19 February 2018

Era of new suburbs is over, says Chief Minister

| Ian Bushnell
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New suburbs don’t come cheaply, says the Chief Minister.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has called time on urban expansion in the ACT, declaring that the era of establishing new suburbs cheaply is over and that the future of the town centres is high-rise.

Mr Barr told The RiotACT that Canberra could no longer continue to sprawl out due to physical limitations and the sheer expense of developing new areas.

“The point often missed is the cost of developing some of those new greenfield estates,” Mr Barr said. “We don’t have acres and acres of land that is easy to develop.”

Mr Barr pointed to the Molonglo Valley which was ‘tricky’ to develop – “it’s not flat, there is a river corridor, there are environmental and bushfire challenges”.

He said these development challenges and costs affected the price of land, and eventually the price of houses that people bought.

“That era of just rolling out another suburb that’s easy and cheap is over for Canberra. It doesn’t matter who the government is. That era is over,” he said.

“You can’t roll out new land like that next door to Civic or the Parliamentary Triangle, or Woden or Belconnen. The only way you can provide new dwellings in those areas is high density. They ain’t making new land in Turner or Reid or Braddon.”

Despite this, Mr Barr said 85 per cent of the housing stock in the ACT was a single detached house on a large block and the number of apartments in Canberra was still relatively small relative to the total housing stock.

But there are many more apartments to come, especially in the town centres, which Mr Barr believes can go tall with good outcomes.

In a debate last week in the Legislative Assembly, Mr Barr lamented the ‘small-town, backwards, 1940s mindset’ that opposed high-rise development in Canberra.

“One principal point of difference that the town centres have over the CBD is their capacity to sustain buildings of some height. We simply have to get over this phobia regarding buildings that are, even by Australian standards, not very tall. By international standards, if you go anywhere else in the world, they would laugh at you if you said that a 12-storey building is high rise. Even a 20-storey building is not high rise,” he said.

“We need to move beyond that, and we also need to recognise that short, squat buildings that fill up all of the available space are not necessarily better outcomes than tall, elegant buildings. This is not an argument to say that every tall building is a good building; they have to be well designed. But they can be, and we should not be afraid of some height in some parts of the city of Canberra. For national statutory reasons, that will never be the case in the CBD, so that is a clear point of difference for town centres.”

The Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate says land releases are planned over the next four years in Gungahlin, Molonglo and Belconnen, through the Ginninderry joint venture.

This involves 16,250 dwelling sites, with 4,120 dwelling sites scheduled for release in 2017-18, with 1,450 of these in Gungahlin, Molonglo and Belconnen.

Englobo residential releases are also scheduled for Lawson stage 2 (2017-18), and the remaining development sites on Kingston Foreshore (2019-20).

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It seems that our canberra development strategy is actually a four year plan – and it shows. We need clearly understood visions and concepts so that the shorter term planning has some consistency. I vote for the “bush capital” look, sticking to WBG’s vision, preserving the sanctity of our river corridors and mountain views, and re-assessing the physical dimensions of the ACT to meet future needs – and of course that vision and associated concepts.

Queanbeyanite7:37 pm 22 Feb 18

How’s he going to pay off the $10 billion dollar tram proposals? He’ll need at least another million population.

HiddenDragon5:47 pm 22 Feb 18

A low maintenance dwelling very close to a town centre (even if it’s not the one where you work) is obviously an appealing option to many, but there are many others – most obviously those with, or planning to have, children – who want somewhere safe, close and private for children to play.

For the latter group the “no more new suburbs in Canberra” message will increasingly mean looking across the border – those of us paying rates and taxes on this side of the border will be hoping that the ACT Government gets somewhat better at ensuring that we are fully compensated for the services which those cross-border residents will likely be using.

A simpler option would be to change a few words in the Constitution and cut the ACT down to the Parliamentary Triangle (and maybe that coming-soon, amazeballs rejuvenated Northbourne Avenue) which would make all the really tricky cross-border issues go away. Of course, that is in the realms of fantasy – just like those “tall, elegant buildings”……

Capital Retro8:17 am 23 Feb 18

The bubble will burst well before that target is reached.

Capital Retro11:38 am 22 Feb 18

Before any more residential development Canberra will need another sewerage treatment plant. The current one has reached capacity well before it was supposed to.
This will cost billions.

Woden Valley Community Council11:01 pm 20 Feb 18

The issue is whether the densification will be done well or not. Woden has blanket planning for high rise residential towers across the entire CZ1 and CZ2 zones. Where will the open spaces and community facilities be? We need a decent plan that considers the broader community and their social and economic well being.

George Brenan8:37 pm 20 Feb 18

I’m not sure that master planning parameters by press release is the way to go. For example -the options are presented as black or white whereas there is a spectrum of options available.

michael quirk4:59 pm 20 Feb 18

Poor Emperor Barr yet again displaying his ignorance of housing and development issues. He has been in the job too long and clearly needs a long vacation.
Why does he persist with his high rise vision for Canberra despite evidence such as the Winton 2015 study indicating the preference of most households for detached dwellings?
There needs to be a mixture of low, medium and high rise development for the preferences of the community to be met. There are a range of greenfields areas that could be considered for development including Kowen, West Murrumbidgee and Stromlo. The infrastructure, travel and environmental costs of alternatives need to be assessed.
The Emperor must have had a vision as to the viability of greenfields development- to my knowledge the most recent analysis of land development costs were indicative ball park estimates undertaken in 2003.
Failure to provide greenfields land supply in the ACT would simply result in land being developed over the border in NSW with a loss of a land and grants commission revenue. It will also result in increase level of car based travel with resultant increases in greenhouse emissions.
Indicative of his superficial understanding of housing issues is his belief that 85 per cent of the dwelling stock is detached dwelling – at the 2016 Census some 72 per cent of dwellings were detached.
A comprehensive analysis of development issues should occur in the upcoming review of the ACT planning strategy. The review offers the opportunity for Canberra to be developed as an exemplar of 21st Century city development.

No Waste 2010 all over again.

If the era of new suburbs is over, why did the LDA under Barr spend millions on farming land prior to the recent change of rules? If apartments are the future why did Barr decide to make them more expensive, and therefore less desirable to own, by recently changing their rates calculations. This type of hypocrisy, muddled thinking and reckless spending is why people don’t respect politicians.

Capital Retro9:41 am 20 Feb 18

Just because Mr Barr happy to have his children grow up in a high-rise apartment block doesn’t mean everyone else is.

There should be a moratorium on all new building in Canberra.

I’m sure that would do wonders for housing affordability.

Does Barr actually have kids? Surely not.

Otherwise he would understand that not everyone can catch lousy public transport!

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