A petition calling for the North Curtin Horse Paddock to be saved from being developed as a diplomatic estate for new embassies has attracted more than 200 supporters, including local Liberal MLA Giulia Jones.
Mrs Jones has also posted a video cover on Facebook of the Joni Mitchell classic Big Yellow Taxi with the revised chorus ”they paved paradise, put up an apartment block”. The video features photos from the paddocks, 70 per cent of which were transferred to the Commonwealth in a land swap deal with the ACT Government, which gained West Basin on Lake Burley Griffin in return.
The deal was done in March so the government could progress its plans for developing West Basin as part of its City to the Lake program. About 2,000 apartments have been mooted for the lakeside area below New Acton and west of Commonwealth Avenue.
Mrs Jones admits undoing the deal is unlikely but says the horseriding and local communities deserve to have their say and be heard.
”The biggest issue is a lack of consultation and an executive decision being made by the government to trade off the Curtin horse paddocks for West Basin so that they can build apartments,” she says.
The nature of the deal, which was made under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis and blindsided the ACT Equestrian Association, also raises questions about development decision making in the ACT and the future of other open spaces and horse paddocks.
”Those horse paddocks are a part of my electorate and people like them being there, and why was this decision made without discussing it with residents in Curtin?” she says.
”And can any open land be traded off for whatever Andrew Barr thinks is the next priority?”
Singing for the electorate!!!!I’ve been pondering the distress being caused by the government’s land swap with the NCA which will see both the Curtin horse paddocks and the west basin eventually bulldozed. I have a lot of sympathy for those who want neither. The Curtin land for some embassy… and west basin for more appartments, so I thought of this song, “…they paved paradise” and my daughter, a tech whizz, and I have worked up this cover of the Joni Mitchell Song Big Yellow Taxi! If you don’t want paradise paved again under this government’s watch… sign the petition put together by some locals… have your say! Link in the comments. Enjoy!
Posted by Giulia Jones on Sunday, 26 April 2020
Mrs Jones says the government is not being open about its development agenda and excluding ordinary Canberrans from the conversation.
”It’s about who you know, not what you know in Canberra now, and the normal people are being left out of the discussion,” she says.
The North Curtin deal also highlights the government’s bias towards apartments, and possible development along the light rail Stage 2 route on Yarra Glen, Mrs Jones says.
While the Canberra Liberals are calling for greater housing opportunities for Canberrans, she says the future of Canberra is not only infill.
If the horse paddocks were ever to be considered for housing there needs to be an open and transparent debate, ”not foisted on people as a fait accompli”.
But the horse trail network should be preserved because once lost it will never be replaced, Mrs Jones says.
”I am not saying we shouldn’t develop and we shouldn’t progress but where is the clear plan? And where is bringing the people along and where’s the vision of where we’re going to?” she says.
Mrs Jones says the COVID-19 crisis highlighted how well Canberra and its green spaces have protected its people from the virus.
“Until the crisis hit, none of us appreciated it quite as much as when having to go walking with our families to get our exercise. And suddenly we go, ‘gee, this is a well-organised city for this kind of difficult time'”, she says.
Mrs Jones may contribute to the National Capital Authority’s upcoming consultation on a draft amendment to the National Capital Plan, which will pave the way for its plans for the North Curtin Horse Paddocks.
It is expected to begin in mid-May and run for 30 business days. The NCA says it is considering how best to engage with the community during the COVID-19 restrictions.
The NCA says there are a number of countries interested in establishing new embassies in Curtin but it is not in a position to say which ones at this early stage.
It will be another two years before horse owners will have to move.