Gungahlin is a future slum – Really?

Paul Costigan 8 January 2018 166


Photos: Paul Costigan.

Photos: Paul Costigan.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote on the threats to biodiversity caused through inappropriate developments across Canberra. One responder commented, “some of the new suburbs look like slums in the making with too much concrete.”

Someone else then stated that they were tired (insulted) with the linking others were making between high-density developments (such as in Gungahlin) and that these developments were to be the future slums. They did agree that much of the recently built medium and low-density new construction are poorly designed, constructed and unattractive.

I doubt that any parts of Gungahlin will become a slum any time soon. So yes – I agree with the inappropriateness of that first statement.

But given the nature of planning regime here in Canberra and many other precincts nationally and internationally, the possibilities are endless for bad outcomes in our urban areas due to short-term profits being made at the cost of a reasonable level of sustainability, green infrastructure, and 21st-century urban amenities.

What we have in recent suburban developments is a hands-off approach that compares badly to the common sense we used to see implemented through real planning processes.

Both my photos used in this post are of Kambah. This area was planned and developed with a neighbourhood character. Decades on it remains an inviting urban environment.

I doubt whether later areas of Gungahlin will ever have the equivalent urban forest (both on the streets and in the backyards) and will ever be able to accommodate an equivalent healthy and complex biodiversity.

The problems for these newer suburbs with concentrations of badly designed (cookie cutter bland) apartments and large houses on small blocks will become more apparent as the effects of climate change result in a rise in average temperatures. These new areas have little greenery (shade) and very little chance of much being introduced.

They are also already heavily dependent on energy sources to cool and to heat. They will require a greater usage of energy into the future. There is no sign of energy becoming cheaper. Given the politics and the other goings-on in the energy sector, this essential service is likely to become even more expensive.

Canberra is not alone in building suburbs and developments that are not what was promised and are instead problems waiting to happen given the inevitability of rising temperatures.

This city has had several versions of planning authorities and many planning, urban and environmental ministers during the last decades. All have had available to them data on what not to do – and how to go about planning and developing urban areas for the 21st century and how to address the issues relating to climate change.

Yet here in Canberra, as with other cities, the government continues to roll out developments that are poorly designed, constructed and unattractive – as well as containing very little contemporary features to address sustainability issues and to ensure less use of energy.

People now occupy precious homes – whether it be stand-alone, terrace housing, town house or apartment – in the newer suburbs of Gungahlin. They would have done this with the belief that what they were buying would meet all the current standards.

The trouble being all the evidence points to the standards required have suited the developers’ requirements (profit and less ‘red’ tape) but sadly have not met what should be 21st-century user (resident) expectations.

The damage is done.

What to do now?

A quick scan through government policy identifies that at least in theory or on paper, this government is taking some serious actions to deal with climate change threats in other areas of its responsibilities. Yet in the area of planning and development, it is as if the government is consciously ignoring these matters.

Those responsible are being willfully blind to these matters.

Maybe they realise the obvious. The detrimental effects that are to flow and reduce the livability of the newer suburbs are to occur when the present bureaucracy and politicians have departed. They realise that it will fall to the next generations of politicians and bureaucrats to deal with these serious issues. So why bother?

To be honest, the solutions are not going to be simple, easy or cheap. However they are issues that the current government cannot go on neglecting. Solutions need to be found as good people are living in the newer developments. They deserve to know that the politician they elect cares for the future of their suburbs – no matter what mistakes have already been made.

The responsibility to put in place significant changes that will assist with the urgent climate change adaptation required must now fall to the current ACT Government.

It is time for these matters to be talked about openly and for this ACT Government to work out how to deal with them.

And most importantly – it is time to stop questionable developments and to put in place some real building and development standards to deal with the all the contemporary issues relevant to the various areas of Canberra.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Comment below.

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166 Responses to Gungahlin is a future slum – Really?
Anwar Arif Anwar Arif 6:13 pm 17 Jan 18

Amanda Innes exactly what I've been saying.... 🤔

Sue Whitaker Sue Whitaker 9:05 am 17 Jan 18

I agree that ACT wa lovely when the Fed Govt managed it

Margaret Bertoldo Margaret Bertoldo 8:15 pm 16 Jan 18

When the Fed Govt managed ACT the appearance was 👍

Carolyn Eade Carolyn Eade 5:57 pm 16 Jan 18

That's what happens when you try to get lots of places in small areas. Comes down to who gives approval. Contractors always struggle to keep up if there is lots of rain about

Mick Kenny Mick Kenny 4:37 pm 16 Jan 18

......and as the Nations Capital the appearance of all suburbs is down right ugly.... Overgown verges and parks are abundant.... It looks like the contractor who mows is overworked or slack....

