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North Canberra Community Council on Floriade future

By Ellen Harvey - 2 November 2015 11

Editor note: It’s been a several weeks since Floriade, but that doesn’t mean the debate about Floriade’s future has gone away. We asked local leaders about where it should go next, and Mike Hettinger, Chair of North Canberra Community Council, was the one to respond.

Question: Should Floriade move to Glebe Park? If not Glebe Park, where?

Floriade: Canberra's flower festival.

Floriade should stay where it is and not move to Glebe Park.

To see why, let’s first set the scale.  Floriade is an annual event that is held over a one-month period, with each event bringing in up to nearly half a million visitors who have spent up to $40 million.  Many of these visitors are from interstate or overseas.  While the Floriade website says that the event covers four hectares, the website also says that the circuit around Floriade is 1.6 km, which can cover an area of up to 20 hectares! A cursory estimation from Google maps shows that the event covers closer to 10 hectares, plus at least two more hectares nearby for parking.  Bottom line:  Floriade is a big event that needs a big venue.

The venue for Floriade for the past 28 years since its inception has been Commonwealth Park.  It is located in the Parliamentary Triangle along Lake Burley Griffin and covers 34.25 hectares.  It therefore draws local, interstate and international visitors and is used for other events such as Australia Day and Canberra Day.  Bottom line: Commonwealth is a big park that can host big events.

Glebe Park is a park in Civic, next to the suburb of Reid, covering 4.7 hectares, with little adjacent parking, providing valuable green space for thousands of nearby residents and employees.  For many it is the only easily accessible green space available.  Sometimes Glebe Park hosts low-key small and/or short-term events.  Bottom line:  Glebe Park is a small park for locals and small events.

It should already be obvious that shoehorning an event as large Floriade into a venue that is less than 15% the size of its present location makes Glebe Park an exceptionally ill-suited alternative.

This simple physical fact is compounded by the logistics required to support an event as big as Floriade.  Floriade needs constant, consistent and easy access for providing large-scale equipment and supplies, not only for the general event, but those with stalls at the event.  Commonwealth Park has ample space to do this while Glebe Park has little to none.  The only way to accommodate this would be to appropriate any nearby open space to support Floriade.  This would take up any remaining space at Glebe Park as well as nearby parking areas.  This would exacerbate the shortage of parking that already exists in Civic and spill over into Reid.  In addition the movement of support traffic in out of a Glebe Park venue would also exacerbate traffic volumes around Civic.

Next, let’s look at attendees.  Commonwealth Park can support the nearly half million people to attend Floriade because it has the space and facilities to handle large events.  These facilities such as Stage 88, nearby parking and relatively easy access help attract interstate and international visitors.  There is no way Glebe Park can replicate this and effectively support the same numbers of attendees.

Finally, we need to consider the impacts to usual park visitors as well as residents of areas surrounding the park.  Commonwealth Park’s location minimises impacts that Floriade may have to usual visitors to Commonwealth Park because its size allows visitors to easily use other areas in the park.  It also does not impact surrounding suburbs due to the simple fact that there are no immediately surrounding suburbs.  Glebe Park is at the other end of the spectrum.  Usual visitors to Glebe Park will be unable to use the park for the entire period of Floriade and may have nowhere else to go.  In addition, the effects of Floriade at Glebe Park would spill over into the nearby suburbs of Reid and Braddon, and possibly Ainslie and Campbell as well.  This includes parking as well as the number of visitors traversing suburbs to access the venue.  Night-time events would also impact on the surrounding community, who would be justified in complaining because they were living there long before a Glebe Park Floriade became a thought bubble.

Ultimately Floriade itself would have to shrink significantly to be able to squeeze into Glebe Park.  This fact as well as the comparative lack of other facilities would reduce attendance and therefore the amount of money these visitors would spend in stalls at Floriade and more generally in Canberra.  While there might be some benefit for some businesses in Civic, Canberra business overall would suffer from the drop-off.

