11 January 2023

Probing the polls: Summernats spats and pressure on a growing Canberra

| Genevieve Jacobs
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As Canberra’s population grows, are we ready for the challenge? Photo: ACT Government. Photo: Supplied.

The city filled with cars and the people who love them over the weekend, but does everyone love Summernats? Last week’s poll on the festival of fuel was closely balanced.

By all accounts, the event was highly successful, pumping millions into the local economy. Held across four days, around 125,000 people attended the sell-out event and vehicle entrants were capped at a record-breaking 2700. Even US ambassador Caroline Kennedy dropped in.

There were some issues at the main EPIC site where the cruising circuit closed early, and consequent tensions elsewhere in the city, including at Braddon, Fyshwick, Majura Park and Hume.

Is there general acceptance of the event? Or is that acceptance conditional on the cars staying inside EPIC rather than spreading across the city and into Braddon’s nightlife and restaurant scene?

READ ALSO Summernats 35 draws record crowds, entrants but marred by poor behaviour of a few

We asked: Does Summernats still belong in Braddon? A total of 747 readers voted and the divide was very close.

Your choices were to vote No, the suburb’s moved on and so should the car fans. This received 48 per cent of the total, or 357 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it’s a Canberra tradition and good for business. This received 52 per cent of the total, or 390 votes.

This week we’re wondering what you think about Canberra’s booming population and predictions that we’ll hit 500,000

The Federal Government’s Centre for Population is predicting Canberra will grow by almost 100,000 within the next decade, reaching 550,000 by 2033 – the equivalent of another Gungahlin and a near-70,000-person jump on the centre’s estimate from 12 months ago.

The 2021 census undercounted our population and this is partly behind the leap, but we can also look forward to the return of overseas students, more migrants and a natural increase boosting our numbers, a plus for the economy as we recover from the pandemic.

But some experts say that strategic planning for the ACT didn’t go beyond the half-million mark and the tension on our infrastructure is showing.

READ ALSO ACT population forecast to hit half a million by 2030, and there could be growing pains

Pam wrote: “We moved to Canberra from the south nine months ago. It’s truly a lovely city. But embrace it. People here don’t seem to love their city and suburbs. Come on, Canberra, this is from a big city girl … love and enjoy what you’ve got!! And be prepared for change.”

But Ian asked: “During drought years, where will the water come from? We are already seeing worsening contention between agricultural, urban and natural environments.

“Why can’t we pipe desalinated water from the coast? Oil is much heavier and piped across continents so surely water security for Canberra is achievable within some vision and drive. Would certainly be a better use of public funds than the light rail extensions.”

Is Canberra ready for a population of 550,000?

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Where will the water come from? Desalination piped up from the coast is the only long term solution.

Where will our economy come from? There is no evidence of any substantive long term economic vision from any party.

The ACT govt is trying desperately to imitate inner Melbourne with its grungy laneways of graffiti art, cafe culture, industrial X meets Y quirkiness and apartment living. But Melbourne is already overcrowded and predicted to exceed the population of Sydney. It a dystopian vision of crowds shuffling in slow queues through packed venues. Queues for food, queues for tables, queues for transport….. The Victoria Markets, city centre, streets and trams all crammed with grim looking people fixated on their phones. Annonomous high rise apartments dominating and shading a once graceful and elegant city. Trees struggling to survive. That is not what Canberra should ever be allowed to become.

There needs to be an economic shift. The ACT Government (and nationally for the last 30 years) has maintained a growth mentality based on immigration, construction of housing and consumption. The consumption cycle is driven by developers who sponsor the need for high density (sustainable) living. The result is obviously not sustainable or desirable. Advanced stable economies create industries that employ local populations that do not require constant house building.. The options for employment and careers are far greater in such countries such as Sweden , Holland, Korea, Finland even the UK. Where as here it is becoming limited to trades, retail and service industries. A few years of Covid showed low unemployment and the wheels did not fall off. The ACT needs to embrace biotech, science and local production, manufacturing and export of products to replace the lazy economic housing consumption cycle.

The most creative spaces in the world are cities. Cities are a natural ecosystem for economic, technological, and cultural growth. To my mind Canberra and its region cannot get to 550,000 quick enough. We have the space and with smart planning we can grow without pressuring our water and power systems. The only issue is services and attracting teachers and nurses to make a life here. This is already an issue which we will solve with migration at the moment.

Great post. Your positivity is both rare and very much needed. We are definitely going there anyway, so we should embrace it.

Another thing the governments are not doing about Canberra’s population growth is the roads into and out of Canberra.

4 main highways in and out of Canberra and only one of them is a half way decent road. Appaling for a nations capital.

Yes it’s outside of the ACT’s juristiction but they should be lobbying hard for better highways and railways in and out of the place.

Stephen Saunders12:37 pm 11 Jan 23

Treasury Centre for Population isn’t “predicting” an extra 100,000. It’s an enforced target. Treasury wants it. Voters don’t.

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