5 May 2020

Fireworks flare over West Basin redevelopment plans

| Ian Bushnell
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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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Capital Retro8:23 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.

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 Retro12:15 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

HiddenDragon7:14 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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

Juliet Ramsay has once again demonstrated that she is either ignorant of the Griffins’ plan for Canberra, or worse, has chosen to wilfully misrepresent fundamental aspects of it to suit her own agenda.

Her comment on the size of the artificial basins is a case in point. In the Griffins’ Plan, the presence of Acton Peninsula meant that West Basin was noticeably smaller than East Basin:


Realigning the West Basin foreshore to align with the Griffins’ geometry will not in any way alter this relationship. To suggest otherwise requires some serious mental gymnastics.

How is it the LBG guardians don’t realise the deals done? Gov split stage 2 of light rail to ensure they could sell the city to the lake project to developers. Land swaps done(let’s face it that’s probably been in the bag for awhile). Now the obligatory public consultation to tick the box. All for it, sounds like a good source of jobs going forward.

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