It’s a road going nowhere but the National Capital Authority refuses to take it off the map.
Now the ACT Government is calling on the Federal Government to intervene so the proposed Monash Drive, which this Government says it will never build, never becomes a reality.
Minister for Roads Chris Steel says the NCA has rejected the Government’s request that the road – which would take a 4km route along the western foothills of Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie, from Antill Street to the North and Fairbairn Avenue to the South – be removed from the National Capital Plan.
The road was envisioned to act as a bypass around inner Canberra but the Government says it is no longer required due to other major road corridors being constructed, and would impact on the surrounding nature reserves.
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Mr Steel said that the Government wrote to the NCA last year requesting an amendment of the National Capital Plan to reflect the corridor as a key environmental and active travel corridor, but the NCA recently wrote to refuse to amend the Plan.
Chief executive Sally Barnes told the ACT that it was premature to remove the road alignment until a number of planning initiatives that would affect traffic flows were completed and implemented such as the Government’s Transport Strategy, light rail stages 1 and 2, the City and Gateway plan and the Northbourne Avenue Landscape Plan.
She said the possible reduction in car use and increases in population density also needed to be taken into account.
“Once the impacts of all these matters are fully understood and realised, a revised impact assessment report incorporating long-term policy settings and describing full environment impacts can be prepared,” she said.
Ms Barnes said leaving Monash Drive in the Plan did not commit the Government to building the road, but it did future-proof the arterial road network if it were required at a later date.
But Mr Steel called on the Federal Government to overturn the decision and protect the bush capital.
“This is an environmentally damaging, unnecessary, and expensive road and it should never be built,” he said.
“While we are in Government we will never build Monash Drive and we want to prevent future Territory and Federal Governments from doing so by removing this fictitious road from the map.”
Mr Steel said Monash Drive could have a significant environmental impact on sensitive ecological elements, including Yellow Box / Red Gum Grassy Woodland and threatened species like the little eagle and superb parrot. There were also numerous Indigenous heritage sites along the proposed corridor which could be impacted.
Local Member for Kurrajong Rachel Stephen-Smith said that inner north residents wanted certainty that this road would no longer be built in the nature reserve behind them.
“The residents of Watson, Hackett, Ainslie, Campbell, and Reid have a strong connection to Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie and value the bush right on their doorstep,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Those who live near the proposed corridor have also expressed concern about noise and extra traffic causing disruption to many suburbs.
“Rather than an unnecessary major road, a future shared path for walking and cycling along the corridor makes sense, and wouldn’t substantially impact on the nature reserve.”
Minister Steel said that with the completion of Majura Parkway, the upcoming completion of Stage 1 light rail on Northbourne Avenue and the full duplication of Gungahlin Drive, plans for Monash Drive were no longer needed.
The ACT Greens, which negotiated with Labor in 2008 to abandon Monash Drive as part of the Parliamentary Agreement, urged the NCA to reverse its decision and take the ‘ghost road’ off the map.
“The National Capital Authority has again reneged on its commitment to Canberra by refusing to take this last century ‘ghost road’ off the map,” Greens Member for Kurrajong Shane Rattenbury said.
“The Greens have argued for the abandonment of Monash Drive for many years. Following the 2008 election, we required Labor to abandon this road through our Parliamentary Agreement.
“The NCA needs to get with the times. We simply don’t need a new major road built through North Canberra’s suburbs. This is not the time to build last century’s roads to meet this century’s needs.”