More than thirty years ago there was a very vocal community campaign to halt the complete takeover of Glebe Park.
The proposal by a large development company in partnership with the then government (how things change!) was to take out the trees and to change the northern section the park to an event space for a garden show titled The Tivoli Gardens. There were several other things to go in the southern parts of the site (it was much bigger then).
The business sector plus the government of the day set out to convinced the community that doing away with this historic green space and plonking this new event there would bring people into Civic, boost business and be a major tourist attraction.
In the end the larger proposal was killed off. The casino, hotel and convention centre went ahead on the southern sections.
As a consequence the sensible and logical decision was made to establish a flower show down by the lake in Commonwealth Park West. This is Floriade as we know it today.
Canberra benefits hugely from this annual event and its location is perfect. It is down by the lake and allows for people to get there without disrupting any neighbourhoods. It is a brilliant outcome! It is a local, national and international success story.
Disturbingly we now have the totally insane situation whereby the National Capital Authority (NCA) has decided that 2017 will be the last year that Floriade is to be held on this lakeside site.
The ACT Chief Minister when faced with this dilemma has chosen to ignore history, ignore the local community (again) and has chosen to risk opening up yet another fight with the local communities.
Mysteriously the ACT Government looks as though they are about to reignite a fight that the community had won in the early 1980s.
The site being proposed is Glebe Park. The case for this site is that having Floriade in Glebe Park would bring people into Civic, boost business and be a major tourist attraction. History is being repeated!
Gradually the residents are being softened up for the change of venue of Floriade from the lakeside park managed by the NCA on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
Articles are being placed in the local paper with the help of journalists. The business sector is onside as they see no harm with interfering with this local heritage site, that just happens to be a wonderful parkland and is loved by and used by so many people.
Surely the Chief Minister and his bureaucracy have learnt from their experiences with Westside, Dickson, Yarralumla and Telopea Park. Surely they have come to realise that the Canberra community actually cares about our urban spaces and in particular our open spaces and wonderful parklands.
Locals will not be thankful to the Chief Minister and his development bureaucrats if one day they are confronted with hundreds of thousands of tourists arriving in the neighbourhood looking for parking. They will also be very resentful if this fabulous park is taken over for most of the year for an event such as Floriade – which is fabulously successful where it is right now.
Surely it is time that the ACT Government put a permanent claim on the use of Commonwealth Park West for a multitude of Canberra events such as Floriade.
Glebe Park is a park. It is not and should never be turned into an event space for Floriade that will take over major parts of the space for most of the year given the plant preparation time, the event itself and then the time it takes to remove all the stuff required.
Glebe Park is a gem on the side of Civic. It is a beautiful green space that is enjoyed by all sorts of people.
I say to this Chief Minister: Get someone outside your bureaucracy to talk to you about the value to the community of parks such as Glebe Park. Maybe even go for a stroll and have your lunch there several times and observe just how wonderful it is to be in a park.
That’s what parks are for. For enjoyment — and it is amazing what benefits such a place has on busy people’s health and well-being.
Please do not even think about letting this happen.