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Canberra is truly a liveable city

By Kim Fischer - 29 February 2016 20

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No matter which way you look at it, Canberra has had a coming of age in the past decade. Shortly before his retirement in 2011, in an interview for Inside Story Jon Stanhope said:

I think [the ACT] is a better place now than when we came into government – judged any way you want on a social justice scale or a liveability scale or even an economic performance scale. Canberra is now a real place. A recent global survey had us at twenty-six in terms of liveability – I doubt we would have been in the top hundred a decade ago.

Stanhope would no doubt have been quietly proud of Canberra topping the OECD Regional and Local Well-being rankings and the Property Council’s liveability index in 2014.

The just-released Mercer Worldwide Quality of Living Ratings places Canberra at number 28, just below Perth (21) and Adelaide (27). Some experts say that once international flights and light rail are operational, Canberra can expect to rate higher still.

Despite some knee-jerk scepticism about the results, the statistics don’t lie: Canberra has evolved, particularly when looking at our retiree and family population.

In the 1970s, senior citizens were four times less likely to live in Canberra than the national average. That gap has now virtually disappeared, with many more retirees choosing to stay in Canberra instead of moving to other capital cities or the coast.

We can also no longer lay claim to being a “nappy valley”, with our proportion of dependent children now the same as the national average.

Source. Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In other words, it is time for stereotype of Canberra as “a great place to raise a family but not much else” to be permanently put to bed.

To his credit, Chief Minister Andrew Barr understands this shift in how people see Canberra. That means more jobs, more construction, and more people. Canberra’s economy is becoming more diverse, with new opportunities including:

  • Expanding our tertiary education and research footprint. One in 9 Canberrans either work or study in a tertiary education institution. The Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) aims to increase entrepreneurial opportunities, often in partnership with or originating from the tertiary sector. Similarly, the expansion plans for the University of Canberra will see a range of additional industry partnerships formed on-campus to supplement research programs.
  • Creating an international flight destination and freight hub. Majura Parkway is forecast to have 6000 trucks travelling on it every day within 15 years, with a significant reduction in congestion elsewhere as a result. Our improved road network, along with the commencement of direct international flights from Singapore, allows Canberra to join the global trade and transport industry in a way that has simply not been possible in the past.

With the growing population, there has been a surge of new apartment buildings in town centres, particularly Belconnen and Kingston, along with the plans to boost the Civic residential population to 20,000 over the next decade. These will provide a greater range of housing choices and better entertainment options, not to mention a boost to the ACT budget bottom line.

But as our population grows, it’s important to preserve Canberra’s unique character as the bush capital. By maintaining local green spaces and high-quality parks like the National Arboretum, while focusing on smart ways to increase housing density that minimise the impact on the skyline of the ACT in our suburbs, I think that this can be achieved.

As residents, we elect the ACT Government to look after our interests. Our representatives in the Legislative Assembly need to find the right balance between respecting the lifestyles of those in established suburbs and allowing Canberra to naturally evolve into a bigger and more diverse place.

Do you agree that Canberra is more liveable now than it was 20 years ago?

Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

What’s Your opinion?


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20 Responses to
Canberra is truly a liveable city
1
miz 7:24 am
01 Mar 16
#

The good things about Canberra are mostly those that pre-date self-government – the general layout, the egalitarianism of allowing everyone to have access to the horizon and ‘water views’, the suburb/reserve ratio. These good things that make Canberra special and wonderful are slowly but surely being undermined, and unfortunately, often by government policy, which is such a pity.
It used to be common for young people to leave Canberra for the ‘big smoke’ after high school or uni. However, a lot of people moved here in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and many have stayed or have returned – but because of the way it was, which they remember and liked, not the way it is going.
These are the older locals who protest so vociferously these days about some of the often-shonky developments the government is advocating.
Whereas young people and blow ins generally do not realise that these good things were not accidental and do not understand or appreciate that many of these things are unique to Canberra, because they are ‘used to’ the general awfulness other cities like Sydney and Melbourne (which they consider to somehow be ‘grown up’). I’m looking at you, Mr Barr!
I say, vive la difference – otherwise we will just end up being a crappy city in search of some kind of desperate, try-hard ‘vibrancy.’

