Horse paddocks, golf courses, reserves – green spaces are about more than the land they use

Zoya Patel 14 October 2021 27
Yarralumla horse paddocks

Yarralumla horse paddocks are under threat from development. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A few weeks ago, fellow columnist Ian Bushnell wrote about the proposed residential/aged care development on Cotter Road that will likely impact the neighbouring Territory Agistment horse paddocks.

As Ian wrote, Canberra is a growing city, and spaces like horse paddocks (or golf courses, parks, informal nature strips and reserves) that take prime real estate may soon be conceded to more residential developments.

There’s logic in this, if all we’re talking about is housing. But these types of recreational spaces in Canberra are about so much more than land – they’re inherently linked to the culture of this city and how we value and preserve it.

READ MORE: In a city hungry for land, how long can the horse paddocks last?

I’ll admit, I have a vested interest – I’m a horsey person (I own two mares of my own, am very connected to the local horsey community, and run a small equestrian business). I know many people who agist in government paddocks, and it can’t be understated how important these facilities are to the local community.

It’s not just about an affordable place to keep a horse. They are sites of genuine community building – each agistment site has its own culture and atmosphere, and dedicated volunteers who work together to maintain the land and facilities and keep the space fit for purpose and safe for everyone who uses them. They are genuinely by and for the community, and have helped so many individuals nurture their love of their sport and their animals.

Similarly, my partner is a runner and he is so grateful for the numerous nature trails, reserves, and the hidden bits of bush he can explore in our inner north neighbourhood, which have provided him with a much-needed reprieve from the home office during lockdown, as I know they have for so many other Canberrans.

READ ALSO: Horse community rears at LDK’s $143 million aged care village proposal

Add to these examples the many green spaces that serve small cohorts in the community, but are also invaluable – golf courses that take up swathes of land, but also provide much-needed breaks in our landscape to help prevent urban ‘heat islands’ from forming; neighbourhood parks and sports ovals that are located in prime spots next to local shops or on main streets; the much-loved nature strip at the Watson powerlines where many neighbours and I walk our dogs every day.

These spaces are symbolic of one of the key characteristics of Canberra that makes so many of us love living here, and that’s the integration of our homes and amenities with nature and outdoor recreation. Unlike other capital cities that dwarf us in size, we have the benefits of city-like infrastructure without the horror of big-city landscapes, defined as they are by glass, concrete and steel, and devoid as they can be of wide, open space.

READ ALSO: Is it time to farewell the five-day work week for good?

It might seem like a logical solution for the government or town planners to see available space (ie, space without buildings on it) as ripe for the plucking to build on. But that logic only stands if the sole definition of value is land prices and not the wellbeing and cultural benefits that these spaces provide.

Yes, Canberra is growing, and yes, we have an issue with our housing market, both in terms of property prices and supply of affordable or social housing. But the solution to this problem can’t be to the detriment of the places in our city that define why so many of us love to call Canberra home.

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27 Responses to Horse paddocks, golf courses, reserves – green spaces are about more than the land they use
Geraldine Cowdroy Geraldine Cowdroy 7:32 pm 15 Oct 21

Not just Canberra they are gobbling good farmland on the coast as well

    Dot Colebrook Dot Colebrook 8:42 pm 15 Oct 21

    Geraldine Cowdroy so true and not paying good money for the land

Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 2:28 pm 15 Oct 21

One of these sites would be perfect for the new privately owned crematorium which is proposed to be dumped in middle of Callum Brae Nature Reserve.

Simon Wheaton Simon Wheaton 6:13 am 15 Oct 21

Exactly, we should return it to the way it was!

Robert Mair Robert Mair 6:06 pm 14 Oct 21

A mature city does not need horses in it’s midst but the usage of that type of green space should be carefully assessed!

    John Griffin John Griffin 8:02 pm 14 Oct 21

    Robert Mair er, why not?

    Heather J Carson Heather J Carson 9:35 pm 16 Oct 21

    Robert Mair why is that?? Do you know how much is spent in the ACT on horses and the ongoing maintenance etc... There is a HUGE horse community here in the ACT...

    Julie Wykes-Herbert Julie Wykes-Herbert 11:39 pm 16 Oct 21

    Robert Mair and many small businesses come from the horse community

Geoffrey John Randal Geoffrey John Randal 11:58 am 14 Oct 21

If we value our community fully we will provide care for elders (a growing segment) in the inner north and south, not push them to the margins.

Kristoffer Sheather Kristoffer Sheather 10:42 am 14 Oct 21

The government will only care about the amount of revenue they can get by selling it.

Matthew Johnson Matthew Johnson 7:57 am 14 Oct 21

Alice Fisher it begins

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 7:50 am 14 Oct 21

developers donate to liberal and labor so they can get their hands on all this green space.

Juz Hawke Juz Hawke 7:44 am 14 Oct 21

Agree wholeheartedly!

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