Light rail to Woden remains on track despite the heritage listing of Lake Burley Griffin and Commonwealth Bridge, according to the ACT Government.
The government welcomed Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s decision to approve the nomination of Lake Burley Griffin, Scrivener Dam, Commonwealth and Kings Avenue Bridges, Yarramundi Point and Stirling Park to the Commonwealth Heritage List.
“At face value, there appears to be no planning or infrastructure impact for the ACT because the listing covers Commonwealth assets and designated land only,” a government spokesperson said.
“It has been understood throughout the process that any potential heritage listing would have no significant impact on proposed or future ACT Government infrastructure projects.”
But the government would seek “absolute clarity” from the Commonwealth to rule out any impacts on future infrastructure projects, including the recently announced Scrivener Dam and Commonwealth Bridge projects.
Heritage activists also praised the listing, although they said it came too late to save West Basin from development.
The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians said the listing would provide some “tools” relating to vistas and views, threatened species and the quiet and peace of the Lake for scrutinising proposals.
Spokesperson Juliet Ramsay said the group would keep a close watch on the light rail crossing planned for Commonwealth Bridge.
It believed the listing created “an obvious conflict with the proposed change of the Lake to a seaplane runway”.
The ACT Government spokesperson said light rail Stage 2 heritage matters were already considered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) and NCA Works Approval processes.
Stage 2A between the city and Commonwealth Park had cleared all the Federal hurdles except NCA works approval.
Stage 2B, which will require a new centre span on Commonwealth Bridge, would be subject to a Commonwealth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addressing heritage matters.
The spokesperson said a report from GML Heritage found that it was originally intended for the bridge to have space between the two spans reserved for ‘future mass transport needs’ such as light rail.
“The ACT Government will continue to liaise with the Commonwealth Government, including the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and NCA, as we prepare the Environmental Impact Statement for Stage 2B between Commonwealth Park and Woden which will consider in detail the heritage issues and how they will be addressed in the design of the project,” the spokesperson said.
The government spokesperson also said the listing would not affect development plans for West Basin where the infill project has realigned the Lake edge.
“The gazetted boundary for the heritage listing of Lake Burley Griffin follows the gazetted line of the new boardwalk and therefore does not impact the future development of the adjacent Acton Waterfront project,” the spokesperson said.
The NCA said the listing would not mean more red tape.
Heritage listing did not preclude development, but proponents would need to consider heritage values and respond in a sympathetic manner, the NCA said.
It did not say whether there were any implications for the approved future seaplane operations.
“The heritage listing of the Lake and Adjacent Lands has lent an even deeper meaning to landmarks in the National Capital that have served and delighted generations of Australians,” Chief Executive Sally Barnes said.
“They are some of the most iconic threads that form the tapestry of our history and identity as a people and their inclusion in the Commonwealth Heritage List will guarantee they will be conserved and protected for future generations.”
Ms Barnes said the listing formalised the NCA’s role to protect, enhance, maintain and promote national land.
Ms Ley also rejected a longstanding nomination for the city of Canberra itself to be on the National Heritage List, something that disappointed ACT Heritage Minister Rebecca Vassarotti.
Ms Vassarotti said the listing would have sent a strong signal to the community about a commitment to value the shape, character and key elements of Canberra while enabling it to evolve as a modern city.
“It was a rare opportunity to make a historical decision to recognise that Canberra has made an extremely valuable contribution to Australia’s planning history and to democracy,” she said.
“It deserves to be recognised as a place that has outstanding heritage value to our nation.”
She believed the requirements of the National Capital Plan, the Territory Plan and the EPBC Act meant the listing would not have added an additional layer of bureaucracy to planning in the ACT.
The nomination goes back to 2009 and consultation took place from 2012 to 2021, including with the ACT Government, which appeared ambivalent about a listing.
“The current ACT Government has not provided a clear position either in support of, or opposition to, the place being included in the NHL, despite being asked to do so on numerous occasions,” a statement on the Australian Heritage Database said.