2
rubaiyat 10:06 am
02 Mar 16
#

The changes that are happening to Canberra are exactly the same as those affecting all larger cities.

More people leads to more sprawl, more crowding and, with poor transport planning, more congestion and parking problems.

Far from having lost some mythical “Happy Days” this is all just the chickens coming home to roost from the unbelievable bad decisions made by the “planners” in the 60’s and continuing till today, where it seems planning has been thrown out the window and ad hocery is the rule of the day, secret deals done with developers, or awful planning leading to the inevitable conclusions.

The single biggest influence besides the mayhem coming out of the ACT Planning, is the Canberra Airport exceptionalism that is bleeding rate paying commercial space from the rest of Canberra. That and the Federal cutbacks have drained the (unviable) satellite townships of their reason for existence.

3
dungfungus 1:50 pm
02 Mar 16
#

miz said :

The good things about Canberra are mostly those that pre-date self-government – the general layout, the egalitarianism of allowing everyone to have access to the horizon and ‘water views’, the suburb/reserve ratio. These good things that make Canberra special and wonderful are slowly but surely being undermined, and unfortunately, often by government policy, which is such a pity.
It used to be common for young people to leave Canberra for the ‘big smoke’ after high school or uni. However, a lot of people moved here in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and many have stayed or have returned – but because of the way it was, which they remember and liked, not the way it is going.
These are the older locals who protest so vociferously these days about some of the often-shonky developments the government is advocating.
Whereas young people and blow ins generally do not realise that these good things were not accidental and do not understand or appreciate that many of these things are unique to Canberra, because they are ‘used to’ the general awfulness other cities like Sydney and Melbourne (which they consider to somehow be ‘grown up’). I’m looking at you, Mr Barr!
I say, vive la difference – otherwise we will just end up being a crappy city in search of some kind of desperate, try-hard ‘vibrancy.’

I came here in the early eighties. It was in the middle of a drought (early onset climate change?) and Canberra was like an oasis in the desert.
Like you miz I have seen the transition to self-government and the self-interest groups that have evolved since like our current government who do business with themselves and call it “profit”.
It was a delight to live here in those early days and I agree with what you describe the current situation as (another crappy city etc.).
Unfortunately, the younger people here that are dictating policy haven’t had the benefit of the experiences we have.

4
Mysteryman 2:44 pm
02 Mar 16
#

It’s certainly a lot more expensive to live here since they came to government. I wouldn’t say that’s an improvement.

5
spades 6:57 pm
02 Mar 16
#

This article hardly got responses because the question is simply too difficult to answer.

Unlike the OP (presumably), many of us who post here aren’t really from Canberra. Been here 4 years and it hasn’t been too bad. I certainly don’t dislike Canberra but wouldn’t say I love it either. I’m satisfied by the job prospects and cost of property. From what the old timers tell me there are more food options now, but find that quality is still a bit of a hit and miss (more misses than hits).

I’m skeptical as to whether the graphs posted is definitive proof that Canberra is a better place to live. It’s not a secret that more educated people in recent years decided to have less or no kids at all. Canberra having a healthy proportion of highly educated residents means we are most affected by this phenomenon. So… it isn’t because we’ve magically aligned ourselves with the rest of the country, but possibly because we simply have more people who choose not to have kids?

I wholeheartedly agree with the livability ranking of Canberra though.. it was well deserved. I’ve read the criteria. Entertainment is all but one category.

6
dungfungus 10:20 pm
02 Mar 16
#

rubaiyat said :

The changes that are happening to Canberra are exactly the same as those affecting all larger cities.

More people leads to more sprawl, more crowding and, with poor transport planning, more congestion and parking problems.

