The planned redevelopment of West Basin has been put on the election agenda with the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians targeting voters in the Chief Minister’s own electorate.
But Andrew Barr has hit back at the Guardians, accusing them of misrepresenting the proposal, which he says would be considerably smaller in size and scale than previously reported, with the number of apartments in the hundreds, not the 2000 often stated.
The heritage group has printed 20,000 leaflets outlining its objections to the government’s plans to fill in the lake, extend the boardwalk and eventually allow the building of apartments on the prime lakeside site.
The leaflets are finding their way into letterboxes, imploring Kurrajong voters to contact local candidates about where they stand on West Basin.
Acting LBGG convenor Michael Lawson says going political was a hard decision for the group, which has members across the political spectrum, but was taken out of frustration with the Labor Government and extreme disappointment with the ACT Greens, where the group thought there would have been sympathy for the cause.
”We’ve been stonewalled by the government, and the Greens are basically in lockstep with Labor on this,” he said.
Only the Liberals, eyeing a disaffected constituency, have been open to the Guardians’ calls for a different approach to developing West Basin that doesn’t include apartments.
”It’s because they probably see inner-city people who are disenfranchised and disenchanted with the current planning system and the way it operates in Canberra,” Mr Lawson said.
A Liberals spokesperson told Region Media that good public access and use of the surrounds should be maintained and be given significant weight in any decision making.
”The Canberra Liberals are dismayed by the timing of the West Basin and North Curtin Horse Paddock land swap announcement. It would be easy to believe that the government is hoping to slide this through under the radar while everyone is focusing on the current COVID-19 crisis. Our local MLAs are on record criticising the lack of consultation with the local community and supporting the retention of green space,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Lawson said that for all the government’s talk of consultation, it remained wedded to the original proposal to build an apartment estate.
”They’ll pretend they’re consulting but everything else doesn’t change the original plan, and the original plan for this was to turn off 2000 apartments and six city blocks, plus 20 per cent extra commercial,” he said.
The Guardians no longer trusted the government to deliver the quality space it says it wants to create by the lake, a sentiment they feel will resonate with voters.
”I suspect it will link to a general disenchantment about how development is done in Canberra because there is a lot of marketing spin, glossy fly-through videos about how wonderful it’s going to be and nothing happens for a long time. And then what is eventually delivered is frankly disappointing,” Mr Lawson said.
Mr Barr said the Guardians were in the minority and the project had a lot of community support, four elections after the West Basin Amendment to the National Capital Plan (NCP) was enacted by the Howard Government in 2006.
”The long-term plan (beyond 2024-25) envisages a small-scale, height-limited, mixed-use precinct, set back 55 metres from the lake edge, that offers small-scale independent retail, cafes, restaurants, community arts spaces and entertainment options,” he said.
The residential and commercial component would help pay for the overall project.
”This is the financial model under which Canberra’s infrastructure has been financed for more than a century,” he said.
He denied there would be any loss of green space, saying the project would more create more accessible, attractive and connected public spaces landscaped with trees and plants, for all Canberrans to enjoy.
But Mr Lawson said West Basin was the best site in Canberra and deserved better.
”It’s got opportunities that are global, you could put something in there that would be a great thing for Canberra,” he said.
The ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury told Region Media that it supported a more compact city and urban infill for a range of environmental reasons but believed that the West Basin development should only proceed if it included as much useable open space as is there now and if it provided a continuous waterfront walking and cycling promenade that avoids the Kingston Foreshore problem of a narrow boardwalk that is too small for cyclists to get past.
”So far, the City Renewal Authority has committed to both of these issues and the Greens have also been pleased to see just how popular the first new park in West Basin has been,” he said.
He added that the area should not just be a luxury precinct, and should include public housing and other affordable housing options too.