As an aside, a Glebe Park Floriade wouldn’t necessarily boost income to City Walk businesses because there are physical barriers that hinder easy access to Glebe Park.  The Multicultural Festival demonstrated this when it attempted to extend to Glebe Park, with mixed success.  If visitors to City Walk don’t go to Glebe Park, the converse can apply from Glebe Park to City Walk.  The ultimate irony is that if Glebe Park had remained eight-times its present size before chunks were excised for the Casino, Hotel and other buildings, then there would be more seamless access from City Walk to Glebe Park.

Ultimately Floriade is what it is because it is inextricably linked to Commonwealth Park.  Out-of-area visitors visit Floriade in the context of national institutions such as Parliament House (Old and New), the National Gallery and Questacon.  Moving Floriade from Commonwealth Park would break this link and not be the same event.

In any case, if Floriade must move, any alternative to Commonwealth Park would need to replicate the factors that make Commonwealth Park an excellent venue for Floriade.  These include size, accessibility, location and function.  I’m happy to be awarded a contract to find such an alternative, in the meantime here’s some free advice:  Glebe Park does not replace Commonwealth Park in any of these aspects and would be a lose-lose for users of Glebe Park, nearby residents, Canberra businesses (whether at Floriade itself or not), Floriade visitors, and Floriade itself.  Glebe Park must therefore be excised immediately as an alternative location for Floriade.

Mike Hettinger is the Chair of the North Canberra Community Council. In 2004, he ran for Molonglo in the ACT Election, missing out by a slim margin. He continues to stand with the community on issues that matter

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11 Responses to
North Canberra Community Council on Floriade future
rubaiyat 7:02 am 12 Nov 15

I think we have established that the problem with Floriade when it is all boiled down is the car parking.

The flowers are really a nuisance and only fuel for the whingers complaining when people need to park all over them.

Simple solution is to eliminate the flowers and turn Commonwealth Park into the National Commonwealth Car Park, which we agree is what Canberra desperately needs.

October can be the opportunity to celebrate the best that Canberra has to offer: driving and parking, with wall to wall parking on every open space around the lake.

The problems of nowhere to put our freeways can be solved as with the Brisbane Riverside Expressway, Sydney Western Distributer/Cahill Expressway and Melbourne Westgate Freeway by building it over Lake Burley Griffin, which is not being used to its full potential.

Come on Canberra, we NEED to do this. Hang the expense and best of all no enquiry or business plan will be necessary.

miz 7:01 pm 11 Nov 15

Zan said :

Ian_Red said :

I think that Floriade should be at Weston Park. Lots of space, established trees, lake frontage, and the bulbs would not have to be dug up and dumped every year. Unfortunately Weston Park has been allowed to run down a bit over the years (I still fondly remember the tree houses) but it could be refreshed and rebuilt….

No, Weston Park is already overrun. There is no space. It would mean evicting the kangaroos, swans and other birds that live there. It is used widely by families and people. There is not enough parking already.

Maybe Floriade could go in the Aboretum plenty of space there.

You cannot dig too much around established trees, and many need full sun, so they would have to find a place that is more open and less treed than the Arboretum. The Arboretum would be difficult for many to negotiate on foot, being very hilly. And all the land there seems to be used already.
Weston Park, however, is huge, flat, and has plenty of space for Floriade. Kangas and swans already coexist with Floriade in its current location so not sure what Zan is on about.
It would be easy to create temporary car parks near Weston Park like they used to do for the present Floriadem (it has only had ‘proper’ carparks for a few years).

Holden Caulfield 4:59 pm 11 Nov 15

I think the one thing we can all agree on is that Floriade needs a revamp. IMO it’s tired, completely underwhelming and I am amazed that it still attracts the numbers it does.

Seen one pretty tulip, seen ‘em all. Why not offer an opportunity and platform for garden designers to create special displays a la Chelsea Flower Show?

