Liberal pledges on West Basin, North Curtin Horse Paddock ignite election

Ian Bushnell 19 August 2020 37
Giulia Jones and Alistair Coe

Liberal Leader Alistair Coe and Giulia Jones at the North Curtin Horse Paddocks. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

West Basin and the North Curtin Horse Paddock are now key election battlegrounds after the Canberra Liberals pledged to save both from the current development plans.

The ACT Government immediately said the move would set back plans for West Basin by a decade and that the horse paddock pledge would be impossible to deliver, given the Commonwealth had the power to designate any ACT land for a national purpose, such as the planned diplomatic estate.

But the Liberals are betting on the current plans for West Basin and the horse paddock deal being unpopular and evidence of ”secret deals” to develop the Bush Capital and at any cost.

Leader Alistair Coe would not rule out altogether mixed-use development of West Basin but promised a ”proper consultation” so Canberrans could decide what would they like there.

He said the government should be consolidating development that is happening all around the city not planning more apartments at West Basin.

”My vision for that precinct is for a properly maintained green space, where people can actually congregate and enjoy the national capital and enjoy the lake,” he said.

”There is scope for improvements to the paths and a cafe or two, but to simply sell out and put 10-storey apartment buildings around the precinct is wrong, and our city just doesn’t need it.”


READ ALSO: West Basin to be a garden city precinct by the water, says new plan


He also ruled out reclaiming the lake bed, which he called an extravagant and expensive proposition.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said successive Liberal federal governments had signed off on changes to the National Capital Plan allowing redevelopment of West Basin, including some form of housing.

He said the proposals set out under the recent Place Plan included parkland and small-scale mixed-used development with a 55-metre buffer zone from the lake edge.

”Ultimately what people will see over the next five years will be a few cafes and restaurants and a much larger green space in the Acton waterfront,” Mr Barr said

”In the end, what do we want from the lakefront? Do we want a place that people can use, and a space for some small-scale commercial activity? I don’t think there will be much opposition to Canberrans having a coffee by the lake at West Basin.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr holding the Commonwealth Gazette of the Curtin Horse paddocks. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Originally, 2000 apartments had been mooted for West Basin along Commonwealth Avenue but Mr Barr said recently that it would now be hundreds and they would be low-rise.

They can only be considered in the second half of the decade after the current plans to reclaim the lake bed, extend the boardwalk from Henry Rolland Park, and build the parkland are complete.

Local MLA and frontbencher Giulia Jones said a Liberal government would also rip up the horse paddock deal with the National Capital Authority.

”I have had conversations with the federal Liberal Party and I am confident we can unpick this deal,” she said, without going into details.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the federal Liberal Minister of Territories, Nola Marino, had signed off on the gazetting of the land.


READ ALSO: Shock and outrage at West Basin land swap with Curtin horse paddocks


He said the Liberals needed to say where the diplomatic estate planned for the horse paddock would go, but Mrs Jones dismissed this, saying there was plenty of land for embassies in Canberra.

”There are many steps to the deal that are required to be undertaken both at the ACT level and the federal level,” Mrs Jones said. ”We will not be undertaking our part of the deal.”

Acting Lake Burley Griffin Guardians convenor Michael Lawson welcomed the Liberals announcement, and its acknowledgement of Lake Burley Griffin as a national treasure.

He said the ACT Government was wanting to reclaim the 2.8 ha of the lake bed so it can make room to build apartments, and was in effect wanting to privatise the space.

”This has been consulted like a Canberra real estate development when the lake is a national asset,” he said. “There needs to be much wider consultation around Australia about the lake because it doesn’t just belong to people to turn off for developable land in Canberra.”

The group believes West Basin is an iconic location and has called for an international design competition so it can become a world-class public space.


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37 Responses to Liberal pledges on West Basin, North Curtin Horse Paddock ignite election
Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:14 pm 21 Aug 20

Does anyone seriously believe the claim that it will be used as a “planned diplomatic estate”?

The COVID 19 pandemic (which has only just started) has changed everything, forever. Embassies and diplomatic missions will rapidly decline, globally from now on. Consulates will last a little longer.

People are starting to realise that overseas travel will never return to what it used to be and adapt accordingly. Migration to Australia will cease.
New ways are being discovered to cover the “essential” services that are carried out by embassies so they will be shut down just like 1 hour photo shops were.

So, will the ACT Green/Labor government now come clean with us about what will happen to the land?

Please, not another arboretum.

Barry Dobson Barry Dobson 4:50 pm 21 Aug 20

Saving a horse paddock for the rich, yet allowing develops to make and smaller subdivision, pre propose the land appropriately sounds good

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 10:51 am 21 Aug 20

I just cannot see the logic in the arguments for saving already buggered land from being buggered again. If the arguments were about rehabilitating the two parcels of land to a natural state I would pay attention. This is just political codswallop at present.

