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Promises, promises: It isn’t all apples in Pialligo

By Maryann Mussared - 24 March 2017 16

Gorgeous red Gala apples fresh from the orchard of Beltana Grange, Pialligo

Pialligo is an important part of Canberra’s history. Sandwiched between the Molonglo River and Canberra International Airport, it is the original market garden for the region, and has been regularly farmed since the 1820s. Slightly marooned on the other side of Pialligo Avenue is a small pocket of land that contains an oval and buildings of historical interest that currently house the Richmond Fellowship.

I am a regular visitor to Pialligo for lots of good reasons: locally grown produce; wine; coffee; lovely plants and pots; and crunchy, straight-off-the-tree apples in autumn. I have always taken Pialligo’s somewhat ramshackle but rustic presentation for granted. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. Indeed, there are people who emphatically rail against changing anything. For them, Pialligo sits firmly in a category that includes other locally protected species. But is change inevitable, and what will it mean for Pialligo residents and businesses?

Beltana Road, Pialligo

These days, Pialligo is home to a small number of residents, with 40 residential blocks of various size. Located 10 minutes from Civic, it is primarily the go-to place for anyone interested in landscaping and gardens, and of course apples in autumn. The security of the orchards is under threat for a number of reasons, including lack of commercial viability as rates and water license costs increase, and long-term orchardists finding it difficult to hand on to a family member. Pialligo is also the location of a number of much loved and well-patronised specialist nurseries, which vary from small to substantial. There are also great cafes and restaurants, cat boarding, gorgeous alpacas, and a fairly recent arrival on the regional tourism scene: the Pialligo Estate. The Estate has been designed with commercial vision: it is a multi-faceted food and wine enterprise, covering over 50 acres, and there is talk of expansion.

On recent visits, I have looked closely at Pialligo and spoken to people who have lived there for many years. I heard and noted comments about the state of the narrow and crowded roads, the chaotic parking, and the absence of safe access for pedestrians and the ever-increasing number of cyclists. Of concern are mothers with babies and prams who are forced to walk on the narrow road and dodge cars. Widening the sealed section of the road is problematic as it could mean resuming meterage from houses and businesses. Regulars know parking is in short supply, indeed awkward on the weekend. Some businesses rely on hazardous on-street parking. Other larger businesses have good off-street parking which they provide for customers, foregoing possible income. Beltana Road has ‘nose to kerb’ parking on the north side: the parking zone is cleared but unsealed ground which rapidly turns to gluey mud when it rains, while the south side consists of mostly uneven grass verges.

Whilst looking at the history of Pialligo, I stumbled across the Pialligo Master Plan. It was produced a few years ago as part of a flurry of ‘interest’ by the Government in some areas of Canberra that were in need of attention. Andrew Barr worked with residents and town planners to produce this Master Plan, but that was November 2013.  It is an interesting document and has an ambitious vision for Pialligo.

So what was offered to the ratepayers of Pialligo in this Master Plan?

It covered issues of flooding on the north side of Beltana Road. Flooding of the roadway adjacent to the culvert, which is considered inadequate, and properties on the north side of Beltana Road is common. Pialligo Brook regularly floods and needs regular maintenance. The Master Plan identified the only greenfield land in Pialligo and came up with a plan to build a fire station for the immediate area. The residents did not want it as it took away the only open space in the area, but after consultation, an agreement was reached.

Pialligo Creek regularly floods and covers Beltana Road

However, the fire station and the rest of the range of initiatives in the Master Plan remain unactioned. Residents confirm that meetings have been held with a number of representatives of the current Government, including RoadsACT. But the delivery of the Master Plan hasn’t happened, and the residents and commercial tenants are angry and disappointed. Anger is especially obvious when any mention is made of the increased cost of the rates on their leases, the lack of action, and some obvious inequality.

Apart from the condition of the roads, current outstanding issues include, but are not restricted to:

  • The lack of mowing of the only area of public land. This is sometimes carried out by local residents. I thought every Canberra suburb featured on the ACT Government Grass Mowing schedule.  It appears Pialligo isn’t on that list!
  • There is no public transport, nor does it appear that the Number 11 ACTION bus that covers the new City to Airport route will incorporate Pialligo, even just a few times a day. There is a regular school bus.
  • The Master Plan outlined plans for suitable signage so Pialligo can be clearly identified. The current old-fashioned ‘mission brown’ suburb sign is easy to miss.
  • Access in and out of Pialligo is restricted to the lights at Pialligo Avenue and Beltana Road. At the other end of Beltana Road, there is a single pathway towards the Airport through rough bush. This uneven and unsealed goat-track leads up to the slip road off Pialligo Avenue while on the opposite side, the Airport has installed a pavement.