The idea of integrating Floriade events/displays/whatever city wide is a good one too. That approach works pretty well with Enlighten, where there’s a central hub supported by a number of associated activities around the city. Floriade would present an opportunity to reach even more parts of Canberra and surrounds.

rubaiyat 4:01 pm 11 Nov 15

Zan said :

Ian_Red said :

I think that Floriade should be at Weston Park. Lots of space, established trees, lake frontage, and the bulbs would not have to be dug up and dumped every year. Unfortunately Weston Park has been allowed to run down a bit over the years (I still fondly remember the tree houses) but it could be refreshed and rebuilt….

No, Weston Park is already overrun. There is no space. It would mean evicting the kangaroos, swans and other birds that live there. It is used widely by families and people. There is not enough parking already.

Maybe Floriade could go in the Aboretum plenty of space there.

The Airport?

Plenty of parking, no public transport and the constant aroma of fuel to cancel any potential floral odours and visitors to Floriade need never see Canberra itself.

You can even pack in some DIY furniture for the leg home.

dungfungus 2:15 pm 11 Nov 15

Zan said :

Ian_Red said :

I think that Floriade should be at Weston Park. Lots of space, established trees, lake frontage, and the bulbs would not have to be dug up and dumped every year. Unfortunately Weston Park has been allowed to run down a bit over the years (I still fondly remember the tree houses) but it could be refreshed and rebuilt….

No, Weston Park is already overrun. There is no space. It would mean evicting the kangaroos, swans and other birds that live there. It is used widely by families and people. There is not enough parking already.

Maybe Floriade could go in the Aboretum plenty of space there.

Space could be created by moving the not-needed SIEV X “memorial”.

Zan 1:52 pm 11 Nov 15

Ian_Red said :

I think that Floriade should be at Weston Park. Lots of space, established trees, lake frontage, and the bulbs would not have to be dug up and dumped every year. Unfortunately Weston Park has been allowed to run down a bit over the years (I still fondly remember the tree houses) but it could be refreshed and rebuilt….

No, Weston Park is already overrun. There is no space. It would mean evicting the kangaroos, swans and other birds that live there. It is used widely by families and people. There is not enough parking already.

Maybe Floriade could go in the Aboretum plenty of space there.

Ian_Red 1:06 pm 11 Nov 15

I think that Floriade should be at Weston Park. Lots of space, established trees, lake frontage, and the bulbs would not have to be dug up and dumped every year. Unfortunately Weston Park has been allowed to run down a bit over the years (I still fondly remember the tree houses) but it could be refreshed and rebuilt.

Issues would seem to be
* Access and parking. You would probably close the roads at Pescott Lane and fill that with stalls and rides. Bit stuck with the fact there’s only one road in… There are some good size parking paddocks between the mini train and Yarralumla Nursery and they could be supplemented by shuttle buses from Yarralumla Bay Oval and ferries from Black Mountain Peninsula and/or Yarramundi Reach. A pedestrian bridge? There’s a couple of years to plan this so there’s time to design and build new access.
* It’s not near the city. Probably not a problem. Floriade is big enough to draw visitors on it’s own, and city vendors can rely on increased visitors to Canberra from the event without needing physical closeness.
* It’s new. This means there will be teething problems with facilities, power, watering, sound bleed from stages, emergency vehicle access, relationships with existing players such as the Mini Train and the nurseries, etc. etc that have all been sorted out years ago in Commonwealth Gardens. But we have some time to plan and consider the issues…

I think Floriade is overdue for a major change, some substantial reinvigoration. A permanent venue that’s well planned would reduce costs and provide some attractions all year round. And we might get some new treehouses…

Paul Costigan 11:15 pm 02 Nov 15

Mike is spot on – Glebe Park is not the place for Floriade – it is a park.

Floriade is overdue for a rethink – it needs to become something to continue to attract visitors. I suggest it should become an international garden design festival. The location should be by the lake.

The ACT Government needs to work with the Commonwealth to have a designated events park somewhere on the side of the lake – and the new Floriade would be just one of those major events.

Floriade should not be staged in Civic. Civic needs a completely new set of ideas to make it happen again – holding major events (blockbusters) in Civic will not deliver the sought after increase in commercial activity.

