Fireworks flare over West Basin redevelopment plans

Ian Bushnell 5 May 2020 79
West Basin

The realigned West Basin, the new boardwalk and reclaimed lake bed. Apartment blocks are planned for the rear of the site where there are currently car parks. Images: ACT Government.

The lodging of a works application for the second stage of the West Basin boardwalk development has reignited the bitter row over the ACT Government’s plans for the key lakeside area.

City Renewal Authority CEO Malcolm Snow’s claim on ABC Radio this morning that a small group of opponents want to keep the Acton waterfront as it is has provoked a withering response from the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians, who for years have been fighting development plans that will include multi-storey apartment blocks.

The Guardians’ Juliet Ramsay said the group had always recognised that Acton Park had great potential to be an attraction for the community and visitors alike, but the ACT Government had for several years ignored it and implied that the Guardians would like the place left in a time warp.

”The ACT Government is now pushing the development as the natural extension of Henry Rolland Park which is a concrete-dominated pocket park with a gym and designer barbecues,” she said.

”The shared bike/car and pedestrian traffic arrangement is an accident waiting to happen and the viewing platform extending into the lake has damaged the clear water plane of the water axis viewed from Acton Peninsula.”

Ms Ramsay said the National Capital Authority had failed in its obligation to protect the area’s heritage and continually doctored the National Capital Plan to accommodate the development plan.

”The NCA and the Board should be thrown out,” she said.

The works approval is for a 500 metre by 8.1 metre-wide extension of the boardwalk extending north from Henry Rolland Park, street lighting and street furniture, the removal of 120 trees, demolition of the former boat hire building and jetty, and land reclamation works between the current lake edge and the newly constructed boardwalk.

It is part of an overall plan for a public park and spaces in front of possibly 2000 apartments.

Mr Snow said the CRA was creating a place for all Canberrans that prioritised public access and would be another events venue by the lake, with any future development set substantially back from the waterfront.

”We see it as a new destination not only for locals but visitors,” he said.

He said the area where residential development was planned was an unpleasant area of car parks, and 30 per cent of that would be public spaces, including a network of streets and lanes linking back to the city centre.

”What’s important, though, is that as the city moves down to the lake edge we manage the height and form of development, and that the maximum height will only be no more than six or seven storeys and step down to the lake edge,” he said.

West Basin park and boardwalk

A render of the eventual West Basin park and boardwalk.

But there would be a 50-metre park perimeter by the lake.

Ms Ramsay said the proposed lake infill extended out 80 metres but the public would lose 10.8 hectares of parkland for a 25-metre strip that includes a promenade and bike path and occasional cafes all sitting over lake infill. The infill would need to settle for two years and most of the development was to provide services for the anticipated 2000-odd apartments.

”The public is being sold a pup with [the government] just advertising the waterfront with more space from the infill that will take two years to consolidate. But then the apartments will start to take over,” she said.

The Guardians also believe the project was one the ACT could ill-afford and would need the apartments to pay for it.

Ms Ramsay said the outcome would be a worse-than-mediocre development that cast cold winter shadows over the limited public area.

Mr Snow said the plans were consistent with the Griffins’ original idea for the lake, something the Guardians bitterly contest.

”West Basin will be half the size of East Basin so the three-basin lake composition once carefully planned will cease,” Ramsay said.

Mr Snow said the project would be a tightly controlled development under close scrutiny from the NCA and the community.

Future works approvals will be submitted later this year for site establishment, temporary traffic management and construction, temporary landscaping and activation of the reclaimed land. Stormwater works plans are expected to be submitted next year.

The NCA has opened public consultation on the boardwalk extensions and land reclamation project. Submissions will close on 22 May.


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79 Responses to Fireworks flare over West Basin redevelopment plans
Krystelle Poulos Krystelle Poulos 12:01 am 11 May 20

I agree that it’s important to have people standing up for the design of Canberra, however I disagree with the ‘Guardians’ dispute on this matter. I believe the development will actually strengthen the cultural and heritage value of the lake. The area is currently quite unpleasant, looking forward to the improvements 🙌

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:23 am 09 May 20

I can’t see what all the outrage is about. There are no “heritage” issues here – people need to recall that Lake (Walter) Burley Griffin is artificial, like the rest of Canberra and it’s just another boring precinct of concrete edifices in the making for the wealthy.

Sacha Blumen Sacha Blumen 5:31 am 09 May 20

Ah West Basin - such a lovely place ATM with delights including an old shuttered jetty/boat house and ‘Acton Beach’ (???). Who wouldn’t want no improvement to it?

Stephen Spencer Stephen Spencer 10:18 pm 08 May 20

I’m sorry but who are these guardians? Who appointed them? Is membership open to anyone? West Basin is an eyesore and a desert, almost devoid of humans. The work done near the bridge is brilliant and the sooner this extends to the whole basin the better.

Ctl_Alt_Del Ctl_Alt_Del 3:49 pm 08 May 20

Pre-Covid I used the gym at Henry Rolland Park most every afternoon. It’s great BUT bitterly cold in winter and in summer ferociously hot. The cushioned surface is so hot you can’t touch it. Facilities like this are good but much more thought needs to go into protection from the elements.

