20 April 2023

Go back 30 years and Tuggeranong was booming. What's happening now?

| James Coleman
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Tuggeranong Homeworld

Tuggeranong Homeworld. Photo: Sentinel.

It’s no secret Gungahlin is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia, and there’s no sign of slowing.

Not only are the two new suburbs of Jacka and Kenny set to come online in the next five years, but the ACT Government is also brokering a deal with NSW to extend the north-western border near Hall to take in the greenfield development of Ginninderry.

And recent population predictions from the ACT Treasury expect Canberra to be home to 800,000 people in 40 years’ time, with most in the inner north, Molonglo Valley and Belconnen.

This is reflected in the ACT Government’s indicative land-release program too, with most of the new 30,000 dwellings over the next five years slated for Gungahlin, Belconnen and the Molonglo Valley.

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In all this, there’s a conspicuous absence.

Tuggeranong still has the second-biggest share of the ACT’s population at 19 per cent, after Belconnen (23 per cent). But over the next 40 years, as the other districts take off, Tuggeranong and Weston Creek are expected to be left behind.

“Established and relatively aged districts … like Tuggeranong and Weston Creek are either projected to shrink or grow marginally in population by 2060,” the ACT Treasury report read.

This is in stark contrast to a generation ago, when the southernmost district was booming to the point where the population centre – or spot closest to most Canberrans, on average – sat midway between the inner south and Woden Valley. And it was inching further south.


The population centre is the figurative spot closest to most Canberrans, on average, and it’s now headed over Black Mountain. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

But a recent analysis by ABC Canberra revealed the ACT’s population centre has been moving north at a speed of about 27 centimetres a day since the turn of the century, as more people take up residence further north.

It entered Lake Burley Griffin about the time the COVID pandemic began and is now crossing the Black Mountain Reserve.

But will the population centre ever head back down? Or, to put it another way, what’s happening to ”the deep south”?

It’s true several apartment complexes have exploded alongside Tuggeranong Creek over the past 10 years – enough to send the percentage of the district’s single detached dwellings down from 87 per cent in 2016 to 80 in 2021.

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Following a period of consultation, the ACT Government has committed $4.75 million for “design and construct improvements” across the Lake Tuggeranong foreshore later this year, which – in turn – follows a redevelopment of the main road, Anketell Street. The main shopping mall of South.Point has also welcomed several new stores over the years, to the point where it now dwarfs Westfield Woden.

Earlier this year, the Government handed down a glimpse of the future in its draft district strategies, which “identify areas for future growth across our city”.

“These areas include land for residential homes, community infrastructure including schools, and commercial purposes,” an ACT Government spokesperson told Region.

The strategy for Tuggeranong reflects the meagre population projections, with growth largely resting on the laurels of light rail.

artist impression of boardwalk upgrade

An artist’s impression of the Government’s plans for an upgraded Lake Tuggeranong boardwalk. Image: ACT Government.

“The areas with the best overall suitability for future growth are generally concentrated in the town centre and northern half of the district, aligned with the Athllon Drive corridor and the indicative future light rail route, the group centres and town centre, and much of Kambah,” the draft district strategy reads.

“The suburbs furthest south generally show a lower ranking in relative suitability, influenced by travel distances and accessibility to facilities and services.”

There are more reasons why new suburbs are off the cards for Tuggeranong, including the Government’s policy for up to 70 per cent of the ACT’s new homes to be built within the existing urban footprint (otherwise known as ”infill”).

“We know that infill development is cheaper to build, and therefore to buy, and makes for a more compact and sustainable city,” the spokesperson said.

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“We don’t want to see urban sprawl that increases travel time and impacts on the environment.”

Tuggeranong is also locked in by the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on the west, the NSW border to the east, and the Rob Roy Range Nature Reserve to the south. And the one sliver of available land, just over the Murrumbidgee River on the west, was discounted early on.

“West Murrumbidgee should not be considered for development as it contains significant areas of yellow box and red gum grassy woodland endangered ecological community and secondary grassland,” the former Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) department wrote to then Planning Minister Andrew Barr in 2010.

“In addition to the conservation values, TAMS has also highlighted the fire risks associated with development in this location.”

