Commonwealth Club, not the ACT Government offices anywhere.

But it was nice of them to let us know what they have decided.

Parking is still free at the Commonwealth Club.

Just getting up that long driveway is not! 😉

dungfungus 8:55 am 22 Feb 16

farnarkler said :

$800 million for a ground that’s used all of 6 or 7 times a year for the AFL and even less for cricket. Even if Canberra gets a test and one or two one day or 20/20 matches, the ground will still be underutilised.

Want to spend money on a sporting facility that generates revenue the minute it opens? Build a two sheet ice skating centre. One sheet for figure skaters and public sessions and another purely for hockey with three or four thousand seats.

With international flights soon to arrive, there’s a great opportunity to get overseas teams from SE Asia or US college teams to play hockey and (for the SE Asian nations) get some figure skating training.

Combine it with an indoor 50m pool and gym and it would be extremely well used.

But where are they going to fit the 1,000 home units and hipster cafes?

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