Far from having lost some mythical “Happy Days” this is all just the chickens coming home to roost from the unbelievable bad decisions made by the “planners” in the 60’s and continuing till today, where it seems planning has been thrown out the window and ad hocery is the rule of the day, secret deals done with developers, or awful planning leading to the inevitable conclusions.

The single biggest influence besides the mayhem coming out of the ACT Planning, is the Canberra Airport exceptionalism that is bleeding rate paying commercial space from the rest of Canberra. That and the Federal cutbacks have drained the (unviable) satellite townships of their reason for existence.

Clearly growth and population increase do not benefit the general community in Canberra which was planned to have a more orderly transition commensurate with the increase in the public service.
We are the seat of Federal Government and servicing the population involved in that is where the line should be drawn. The growth of the public service has plateaued. We have lost the plot by now trying to trying to become another Silicon Valley, having a “me too” tram, conference centre etc. These are not needed and certainly not affordable.
If we are not careful we may end up relinquishing the seat of government back to Melbourne. Not a bad idea, actually.

7
miz 7:52 am
03 Mar 16
#

It would be nice if the ACT govt did not aim at making Canberra ‘exactly the same as … all larger cities’ and actually valued our uniqueness.
Many people prefer suburbia (space, peace, room for greenery etc), but the govt is intent on dog boxes for all as they are motivated by a love of money. Space, peace etc should not be the sole What we really need is an economical, inclusive, efficient, city-wide transport solution to ensure people can have their beloved suburban space AND get to where they need to. The tram will not deliver this, as it is an exclusive, inequitable, outrageously expensive non-solution which duplicates existing services and only caters for one small area of the city.
The govt has identified the transport problem, but has been dazzled by technology (which is not the same thing as innovation) instead of applying Occam’s Razor and using our existing buses and excellent road network.
Our ‘livability’ is going to be seriously compromised once the construction of the tram commences.

8
miz 7:54 am
03 Mar 16
#

sorry, somehow I deleted ‘. . . should not be the sole domain of the very wealthy.’

9
rubaiyat 10:27 am
03 Mar 16
#

miz said :

It would be nice if the ACT govt did not aim at making Canberra ‘exactly the same as … all larger cities’ and actually valued our uniqueness.
Many people prefer suburbia (space, peace, room for greenery etc), but the govt is intent on dog boxes for all as they are motivated by a love of money. Space, peace etc should not be the sole What we really need is an economical, inclusive, efficient, city-wide transport solution to ensure people can have their beloved suburban space AND get to where they need to. The tram will not deliver this, as it is an exclusive, inequitable, outrageously expensive non-solution which duplicates existing services and only caters for one small area of the city.
The govt has identified the transport problem, but has been dazzled by technology (which is not the same thing as innovation) instead of applying Occam’s Razor and using our existing buses and excellent road network.
Our ‘livability’ is going to be seriously compromised once the construction of the tram commences.

Our livability is being seriously compromised by the cars and sprawl.

How many times do we have to repeat the US experiment with the car obsessed suburban sprawl that leads to the rot of cities?

They are trying to fix the problem cars created, and we seem hell bent on repeating it.

Adding more buses to already congested far too long roads, which will only get worse, is not working.

…and we can’t ignore the little old problem of the pollution, noise, deaths and damage caused by cars and roads.

10
Charlotte Harper 3:55 pm
03 Mar 16
#

Isn’t it more expensive to live everywhere, though? You can’t walk out your front door in Sydney without spending a fortune.

11
rubaiyat 4:21 pm
03 Mar 16
#

Charlotte Harper said :

Isn’t it more expensive to live everywhere, though? You can’t walk out your front door in Sydney without spending a fortune.

On what Charlotte?

There are really a lot of opportunities in large cities to live on the cheap if you want.

Far from the problem being “out your front door” it is being in the expensive home.

Canberra tends to lose both ways, expensive accommodation AND everything else, very little respite, although after being here as long as I have, I have sussed out a few bargains unavailable elsewhere.