Pedestrian track from Beltana Road through to the Canberra International Airport

Other issues that remain unresolved are the number of semi-trailers (including the odd B-Double), trucks with trailers and other multiple-sized truck vehicles, as well as water carriers that drive into Pialligo. Some are delivering heavy goods, but the water carriers are accessing the town water from the on-street hydrants in Beltana Road. Even though this has been reported to TCCS, and the Residents’ Association has been assured this is not legal, I was told the practice is ongoing. As the clean drinking town water is destined for ‘dust suppression’ on nearby roadworks, this is a practice that is unacceptable to many for all sorts of reasons.

Roadside damage by heavy trucks in Beltana Road, Pialligo

The roads were designed and built for cars of a different era, yet there are a lot of trucks coming in. They block the roads, endangering pedestrians and motorists as they attempt to turn. They are heavy, find it difficult to turn around, drive over the grass verge and Telstra boxes, and crush the sides of the poorly maintained road. RoadsACT have in the past responded to requests for repairs to the edges of the road, but this has mostly consisted of gravel being dumped as infill. Because of the volume of traffic, the gravel generally disperses within a short time. There are some possible kerbing solutions, but that discussion just hasn’t progressed.

Poor condition of Pialligo roads

The people of Pialligo have had other disappointments. Two major public artworks were planned for Pialligo. As part of Jon Stanhope’s ‘Percent For Art’ scheme, two large kinetic sculptures by renowned Japanese sculptor Kozo Nishino were selected, commissioned, created and residents believe they were to be installed as Airport gateway sculptures at Morsehead and Pialligo Avenues. However, with delays to the roadworks, both were placed in a storage shed for some time, before being installed in the Arboretum, with no apology. Both sculptures are currently located close to the Tuggeranong Parkway but cannot be appreciated by visitors to the Arboretum because of the vast distance from the major viewpoints.

Despite the small number of residents, they are entitled to the same sort of treatment that all other ratepayers in the ACT receive: roads in reasonable repair; parking regulation; regular mowing; and restrictions on access by large B-Double and other very large trucks, and resultant hazards.

Feedback from residents after a recent meeting of the Pialligo Residents’ Association says they covered much of ‘the same old same old’ and things have reached a stalemate. There has been no shortage of meetings and there have been lots of promises, with little evidence of delivery. But as surely as the sun rises, the rates just keep going up.

So where do you think things should go next?


Pialligo is a hidden but much-loved corner of Canberra. How do you view Pialligo?

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Captions: top, gorgeous red Gala apples, fresh from the long-established orchard of Beltana Grange, Pialligo. Image 2, friendly residents – Beltana Road, Pialligo. Image 3, Pialligo Creek regularly floods and covers Beltana Road. Image 4, pedestrian track from Beltana Road through to the Canberra International Airport. Image 5, roadside damage to communication infrastructure by heavy trucks in Beltana Road, Pialligo. Above, poor condition of Pialligo roads. Photos: Maryanna Mussared.

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16 Responses to
Promises, promises: It isn’t all apples in Pialligo
1
Paul Costigan 3:03 pm
24 Mar 17
#

Good piece about an urban area that keeps missing out – who knows why. As for the master plan- one wonders whether this was an exercise to identify and justify sites for sale – as they have done elsewhere in Canberra. Maybe in this case such a sale proved not possible – and hence no follow up and the shelving of the plan.

2
Maryann Mussared 9:11 pm
24 Mar 17
#

Thank you for your comments about Pialligo, Paul. I love Pialligo for its unique character. I have become obsessed with different methods of street kerbs that I think would work well, even if it is only an interim solution! I would really like our community to think very carefully about the value of this delightful rural corner of our city and the potential it has for regional tourism with the orchards, nurseries and regional tourism opportunity offered by the vision of the operators of the Pialligo Estate. Fingers crossed!

