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Era of new suburbs is over, says Chief Minister

By Ian Bushnell - 20 February 2018 120
canberra land.

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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116 Responses to
Era of new suburbs is over, says Chief Minister
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mark boast 2:42 pm 26 Feb 18

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.

Doc Rutherford 12:18 pm 24 Feb 18

Over 70% of the ACT is national park, nature reserve or other public open space. Most of the land that can be developed at a reasonable economic cost has been. Most of the remaing areas are unsuitable for housing due to topology and the prohibitive cost of providing infrastructure.

Maureen Nolan 9:40 pm 23 Feb 18

No more high rise buildings, looking at high rise overseas they become the worst slums,Terrace homes,with a little land.

Raffaella Corsaro Sgroi 6:36 am 23 Feb 18

Canberra the best kept secret.. leave it at that!

Queanbeyanite 7:37 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.

HiddenDragon 5:47 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 Retro 11:38 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.

Babs Mabbs 10:24 am 22 Feb 18

Apartment living can be lots of fun as long as there’s plenty of services on the doorstep to make it worthwhile- transport, cafes, parks

Roderick Saunders 9:12 pm 21 Feb 18

There's a lot of room for new suburbs in surrounding NSW

Steve Young 4:11 pm 21 Feb 18

Yeah, makes you wonder if our Chief Minister has any future interests in that type of development

Peter Buckley 3:00 pm 21 Feb 18

Come to'll never leave, that is if you can ever get in?

Peter Mackay 2:58 pm 21 Feb 18

Turning a beautiful city into an ugly one.

No, I don’t like it.

Peter Buckley 2:58 pm 21 Feb 18

Stop it now!

Richard Harris 12:24 pm 21 Feb 18

Turn back the cars

Wade Bermingham 11:45 am 21 Feb 18

I reckon there's a market for terrace style houses little back yard, little front yard, bit of brick and roof that you yourself own like a apartment block layed on its side and without 90% of the issues

    Patrick J Pentony 8:54 am 22 Feb 18

    I agree having lived in a terrace in the UK for the last 12 months I don’t know why we don’t do more here.

    Carl Halpin 9:56 pm 22 Feb 18

    Canberra land area = 814sq km. Population, 360k

    Amsterdam land area = 219sq km. Population, 820k

    You can fit more people in. Land = food source.

Harold Schranz 11:37 am 21 Feb 18

Should have happened much earlier ... too much sprawl ... need green space balanced with higher density! #Europe

Lyndon Zouk 8:43 am 21 Feb 18

Density is an issue only in Australia. Certainly see public transport benefits but that should be a personal choice, not the rule

Shannon Kelly Dillon 6:33 am 21 Feb 18

People seem to put little value on or care for the sensitive ecosystems that surround our city. The damage sprawling suburbs do is irreversible, whether your 'average joe' gets it or not, medium to high density development is a sensible solution in the face of continued population growth.

Margaret Welsh 5:55 am 21 Feb 18

I hate what is happening. The areas where the ugly high rise buildings are going have no visual appeal, insufficient recreation space and will become heat sinks. We are creating sleeper suburbs with no amenities and no soul. If there was some green space amongst the buildings it would be better. The older suburbs were designed for biological diversity. The new ones and the redeveloped ones look like institutions. They are going to create huge problems down the track. We are also losing our beautiful lakes. Lake Tuggeranong has lost its natural areas to development on the southern and eastern shores. Flemington Road is ghastly. I will be moving out of Canberra eventually because of the way it is heading. I moved here because of its beauty, it’s natural diversity and the good urban planning. Now it’s a nightmare in the making.

Martin Miller 11:38 pm 20 Feb 18

So what did the former deputy Chief Minister have to say about High rise in #Woden. You can have higher density in the town centres but you don't need to have high rise!

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