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How green is my capital? The changing face of Canberra

Genevieve Jacobs 1 May 2018 39

How much green space do we need in the bush capital?

Canberra is the bush capital in more than just name. Fingers of bush stretch deep into our suburbs. Ridgelines are protected so we can see the sky. Wilderness is nearby, streets are lined with huge trees. But as the city changes rapidly, will there still be room for green space?

Over the weekend Henry Rolland Park opened, in the midst of much dispute over West Basin’s future. As apartments mushroom around Civic and Braddon, the gloomy alleys of Haig Park are the only space to kick a footy or have a barbecue. Karen was minding her grandchildren there when I walked through last week. She lives nearby, she’s lukewarm about the park, but the kids chipped in fast: “There’s not enough room here to play properly! Where are the swings?”.

Haig Park is one the few green spaces for Braddon and Civic apartment dwellers

And that’s the heart of the problem: green space alone is not enough. It’s got to be useful, good quality, and it needs to match our growing population. National Trust president Eric Martin harks back to the Griffin Plan and Canberra’s garden city principles, pointing out that even the much-maligned Northbourne Flats were deliberately set within a wider landscape. Martin says integrating plenty of public green space is “a fundamental part of healthy living in the city”, and central to our identity and heritage.

That makes him sceptical about the City to the Lake plan if it means that waterfront real estate is prioritised over public access. And it’s not just about walkers and cyclists: he says apartments would also risk blocking out those glorious unfolding views of the Brindabellas from the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

“It’s a large lake with opportunities for recreation and some development, I don’t dispute that. But at the moment there are no heritage values or integrated plans for the whole lot. It’s piecemeal. It desperately needs a clearly defined strategy on how to handle the changes. The planning process is lagging behind our community concerns”.

Is the West Basin space ripe for development and re-design, or do we need to leave the lake alone?

Martin says that if spaces are high-quality people will use them, but not if they feel uneasy being there. That’s the problem with Haig Park, originally designed as a windbreak for the city, and currently undergoing a design re-think. But the bigger issue is that re-designing Haig Park won’t increase the amount of green space in the city. A pleasant park in West Basin won’t meet the needs of a potential boom in residents or ensure the rest of us can still enjoy the vistas.

So I think we also need to ask what kind of public access we all get. The Kingston lakeside, for example, is great if you’re ordering a seafood platter with a side of artisan sourdough, but not so welcoming if you’ve packed some sandwiches in the stroller for a family picnic. Contrast that with the people thronging Commonwealth Park, walking or running at Lake Ginninderra, or Lake Tuggeranong. They have room to move without feeling that you’re blocking the paying customers.

Anthony Burton has worked in the past with the government and now consults on environmental and community needs. He says we need to have a really good think about how we use green spaces. “We used to look at sports fields as recreation spaces”, he says, “but now planners understand that people see bush and parklands as important for their lifestyles, whether it’s walking the dogs, going for a run, doing bush care”.

“There is room for bush in the middle of the city but you wouldn’t look at that as a high-quality conservation space, because it’s just not big enough unless it links up. One echidna might need an overlapping range of up to 50ha, for example”. But he says education is important for conservation: “If you don’t know what’s in your backyard, you won’t protect it. So you do have to get people into the bush. You can’t lock it up”.

Burton says that other kinds of green space like community gardens can also be highly effective for building neighbourhoods. “People get advice, become friends, swap food. It’s as much about social gardening as vegetable gardening. These kinds of open spaces are higgeldy piggledy, they’re not necessarily beautiful to look at, but they are lovely places in terms of how people interact with each other”.

As we pack more people into our city and town centres, the land green spaces sit on also becomes increasingly valuable.

What green space does your suburb need and how do you use it?


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39 Responses to How green is my capital? The changing face of Canberra
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Geoff Buckmaster Geoff Buckmaster 3:32 pm 02 May 18

Here's an idea......don't just sit by and accept a growing population (at this rate) as inevitable. Preserve this awesome city and its green spaces for future generations.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 4:25 pm 02 May 18

    But won't happen while most people won't vote for representatives who can see that an out of control population growth will damage the environment, put more pressure on schools, hospitals etc, because they can't keep up. So therefore, unless people will vote for representatives who will work to stabilise the population, there is no use for them to then complain about smaller house blocks, loss of green space, denser housing, waiting lists in hospitals, etc, because this is the result. It's also no use blaming state and territory governments for the result either, because they don't set the immigration levels; the Federal Government is responsible for that. The states and territories have to attempt to handle the results.