3
Maya123 11:10 am
25 Mar 17
#

I imagine the newly arrived flying foxes try to decimate the apples at Pialligo too, as they do with my fruit trees. No wonder there are expensive nets.

4
Maryann Mussared 6:22 pm
25 Mar 17
#

Maya123 said :

I imagine the newly arrived flying foxes try to decimate the apples at Pialligo too, as they do with my fruit trees. No wonder there are expensive nets.

The flying foxes/fruit bats are a problem along with possums and codling moth. Most orchards are netted, as well as all the vines at Pialligo Estate. One of the orchards that is not netted has a much reduced crop this year. It would be sad to see the orchards go.

5
Maya123 10:44 pm
25 Mar 17
#

Maryann Mussared said :

Maya123 said :

I imagine the newly arrived flying foxes try to decimate the apples at Pialligo too, as they do with my fruit trees. No wonder there are expensive nets.

The flying foxes/fruit bats are a problem along with possums and codling moth. Most orchards are netted, as well as all the vines at Pialligo Estate. One of the orchards that is not netted has a much reduced crop this year. It would be sad to see the orchards go.

The bats have been very bad this year. There appears to be an exploding population of them. Other years I have been able to share the fruit, but this year they take the lot if they can. My guess is they are only here because of the exotic fruit trees that are available. If there were no fruit trees I can’t imagine they would stay here with the cold winters. They are an expensive pest. Anyone who doesn’t think they are a pest, either buys all their food (cynically, wrapped in plastic), has spent a fortune on netting, or doesn’t live in central Canberra near the bats.

6
bryansworld 8:37 am
26 Mar 17
#

Is there an issue regarding the firefighting chemical that was used in the past at Canberra Airport getting into the water table here?

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/chemical-crisis-spreads-to-nations-airports-20170313-guxeq9.html

7
Masquara 7:44 pm
26 Mar 17
#

Maya123 said :

Maryann Mussared said :

Maya123 said :

I imagine the newly arrived flying foxes try to decimate the apples at Pialligo too, as they do with my fruit trees. No wonder there are expensive nets.

The flying foxes/fruit bats are a problem along with possums and codling moth. Most orchards are netted, as well as all the vines at Pialligo Estate. One of the orchards that is not netted has a much reduced crop this year. It would be sad to see the orchards go.

The bats have been very bad this year. There appears to be an exploding population of them. Other years I have been able to share the fruit, but this year they take the lot if they can. My guess is they are only here because of the exotic fruit trees that are available. If there were no fruit trees I can’t imagine they would stay here with the cold winters. They are an expensive pest. Anyone who doesn’t think they are a pest, either buys all their food (cynically, wrapped in plastic), has spent a fortune on netting, or doesn’t live in central Canberra near the bats.

A concentration of bats can make it seem like there’s a population explosion. What is more likely is that their habitat has been destroyed and they are forced into town…

8
dungfungus 10:25 pm
26 Mar 17
#

Masquara said :

Maya123 said :

Maryann Mussared said :

Maya123 said :

I imagine the newly arrived flying foxes try to decimate the apples at Pialligo too, as they do with my fruit trees. No wonder there are expensive nets.

The flying foxes/fruit bats are a problem along with possums and codling moth. Most orchards are netted, as well as all the vines at Pialligo Estate. One of the orchards that is not netted has a much reduced crop this year. It would be sad to see the orchards go.

The bats have been very bad this year. There appears to be an exploding population of them. Other years I have been able to share the fruit, but this year they take the lot if they can. My guess is they are only here because of the exotic fruit trees that are available. If there were no fruit trees I can’t imagine they would stay here with the cold winters. They are an expensive pest. Anyone who doesn’t think they are a pest, either buys all their food (cynically, wrapped in plastic), has spent a fortune on netting, or doesn’t live in central Canberra near the bats.

A concentration of bats can make it seem like there’s a population explosion. What is more likely is that their habitat has been destroyed and they are forced into town…

They are attracted by the vibe too.

9
dungfungus 10:34 pm
26 Mar 17
#

“As part of Jon Stanhope’s ‘Percent For Art’ scheme, two large kinetic sculptures by renowned Japanese sculptor Kozo Nishino were selected, commissioned, created and residents believe they were to be installed as Airport gateway sculptures at Morsehead and Pialligo Avenues. However, with delays to the roadworks, both were placed in a storage shed for some time, before being installed in the Arboretum, with no apology.”