12
miz 6:08 pm
03 Mar 16
#

rubaiyat said :

miz said :

It would be nice if the ACT govt did not aim at making Canberra ‘exactly the same as … all larger cities’ and actually valued our uniqueness.
Many people prefer suburbia (space, peace, room for greenery etc), but the govt is intent on dog boxes for all as they are motivated by a love of money. Space, peace etc should not be the sole What we really need is an economical, inclusive, efficient, city-wide transport solution to ensure people can have their beloved suburban space AND get to where they need to. The tram will not deliver this, as it is an exclusive, inequitable, outrageously expensive non-solution which duplicates existing services and only caters for one small area of the city.
The govt has identified the transport problem, but has been dazzled by technology (which is not the same thing as innovation) instead of applying Occam’s Razor and using our existing buses and excellent road network.
Our ‘livability’ is going to be seriously compromised once the construction of the tram commences.

Our livability is being seriously compromised by the cars and sprawl.

How many times do we have to repeat the US experiment with the car obsessed suburban sprawl that leads to the rot of cities?

They are trying to fix the problem cars created, and we seem hell bent on repeating it.

Adding more buses to already congested far too long roads, which will only get worse, is not working.

…and we can’t ignore the little old problem of the pollution, noise, deaths and damage caused by cars and roads.

If the buses were actually efficient enough for people to use them, you would not be ‘adding’ them – rather, they would reduce congestion by taking a proportion of cars off the roads. Without the huge disruption of light rail. And without having to wait 10 years to get good services in some parts.

13
Charlotte Harper 10:01 pm
03 Mar 16
#

You’re going to love this … The first thing that popped into my head was car parking and the second was toll road fees. I lived in Sydney on train lines and had no car for 7 years, mind you.

14
miz 11:59 pm
03 Mar 16
#

Charlotte Harper said :

You’re going to love this … The first thing that popped into my head was car parking and the second was toll road fees. I lived in Sydney on train lines and had no car for 7 years, mind you.

Heavy rail like the London tube would far superior to the light rail proposed. But until that is viable we can easily cover the town with buses if there was political will.

15
rubaiyat 1:57 am
04 Mar 16
#

miz said :

rubaiyat said :

miz said :

It would be nice if the ACT govt did not aim at making Canberra ‘exactly the same as … all larger cities’ and actually valued our uniqueness.
Many people prefer suburbia (space, peace, room for greenery etc), but the govt is intent on dog boxes for all as they are motivated by a love of money. Space, peace etc should not be the sole What we really need is an economical, inclusive, efficient, city-wide transport solution to ensure people can have their beloved suburban space AND get to where they need to. The tram will not deliver this, as it is an exclusive, inequitable, outrageously expensive non-solution which duplicates existing services and only caters for one small area of the city.
The govt has identified the transport problem, but has been dazzled by technology (which is not the same thing as innovation) instead of applying Occam’s Razor and using our existing buses and excellent road network.
Our ‘livability’ is going to be seriously compromised once the construction of the tram commences.

Our livability is being seriously compromised by the cars and sprawl.

How many times do we have to repeat the US experiment with the car obsessed suburban sprawl that leads to the rot of cities?

They are trying to fix the problem cars created, and we seem hell bent on repeating it.

Adding more buses to already congested far too long roads, which will only get worse, is not working.

…and we can’t ignore the little old problem of the pollution, noise, deaths and damage caused by cars and roads.

If the buses were actually efficient enough for people to use them, you would not be ‘adding’ them – rather, they would reduce congestion by taking a proportion of cars off the roads. Without the huge disruption of light rail. And without having to wait 10 years to get good services in some parts.

If the houses didn’t spread all over the countryside in lamb’s brains planning mazes…

If the roads were shorter, 14 lanes wide, and actually had somewhere to go instead of too small multiple town centres handed over to monopoly property and retail mega-corporations…

If the cars were hover cars which can leap over the congestion and all the parked cars…

If only…

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