    Alice Paris Alice Paris 11:48 am 21 Aug 20

    The community deserve to be treated w respect by being provided the opportunity to engage in consultation when a large area like this is changed in such a permanent way. Particularly as most people in the community do not have information made available to them on what wildlife corridors are and their importance and how areas like this become biodiversity refuges. There are ancient seed banks sitting in fertile soil of those paddocks and we are experiencing a huge shortage of native seed. Over 80% of the Namadgi was burnt out and many species have nowhere else to go. Over 170 bird species have been recorded in the Curtin Horse Paddock area including endangered species. It also accommodates the endangered Golden Sun Moth. The ACT Labor/Green government frequently utilises the argument that land which has been damaged might as well be built on so they run areas down with their land management practices and then hand it over to developers. I hope people will see this for what it is a crude strategy to undermine this communities valuable assets. There are plenty of community minded people I know who would volunteer their time to remove threatening species present in the Curtin Horse Paddocks and restore any missing floral structure. Nature will do the rest we just have to take our foot off her neck.

O L O L 8:27 am 21 Aug 20

Haha good point on corruption! Remember Giulia in 2014?
The Liberals defied strong advice from Assembly Clerk Tom Duncan not to allow an adviser to travel overseas on the public purse when they took Giulia Jones’ senior adviser to Europe and Korea to study prostitution laws.

Mr Duncan told Speaker Vicki Dunne that taxpayers’ money should not be used for staff member Danielle Young to travel with Ms Jones, Mrs Dunne and Mrs Dunne’s husband.

Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 11:32 pm 20 Aug 20

I wouldn’t believe a word they said. Is it a core promise or a non-core promise?

russianafroman russianafroman 9:32 pm 20 Aug 20

It seems Labor has became very liberal right (pro business, pro development), while the liberals have became authoritarian right (religion etc). The greens on the other hand seem to embrace many principles of the left especially the grassroots left.

Mac John Mac John 1:57 pm 20 Aug 20

How about limiting the number of terms to two and get fresh (first time) candidates elected and not elect any candidate who has already served two terms. This will help get rid of corruption, and let’s tell those new members to do something meaningful about poker machine ( gambling ) and alcohol addiction as well as banning individual donations above say $200 and banning all forms of corporate or non personal donations.

Stuart Roesler Stuart Roesler 12:51 pm 20 Aug 20

Forget the politics. The site is a waste and weed land. Muddy crappy shoreline with old disused buildings. Renovate and place some good bars and restaurants there and you'll get tons of people there. It can be a showcase. It is a tragedy that there is only one bar with a direct water location (not including the yacht club). As for the horse paddocks, much space used by so few. Turn it into a more useful park for all-or build. It's just not functional for all left as is.

    George Watling George Watling 9:27 pm 20 Aug 20

    Open spaces with trees and grasses are very functional. They keep urban areas cool in summer, provide habit for local wildlife (I understand platypuses have been sighted in the west basin), and are good places to improve your physical and mental health. I like a good bar and restaurant as much as the next Canberran but we have plenty of those. We need to preserve as many of our open spaces as we can. They are one of the reasons Canberra is so livable and likable.

Connie Ginger Connie Ginger 12:32 pm 20 Aug 20

Yea right 🙄

Geoffrey John Randal Geoffrey John Randal 11:28 am 20 Aug 20

We live in paradise if these are the key battlegrounds of local politics.

astro2 astro2 9:24 am 20 Aug 20

“Won’t somebody pleeeze think about the equestrians!”

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 10:11 pm 19 Aug 20

ACT Labor and the Greens have gone so far right of centre, that the Libs can be anti development, ha ha.... We lost our local Higgins school to development, Katy G Labor leader tried to sell off Higgins Oval for housing, our bushland/paddocks got Ginninderry on them & Belco gets seriously ugly 26 storey units from a Labor Greens Govt, oh and Kippax Oval will be built on- wow, so right of centre.... sigh.....

Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 10:05 pm 19 Aug 20

The most ridiculous part of this to me is that the Liberals stand for development but are pretending to be somewhere left of the greens. I guess since it is a federal government decision they can say anything and later claim they tried.

Kim Kim 9:08 pm 19 Aug 20

Read between the lines folks

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:32 pm 19 Aug 20

Most of the (otherwise) Labor voters who are unhappy about these developments will tell themselves that giving the Greens their first preference (and Labor their second) will “send a message” and somehow solve the problem – but at least then they’ll have something mid-range to be cross about for the next four years.

Sol Sol 6:20 pm 19 Aug 20

Yep, horse paddocks. Because Canberrans just love horses so much, being an endangered native animal and all.

Mark Monterosso Mark Monterosso 6:16 pm 19 Aug 20

This is where Facebook needs a facepalm emoji in the comments

David Brown David Brown 5:55 pm 19 Aug 20

Baaa will sell our nature strips to developers if we are not careful.

    George Watling George Watling 9:45 pm 20 Aug 20

    Debbie Thomsen And now we have the Molongolo. Every suburb deserves nature strips that are big enough for good sized shade trees and blocks big enough for a house and garden not just a house and a driveway.

Lake Burley Griffin Guardians Lake Burley Griffin Guardians 5:51 pm 19 Aug 20

While we do not support any particular party or candidate, we welcome the ACT Liberals' statement which is in line with the response they gave us during our advocacy against over development of the Lake and its foreshore. We are continuing to meet with other parties and candidates and ask our members and supporters to urge their candidates of choice to take a stand also.

Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 5:37 pm 19 Aug 20

The liberals are turning down a development proposal? What's that there, up in the sky? It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a FLYING PIGGY flapping it's sparkly little wings.

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