    Geoff Buckmaster Geoff Buckmaster 4:49 pm 02 May 18

    Agree and you're spot on. I just object to state and territory govts promoting and celebrating growth.

    Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 7:26 am 03 May 18

    Julie Macklin Vote for Sustainable Australia.

Gary Wilkins Gary Wilkins 3:16 pm 02 May 18

'Bush Capital' won't be long before Canberra's the Apartment block capital lol

Robert Verdon Robert Verdon 6:44 am 02 May 18

garden city, not 'bush capital'

Geoff Scammell Geoff Scammell 8:05 pm 01 May 18

The problem with this city to the lake issue is once that public land is sold to Geocon and their fellow land pirates they will build ugly glass and concrete edifices that will be controlled by Private corpirations and the nice parkland there will be gone forever. The concept of Canberra being the "Bush Capital" is fast morphing into the glass and concrete developers dream and any land for quiet recreational use will be long gone. Yes the ne park near Commonwealth Ave bridge is OK, but once all the carparks next to it are sold off and become appartments the only users will be the residents living the the appartments. The new concept of green space is a joke. Welcome to South Campbell town and all it's problems.

    Obi Wan Obi Wan 9:04 pm 06 May 18

    You are spot on. Money buys everything, inclusive politicians.😥😥😥😥

Tim Cole Tim Cole 7:36 pm 01 May 18

Under the Barr model, all concrete will be painted green to give it the bush feel and floodlit for safety

Mark Dando Mark Dando 9:39 am 01 May 18

Urban Renewal Authority's Malcolm Snow outlined plans for stage 2 of West Basin development on ABC radio Canberra this morning. Sounds promising with the new lake edge backed by generous public open space and facilities for events and, set back, 2-4 floor residential with public parking in the basement. Continued use of West Basin for surface parking 'unthinkable'.

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 5:53 am 01 May 18

Unfolding views are important. There are views I look forward to when I'm driving. Green space is not just to actively use but is an important part of the landscape. Crocheted creates heat islands. Climate change has created a need for more green spaces.

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 9:23 am 01 May 18

    Surely the most effective response to climate change is to reduce your own carbon footprint by among things driving less and walking and cycling more?

    Chris Baylis Chris Baylis 9:45 am 02 May 18

    One does not exclude the other.

Rupert Brock Rupert Brock 8:15 pm 30 Apr 18

Actually you get quite a few walking, running and riding along west basin when I go through there on the way home from work

    Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 8:38 pm 30 Apr 18

    Their views will be safeguarded by the new public promenade by the lakeside. The only views that are likely to be affected are the those along Commonwealth Avenue between Vernon Circle and the set of traffic lights just before the bridge.

Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 2:51 pm 30 Apr 18

I think it's worth noting that the only "unfolding views" that will be lost due to the development at West Basin are those that are almost exclusively experienced for 20 seconds at 70km/hr. You won't find many pedestrians enjoying the view between Vernon Circle and Parkes Way.

Mark Dando Mark Dando 11:37 am 30 Apr 18

There is no shortage of open space at Kingston Foreshore to have a family picnic - the entire lakeshore from Trevillian Quay around to Bowen Park is open space, most of it grassed, and people picnic here all the time. And you say 'A pleasant park in West Basin won’t meet the needs of a potential boom in residents or ensure the rest of us can still enjoy the vistas.' Why not?

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 1:09 pm 30 Apr 18

    Kerry Baylor most people I know like the Foreshore and it's certainly a very popular. But putting aside likes and dislikes my issue with what Genevieve Jacobs wrote is that it's simply wrong. The comment about the 'seafood platter with a side of artisan sourdough' applies only to the boardwalk overlooking the boat harbour.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 1:53 pm 30 Apr 18

    I like the Kingston development, but I'm sure some things could always have been done better. What are your suggestions to have made this better?

    Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 8:19 am 01 May 18

    In what world does 6 storeys constitute "high rise"?

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 8:24 am 01 May 18

    Kerry Baylor Kingston Foreshore high rise? All buildings are six floors with the top two typically set back as with Haussmann's renovation of Paris in the 19th C. The only high rise buildings in the area are two apartment blocks in old Kingston.

    Michael Babb Michael Babb 8:38 am 01 May 18

    There's no such thing as high rise in Canberra. Spend some time in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne to see what actual high rise is...

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