ACT map

The ACT Government’s 30-year plan for Canberra, displaying the Western Edge. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government spokesperson confirmed with Region development over the river is ruled out due to “the huge costs of development”.

“It is also important that we maintain a buffer between the urban fringe and Namadgi National Park.”

For now, the only plans to expand the ACT’s footprint are centred on what’s dubbed the ”Western Edge”. This area, still on the eastern side of the river, measures 9800 hectares and is bordered by Belconnen, Molonglo Valley, Weston Creek and the top of Tuggeranong.

The Government is still investigating what this will look like, but closer to the heart of the city, it’s expected to have the most growth when it comes to job opportunities and property values over the next few decades.

So, for the foreseeable future, it seems the ACT’s population centre will continue its relentless march north.

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I think that Tuggeranong has a geographic disadvantage over more northerly regions like Belconnen and Gunghalin – it’s more remote from the center (Civic and the Parliamentary triangle) and therefore less attractive – or more importantly PERCEIVED to be more remote.

Yes perception is a dangerous thing. In reality, Tuggers is not that far from anywhere else in Canberra. It took me 18 minutes to get to Bunnings at the Airport from my home in Tuggers yesterday. Not a whole lot of time.

P “フィル” C8:35 pm 21 Apr 23

The issue is the government increasing blows its entire budget on Belconnen and Gungahlin and trickle feeds what left over funds South…

And rather than link north to south with the light rail they cut all the bus routes from south to north and divert the light rail to western rather that logically do a straight line from Woden to Tuggeranong effective linking 4 of the major town centres ….

South side cant even get enough worker to keep the stores open and for most business owners it’s not the most viable location to do Business because of ACT governments crap management and don’t get me started on the blatant decision making housing act is doing to put all the bat shit crazy and dumpster trash lowlifes on Kambah and Surrounding Woden neighbourhoods I think I see a new crime every week being commited and their is absolutely no police when needed

So I dunno what’s someone that’s lived and loved living on South side gotta do to see this side of town get some love

Gregg Heldon8:35 am 21 Apr 23

I’m happy to be back living in Tuggeranong. In a brand new Townhouse and a 20 second walk from the lake and a 20 minute walk to the Hyperdome (can’t bring myself to call it South Point). Woden, if needed is an 8-10 minute drive away and our vet is a 12 minute drive in Weston but I have loved Tuggeranong since we first moved her in March 1976 and have come back twice now.
It’s open. Spacious. Has great views of the Brindies. Decent people. It could do with a few improvements like a couple of live music venues, a more comprehensive walk in clinic, or a second one in Lanyon and more footpaths (the ones on the western side of Drakeford Dr in Greenway don’t flow and bitsy).
I don’t need the puffery and pretentiousness of Braddon. Happy in Tuggers.

Tuggeranong was missed over for internet services with Gungahlin getting Greenfield’s fttp labors fibre FTTP through NBN.
Tuggeranong was last to even get the FTTN with many still on dialup internet until the last of nbn was completed.
This was a choice of governments at the time and limited tuggeranong to the elderly or those that didn’t care about working from home.

Roads were planned to be separated and are only half done and much more road spending is done elsewhere.
Tuggeranong is declining but because it was planned to.
City is the apparent centre of town with Tuggeranong and Woden both benefiting from a city to Woden transport link. However gungahlin was put in first.

There is a push from the left to recentralise Canberra further north. They claim they are following old plans but they are choosing which parts to follow. The city centre with raised London circuit was Griffins plan they say, however when to comes Tuggeranong we have to wait for federal funding to get the promised dual carriage ways and other investments. They are consistently inconsistently

At least Tuggers got a big federal government departmnet based down there plus other office based employers, Gunners has zero employment base

HiddenDragon8:22 pm 20 Apr 23

All that’s really missing from this article is Dueling Banjos playing in the background.

If current population projections for Canberra prove to be anywhere near accurate, Tuggeranong and Weston Creek will be rediscovered and revived – sooner or later, and maybe without some of the mistakes which are being rushed into on the other side of the Lake.