However special aspects of Floriade could be staged in Civic – as they could also be staged in other major centres, such as Tuggeranong.

The ACT politicians need to be creative and innovative and deal with Civic – now – and as a separate matter – deliver a new style of garden festival down by the lake. If they have nothing exciting to offer on these issues – then it is time to seek them from someone else (not their present advisors).

shellcase 2:07 pm 02 Nov 15

rubaiyat, you obviously have a greater level of interest in Floriade than I do. I am not a flower person.

My thoughts worked along the lines of establishing a permanent, dedicated site with little restriction and
relatively optimum traffic access.

Like your suggestions.

rubaiyat 12:19 pm 02 Nov 15

That is a whole lot of rationalisation working backwards from you don’t want Glebe Park to be used for Floriade (which I don’t necessarily disagree with).

A lot of them are just drawing a very long bow to make the relatively short list of reasons, look more substantial.

1. If Floriade moved it would change, that change could be to whatever you wanted, smaller, bigger, somewhere else, style, duration etc. The only limit is your imagination.

2. Seize this opportunity, shake off the uninspiring dowdiness of the Floriade. My imagination sees ALL the open areas of City used, including SOME of the beds in Glebe Park, with all the shops, hotels, cafe’s restaurants joining in with their own displays.

3. The WHOLE CITY of Canberra should become Floriade.

4. Residents should also show off personal displays. The better could charge garden admission, even if only for charity. How unusual it would be for Canberra citizens to show the kind of effort and civic pride of those of Bowral.

5. The area supposedly used by Floriade in Commonwealth Park has been greatly exagerated, most of it is not used, it is just spread out.

6. Any connection to attractions on the OTHER side of the Lake is specious.

7. Bowral’s spectacular Tulip Time is confined to a tiny park in the middle of Bowral and IMHO it is better for it. Quality over Quantity rules in my book

8. Floriade in Commonwealth Park is tatty and uses horrible temporary beds and almost a kilometre of rent a fence.

9. Most of the activity in setting up Floriade at the moment is unnecessary. building the temporary beds, and erecting the ugly fencing and marquees.

10. Substantial amounts of money can be saved if the temporary elements were not temporary, also they would look a whole lot better.

11. The businesses in the heart of Canberra are well supported by paid parking, one of the prime income earners of Floriade and is the public transport hub of Canberra.

12. Floriade in the heart of the City will be well serviced by the Light Rail, bringing vistors down from Northbourne accommodation and parking.

13. Floriade will be enhanced by NOT being the centre of an expanded parking lot and people parking all over the grass and landscaping.

14. Moving Floriade actually into the heart of Canberra will finally give businesses a real shot in the arm. Cafés, restaurants, souveniers, regular shopping etc will directly gain.

15. From the City it will be easier to access transport to the other areas of Canberra. Commonwealth Park is not a transport hub.

16. Being in the City will make it easier to expand Floriade to other activities. Markets, film festivals, comedy, etc. All designed to make a short visit longer.

17. Finally I see this not as the usual opportunity to object to change, by an opportunity to actually take Floriade to a whole new level and make Canberra shine.

Canberra draws 4.5 million visitors a year.

With a bit of get up and go we can substantially increase that number and cut back on our reliance on the extremely unreliable whims of our political masters. When September/October swings around make every tourist think of Canberra in all its floral finery. A not to be missed event.

shellcase 10:39 am 02 Nov 15

One site that springs to mind is the arboretum but it would have to be ruled out purely on the grounds of restricted access. There is only one road in and it’s the same way out, traffic congestion and potential for collisions huge, would require much policing and traffic control of the approach roads and the Parkway.

Perhaps a specifically built site on Majura Parkway or the CSIRO site alongside Barton Highway-Mackellar precinct (don’t know how serious the talk is re CSIRO leaving), or perhaps a site in the area west of the Fed Highway adjacent to Goorooyaroo NatureReserve?

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