Can I suggest if the ACT Gov plans on some kind of community access building on the West Basin, they relocate M16, 2XX, develop an artist in residence program and accommodation and add a 500 seat live venue with band rehearsal rooms and a professional recording studio….plus the obligatory coffee shop of course 😉
The arts always bring locations alive.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:15 pm 09 May 20

    “…….The cushioned surface is so hot you can’t touch it….”

    The people who designed it are probably all climate warmists. What a joke.

Joshua Vaile Joshua Vaile 7:00 am 07 May 20

This is nearly 20 years overdue

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 10:31 pm 06 May 20

There should be a broad swathe of shady green park, not a hot shadeless boardwalk. Haven’t we learnt from the unbearable heat along the concrete Kingston Foreshore walk?

Bolbi Bolbi 10:03 pm 06 May 20

A few predictions:
-Once the apartments are built the balloon festival will be cancelled because balloons have to go up to 1000ft if within 300m of housing. The viable pathway will be narrowed so the number of days they can fly will be even further reduced.
-Tram commuters won’t be happy walking along the boardwalk when there is a strong southerly wind coming across the lake. Currently, commuters are protected by a bit of a windbreak from the trees
-Locals will wish they had access to some open space.
-Visitors to events in Commonwealth Park will wish there was more parking, knowing that their full car is equally as environmentally friendly as a bus or tram.

    JC JC 9:12 pm 07 May 20

    If there is no development what commuters are “currently” protected by these trees?

    As for the balloons there already is housing fairly close to the lake and near where the balloons are low in Campbell.

    And visitors to commonwealth park using the carparks, on time they are used are Floriade, which should be cancelled for ever and skyfire. But skyfire you would be mad to park there anyway when walk an extra 10 minutes from city west you will get a carpark and even with the wall will get out 20 minutes earlier anyway.

    Bolbi Bolbi 9:10 pm 20 May 20

    There are plenty of commuters who are currently affected, but the point is that if the boardwalk is against the foreshore then both current and future commuters will be affected.
    The balloons will take about 400m from the lake compared to current impact. Campbell has nothing to do with it as the balloons rely on an easterly morning breeze. Everyone will be impacted.
    You should see who currently parks for the fireworks. You are obviously completely ignorant to how the area is currently utilised.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 7:54 pm 06 May 20

Why are we so worried about what is essentially a man made silt trap? After all, we drain the streets and storm water from North Canberra into it.

    Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 7:55 pm 06 May 20

    its the vibe of thing

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 7:57 pm 06 May 20

    Hamish Sinclair mosquitoes in summer, blue green algae and discarded Maccas wrappers do not give me any vibe

    Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 7:58 pm 06 May 20

    Bill Gemmell i'm feeling that vibe

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:14 pm 06 May 20

The ACT Budget was in trouble before the virus hit, so like it or not, stuff like this will keep happening to rake in the desperately needed revenue – but it’s a shame that the reality (if this one is true to form) will probably be a long way from the lovely fantasy shown in the promo video which was run on last night’s TV news.

Mark Dando Mark Dando 2:45 pm 06 May 20

It's good to see the pushback here against the self-appointed LBG 'Guardians' and their campaign to stop the overdue rejuvenation of West Basin. I can't see any 'fireworks' myself, nor a 'bitter row' nor a 'withering' response to the ACT Government's proposal by this bunch of grey grumbletonians (to quote Ian Warden of the CT). The shabby West Basin parking lot is a legacy of the 1960s NCDC planners who buried the Griffins' vision for a human-scale city under a maze of dinky little freeways & cloverleafs with no provision for pedestrians let alone cyclists. Kingston Foreshore shows what can be achieved by bringing residents to the lakeshore. At Acton, the proposed south-facing development is appropriately set back from the waters edge, leaving plenty of public open space.

astro2 astro2 1:44 pm 06 May 20

The problem with some of these groups and the reason they are spiralling into irrelevance is that they don’t have any positive ideas for the growth and development, just say ‘no’ to any and all development, of Canberra. This is what gives them their negative reputation. If they looked at this proposal overall and said ‘Well, the principle is good, (more lake access, a livelier cityscape but we would like to see the following things incorporated into the overall design or include certain design features.’ People may listen to them a bit more then. It is ironic that a lot of them are baby boomers who were born into an era in Australia of unprecedented growth and they benefited from this – jobs, prosperity, housing, infrastructure etc. however when it comes to others sharing in the benefits of future growth they just fold their arms and stamp their feet: “No no no.” It’s a shame, they should think about how they can contribute to the prosperity of future generations.

    Spiral Spiral 6:18 am 09 May 20

    I agree.

    The area is currently not very attractive and is under used.

    There is scope for some great developments there.

    The ACT government doesn’t have a great record on development, but working with them to try and achieve a better result is more useful than just opposing any development.

Colette Robinson Colette Robinson 8:57 am 06 May 20

A consistently well lit share path to Acton peninsula connecting from a Stage 2 light rail station would be most welcome.