Nick Stevens6:42 am 21 Apr 23

Exactly, as per population projections, the increase will be in part migrant groups with larger families, looking for something resembling affordable housing, the larger blocks allowing multiple unit housing. Absurd to think of Canberra at 800,000 and Tuggeranong not in the mix.

ChrisinTurner4:48 pm 20 Apr 23

Canberra has a major problem by having the same north/south residential dimension as Sydney, but the ACT has no metro rail system. Government departments had problems recruiting if they were at the airport, much less Tuggeranong. The tram will take at least an hour to get to Tuggers if we can ever afford to finish it. A city in Europe with the same population as Canberra would be about the size of Belconnen.

“A city in Europe with the same population as Canberra would be about the size of Belconnen.”


Whoever wrote this article does not recall when the Hyperdome was built, many of the shop owners were going broke as there wasn’t enough nearby population to support it, and they done it tough for a number of years.

Notwithstanding that it may be seen as an excuse to not maintain the region, I don’t mind that Tuggers isn’t going to necessarily grow.

I have always preferred the feeling of more space down south. Views of the ranges and why feels like more open spaces.

Gov needs to maintain transport corridors – really starting to age and definitely need more lanes – especially the Tuggers Parkway which got ditched for upgrades due to the light rail project.

Whitepointer3:53 pm 20 Apr 23

100% Couldn’t agree more!

Though Ginninderry and Gungahlin have no relation and are not even close.

Capital Retro9:28 am 20 Apr 23

“So, for the foreseeable future, it seems the ACT’s population centre will continue its relentless march north.”

Let’s hope so because Tuggers is fine just the way it is.

As a many year former resident of Tuggeranong,
Tuggers won’t be fine as it is……
if it continues to lose schools, sporting facilities, bus services, shops, entertainment options, jobs and younger generations.

It will ultimately create unexpected headaches where you start to lose the things you value. Your GP moves elsewhere, your favourite coffee shop moves to Coombs, your mechanic loses business, your gym closes, you can’t get reasonable public transport to anywhere, etc etc.

Yes, agree with that BJ.

It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy in that the government’s lack of attention and funds in areas like Tuggeranong/Weston and to lesser extents Belconnen means that the areas degrade and become less liveable and attractive over time.

Capital Retro2:12 pm 20 Apr 23

My GP moved – he has moved before, so what? I don’t have a favourite coffee shop, my mechanic died (people die you know), my gym was never in Tuggers, I have never used public transport anywhere in Canberra.

Why did you leave Tuggeranong?

And chewy, “less liveable and less attractive” means different things to other folk. We are all doomed by global warming anyhow so anything you suggest is academic.

“And chewy, “less liveable and less attractive” means different things to other folk”

Yes, I suppose some people like living in slums without access to services, amenities amd degrading infrastructure.

The vast majority of people disagree though.

Capital Retro5:05 pm 20 Apr 23

Plenty of homes selling now in Tuggeranong for $1.5m+, chewy. It’s time you got on your E-scooter, put on your tin hat and had a look.

Capital Retro,
You do realise we are talking about what will happen 10,20,30 years in the future if these predictions of population decline actually happen right?

What do you think will happen to house prices then?

You already whinge about rates and government service provision now, if you can’t see what will likely happen in that type of future scenario, then I can’t help you.

Running wild11:01 pm 20 Apr 23

What are you talking about. There will be no decline in population. Just no growth unless they find more ways to build these disgusting apartment blocks like they have all around tuggeranong. Northside had more areas to develop over the years, that is not tuggeranong or the government’s fault.

I would rather a nice big block Southfield then Northfield blocks where your neighbours are 2mtrs from your toilet window. People in Canberra act like it’s so far to drive to get to a service they want. So I have to drive 10mins to a mechanic or coffee shop. Wow, do that in Sydney. It’s like 30mins from one end to another, settle down, we will survive in our big blocks 🤦

Capital Retro8:56 am 21 Apr 23

As long as the government fails to give incentives to move from Tuggers I will stay here.

I won’t be alive in 10,20,30 years so I am not concerned about what happens.

“I won’t be alive in 10,20,30 years so I am not concerned about what happens.”

Um, why are you commenting on what will happen in the future then?

Capital Retro7:38 pm 21 Apr 23

I’m not – i clearly said I am happy the way things are.

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