Mia Cliff Mia Cliff 3:24 pm 15 Jan 18

Lorraine Yates Happy birthday Lorraine .Enjoy.xx

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:59 pm 14 Jan 18

Reality check on the Netherlands:
The Netherlands have a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures varies from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer.

They don’t get the blazing hot north west winds that we do either.

What works in gardens there won’t work in Canberra. Also, the high cost of water in Canberra is now a huge disincentive for keeping things green. Even Parliament House is building a pipeline from LBG to keep the (non-native) lawns green.

Mia Cliff Mia Cliff 7:17 pm 14 Jan 18

Ah in the Netherlands they create gardens on the smallest of blocks and shady landscapes streets.

THE balconies on high rise apartments are overflowing with greenery.

Phoebe Gordon Phoebe Gordon 5:55 pm 14 Jan 18

Tim Dyer - the balance between housing amenity and green surrounds. It can clearly be done on small sites however it all comes down to expectations and the difference between want and need.

Peter Bucke Peter Bucke 9:35 pm 13 Jan 18

Smaller blocks equals more blocks equals more rates collection of $$$$$ for our gov.

Gabriella Tagliapietra Gabriella Tagliapietra 9:17 pm 13 Jan 18

I couldn't agree more! I read an article in a local newspaper not so long ago about the future of housing in Canberra with the focus on encouraging people with large blocks to sub divide... seriously? What a nightmare...

Paddy Murdock Paddy Murdock 8:48 pm 13 Jan 18

Agree Gunghalin is awful what a pity

Stu McRae Stu McRae 5:57 pm 13 Jan 18

The people who approved the projéct should be sued.

Margaret Bertoldo Margaret Bertoldo 10:32 pm 12 Jan 18

I lived in Gungahlin for 24 years in Nicholls. I agree to many apartments. Town planning is to blame but home owners need to take responsibility also. Not all plant trees and a lot do not maintain their properties. I notice the difference living on Sunshine Coast.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:33 pm 12 Jan 18

    I do wonder when people buy houses and then don't care about the garden, letting the grass grow, etc, (or maybe, mowing the grass, but what appears, reluctantly) why they didn't just buy an apartment. It appears that would suit them better.

    Gabriella Tagliapietra Gabriella Tagliapietra 9:18 pm 13 Jan 18

    I'd say it's an investment property with lay tenants who don't care...

    Colette Robinson Colette Robinson 2:28 pm 17 Jan 18

    Or landlords who never thought about gardens in the first place. Renters usually aren’t allowed to plant shrubs or trees.

Brett Martin Brett Martin 5:50 pm 12 Jan 18

Sardine villages! Pack them in like Sardines

Joe Cortese Joe Cortese 4:43 pm 12 Jan 18

It remain to be seen if Gungahlin becomes a slum. People make the place for example - on how gardens & surrounds are keep - it’s choice or effort. No difference to larger blocks where upkeep is let go - due to costs or aging of residences. Then there are duel- occupancy - ram as many houses on a large block as possible! Society needs to address the urban slum in all cities or suburbs. After all we vote govts in or out. Whether it govt or people we are driven by the $$. So before pass judgment on Gungahlin - look the big picture on things developing all over Australia - look at Sth west Sydney the new Oran Pk region.

    Gabriella Tagliapietra Gabriella Tagliapietra 9:20 pm 13 Jan 18

    Yes, I refer to those developments as slums of the future.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 3:20 pm 12 Jan 18

In Braddon developers were told the street trees next to their redevelopment must be removed, and this has started already. In The City Ltd carried out a survey of missing street trees in the CBD and offered to replace them at no cost to the government but their offer was rejected. In The City Ltd have now been disbanded.

Paula Barnett Paula Barnett 10:13 am 12 Jan 18

Agree, not sustainable.

Owen Barker Owen Barker 7:51 pm 11 Jan 18

Clinton Turner told ya it's a slum

Chris Marshall Chris Marshall 7:45 pm 11 Jan 18

Lol Adam Shantell its a picture of your street for some reason

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