🚴‍♀️🚊

    Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 9:41 am 06 May 20

    All in favour of improving public access via broad well lit accessible paths. If it’s in the central area, we can’t really pretend it’s natural. The land is there to be used.

    I don’t think filling in some of the lake is a good idea. Looks like they want to build apartments on the existing land, and the public land is former lake. We're being shortchanged here.

    Not keen on the massive expense of the tram. It’s old technology. The vehicle industry is investing heavily in autonomous vehicles. Why would I want to travel to and from a tram stop in my daily journey when I can take a robot Uber for a lower price door to door?

    Colette Robinson Colette Robinson 9:46 am 06 May 20

    Some people need public transport. Don’t need it? Then don’t use it and don’t campaign against the mobility needs of others who don’t have as much privilege as you.

chewy14 chewy14 8:43 am 06 May 20

Wheres the major fight?

The opposition to this development are a tiny group of self appointed whingers who would seemingly prefer that the area remains empty car parks rather than creating a space that would actively liven an almost completely unused area of the lake and link it to the city proper.

And it’s mighty ironic that these “guardians” are complaining about not wanting development around this area of a man made lake.

There might be plenty of things to complain about in Canberra but this isn’t one of them.

    JS9 JS9 10:29 am 06 May 20

    Amen to that Chewy.

    While I’m happy for people to say the proposed designs are rubbish, need to be improved etc – I just don’t get the fight over development of that area. It is absolutely underutilised – a bunch of car parks, and a shore line that only gets any use by the community at all because the path around the lakes goes through there.

    Most of these ‘guardians’ don’t even live in Canberra to begin with. And as you say – whining about development around a man made lake.

    I want to see quality development to happen on the site, but the outrage over this absolutely baffles me…

Alison Gerrard Alison Gerrard 8:30 am 06 May 20

Peter Mackay, totally agree. The idea of this development occuring at the west basin is not progress, nor attractive. It is erosion of yet another public place in Canberra for the benefit of a few.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:00 pm 06 May 20

    Alison Gerrard you taking about the carparks? Because that’s all that is there now.

    Alison Gerrard Alison Gerrard 5:02 am 08 May 20

    Ashley Wright, that's because the area has been neglected over the years dispanding the ferry terminal and paddle boats. The amenity could be restored along with the parklands. That option, rather than 2000 apartments would be more attractive to every Canberran.

Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:59 am 06 May 20

Stick with Walter Burley Griffin's Designs and concepts please. He was visionary and all about the people.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 2:20 pm 06 May 20

    Monty Ki the irony with your comment is what Griffin planned is closer to what is being proposed than what the NCDC built.

    The Griffin plan had a smaller more rounded West basin with roads (and presumably) development along those roads. There was one road on the edge of the lake with side roads heading back towards Acton.

Sue Elliott Sue Elliott 3:59 am 06 May 20

Everywhere you turn in Canberra the local government wants to build on. These sites have clearly been left for Canberra to enjoy. Weston at Coolo another classic example... another car park! You've put new suburbs out to them west down to Coppins Crossing. I was devasted when I saw that. I used to take the cub pack down to do some of their badge projects. Desecration at its best! Someone knock some sense into this government.

Angry would be an understatement!

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 2:23 pm 06 May 20

    Sue Elliott presumably the land where you live was desecrated to make way for your suburb and land. That would be land that others may well have farmed or plate on.

    The core issue is the population is growing and there is no realistic way to put up full signs fo elsewhere. So people need to be housed.

    Sue Elliott Sue Elliott 3:06 pm 06 May 20

    I'm no denying any of it regarding housing Ashley. The things that disappoints me the most is that is there is less and less green space for kids to explore and play safely. Some of those play areas in the new suburbs are on major roads.

    The government has been talking for a number of years now about moving some of the public service out of Canberra.

    Anyway, like you I'm entitled to my whinge.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:27 pm 06 May 20

    Sue Elliott I live in a new suburb, Gungahlin not Molongolo and I couldn’t disagree more about play areas.

    And yes there is less and less green space, that’s what happens when a population expands and I am sure that the people who played on the land your home is built might have said the same thing as you.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 11:33 pm 05 May 20

I don't get this design - it has little beauty. I can't see how this represents anything like Griffin's man made West Basin curve.

The design logic as to how that strangely arched board walk will connect to the remaining West Basin foreshore around to the National Musuem isnt apparent either.

The loss of 70% of public landscape is a significant loss and something that the recent Covid pandemic has highlighted is critical to the success of our lake landscape for providing public health and recreation opportunities.

You only have to go to the lake every day to see that there are ever increasing numbers of people engaging in both passive and active recreation, especially on the soft landscapes and those all too narrow bike paths.

A healthy city cannot keep developing high rise apartments and not provide sufficient open space for those who inhabit them let alone the rest of the population who are drawn to these spaces on a daily basis.

David Newman David Newman 10:10 pm 05 May 20

I don’t mind the idea of improving this area of the lake’s surrounds but can’t see why they need to waste so much effort and money to change the shoreline by so much and backfill the area. What’s the intent? Just to make a nice curve?

Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 9:28 pm 05 May 20

just a minor point, the Federal govt approved this plan in 2007 so get on with it. the nation decides .

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