You Pialligo people don’t know how lucky you are.

10
Maryann Mussared 9:15 am
27 Mar 17
#

bryansworld said :

Is there an issue regarding the firefighting chemical that was used in the past at Canberra Airport getting into the water table here?

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/chemical-crisis-spreads-to-nations-airports-20170313-guxeq9.html

I spoke to a number of people in Pialligo including representatives of the Residents’ Association, business owners and very long term residents. This was not mentioned by anyone What would be good is appropriate infrastructure be provided to avoid flooding.

11
bryansworld 4:00 am
28 Mar 17
#

Maryann Mussared said :

bryansworld said :

Is there an issue regarding the firefighting chemical that was used in the past at Canberra Airport getting into the water table here?

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/chemical-crisis-spreads-to-nations-airports-20170313-guxeq9.html

I spoke to a number of people in Pialligo including representatives of the Residents’ Association, business owners and very long term residents. This was not mentioned by anyone What would be good is appropriate infrastructure be provided to avoid flooding.

Maybe they need to do more research:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/williamtown-water-contamination-highlights-dangers-of-pfos-and-pfoa/news-story/90ad98e6fe99fe78641d91a7e9596a3c

12
Maryann Mussared 6:19 pm
30 Mar 17
#

bryansworld said :

Maryann Mussared said :

bryansworld said :

Is there an issue regarding the firefighting chemical that was used in the past at Canberra Airport getting into the water table here?

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/chemical-crisis-spreads-to-nations-airports-20170313-guxeq9.html

I spoke to a number of people in Pialligo including representatives of the Residents’ Association, business owners and very long term residents. This was not mentioned by anyone What would be good is appropriate infrastructure be provided to avoid flooding.

Maybe they need to do more research:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/williamtown-water-contamination-highlights-dangers-of-pfos-and-pfoa/news-story/90ad98e6fe99fe78641d91a7e9596a3c

This is definitely not my area, but I would like to think if in fact there were any issues, the runoff would end up in the Lake, and regular water quality control testing by the ACT Government would immediately identify such an event.

13
oh_ 2:58 pm
01 Apr 17
#

Pialligo is a little gem. Keep it as a market garden area, its also walking distance from the airport if there was a path put in (future tourism linkages potential). Also, the whole Molonglo river corridor through to Queanbeyan is a natural asset – imagine a bike path or ‘rail trail’ type experience from Canberra to Qbn, popping in for a coffee at Pialligo…I hope to god it never gets apartments or industrial development en masse.

14
bryansworld 3:22 am
02 Apr 17
#

Maryann Mussared said :

bryansworld said :

Maryann Mussared said :

bryansworld said :

Is there an issue regarding the firefighting chemical that was used in the past at Canberra Airport getting into the water table here?

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/chemical-crisis-spreads-to-nations-airports-20170313-guxeq9.html

I spoke to a number of people in Pialligo including representatives of the Residents’ Association, business owners and very long term residents. This was not mentioned by anyone What would be good is appropriate infrastructure be provided to avoid flooding.

Maybe they need to do more research:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/williamtown-water-contamination-highlights-dangers-of-pfos-and-pfoa/news-story/90ad98e6fe99fe78641d91a7e9596a3c

This is definitely not my area, but I would like to think if in fact there were any issues, the runoff would end up in the Lake, and regular water quality control testing by the ACT Government would immediately identify such an event.

I reckon they don’t test for PFAS. Maybe someone should.

15
Spiral 10:59 am
02 Apr 17
#

oh_ said :

Pialligo is a little gem. Keep it as a market garden area, its also walking distance from the airport if there was a path put in (future tourism linkages potential). Also, the whole Molonglo river corridor through to Queanbeyan is a natural asset – imagine a bike path or ‘rail trail’ type experience from Canberra to Qbn, popping in for a coffee at Pialligo…I hope to god it never gets apartments or industrial development en masse.

No! Never!

Make it easy to walk from Pialligo to the airport and people will park there to get to the airport, reducing available parking and resulting in timed (and probably pay) parking.

Better off making it really hard to walk there from the airport.

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