17 September 2018

Public meeting calls for development pause, heritage listing of lake

| Ian Bushnell
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The 1963 master plan for Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Supplied.

Community activists concerned at the direction of Canberra have called for pause in the approval of major projects, heritage listing of Lake Burley Griffin and a new design competition to guide the development of the National Capital in its second century.

Five resolutions from last week’s public meeting on planning and development in the ACT at a packed Albert Hall are to be sent to the Federal Minister for the National Capital and External Territories, the ACT Chief Minister, and the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Lake Burley Griffin Guardians convenor Juliet Ramsay said a key concern at the meeting was a lack of real community consultation about proposed developments.

“There hasn’t been enough people involved in the planning. What has happened is the Government has made decisions on planning then done a token consultation, then the development has started. It’s a huge concern,” she said.

The more than 400 people at the meeting convened by former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope heard a litany of complaints about the ACT’s planning authorities that must have had Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate head Ben Ponton’s ears burning as he sat through the night.

From the Griffin plan being nibbled away, to a piecemeal approach to planning, to a lack of enforcement of the Directorate’s own rules, to precinct codes being ignored, to the poor architecture and loss of heritage and green space, it was a telling indictment of the Labor Government’s record.

Ms Ramsay denied people were just resistant to change or concerned that the city was growing.

“People are concerned about the city changing but I don’t think we are generally concerned about good changes. Constitution Avenue has been tidied up and people appreciate that,” she said.

One resolution calls for ‘active and demonstrable community engagement on the vision and reshaping of Canberra’, from both Federal and ACT politicians, particularly on the ACT Government’s planning strategy refresh.

“We believe there needs to be a pause in the approval of further large-scale developments that will impact on the long-term form of the city until this community engagement is completed,” it says.

Another calls for both levels of government, under the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan, to develop precinct codes, local area plans, heritage overlays/management plans,
environmental and character values for individual precincts that are both enforceable and enforced in future planning.

The meeting also called for the ACT and Australian Governments to support heritage listing for Lake Burley Griffin and its landscape setting, and to halt all plans to infill part of the lake and appropriate the foreshore for an apartment estate at West Basin.

Accusing Chief Minister Andrew Barr of having an appalling attitude to heritage, Ms Ramsay said the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians were desperately concerned about West Basin.

“It started as City to the Lake but now we don’t see City to the Lake at all but the development of the apartments is still on the books,” Ms Ramsay said.

“They are privatising that land and privatising the vistas. It’s such a strategic and important bit of land and has the potential to be wonderful.”

The final resolution, which came from the floor of the meeting, calls for the Australian and ACT Governments to undertake a new international design competition to guide planning for the second century of the Nation’s Capital.

Ms Ramsay acknowledged the ACT Government’s economic pressures, which would only be exacerbated by the cost of light rail, but said it needed other sources of income besides property rates and land sales.

“It can’t just go on selling land forever,” she said.

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Queanbeyanite5:31 pm 21 Sep 18

How do you think Mr Rattenbury is going to pay off the full $6 billion tramway if they don’t build multi million dollar apartments around the lake?

Contrary to the claims of Juliet Ramsay, the ACT government’s plans for West Basin aren’t ‘nibbling away’ at Walter Burley Griffin’s plan. Development of West Basin with a residential component is entirely in keeping with Griffin’s plan, which was undermined by the modernists who ran and advised the National Capital Development Commission in the 1960s and 70s. Griffin didn’t envisage the sterile, soulless landscape crisscrossed by freeways shown in the 1963 plan that illustrates this article. He did envisage people living, walking and catching trams along the main avenues. The ACT government’s plans for West Basin, along with other initiatives including light rail, are actually resurrecting Griffin’s legacy.

Juliet Ramsay and her Lake Gatekeepers are liars, plain and simple. They conjure up false imagery to scare ill-informed people away from a project that would objectively improve a tired, rundown space that no one actually uses. This whole West Basin “controversy” is a joke.

I particularly like how they claim it’s a valued public space when it’s mostly unused car parks.

There’s homeless people living down there too but I doubt these “guardians’’ actually know this because I question how much they actually go there and utilise the space themselves.

cannedbeeria10:11 pm 20 Sep 18

“From the Griffin plan being nibbled away, to a piecemeal approach to planning, to a lack of enforcement of the Directorate’s own rules,”

Hear hear! We have seen some developments that clearly breach and are not in keeping at all, with the various territory plans and intents, being stalled and eventually passed despite overwhelming public opinion against them. And no amount of correspondence is even acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Lake Burley Griffin Guardians are anti-development radicals. Their views are Canberra 1950, not Canberra 2050.

Canberrans are spoilt for natural space – Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie and Majura, Mount Stromlo, and the Brindabellas at our doorstep.

Lake Burley Griffin has over 40 kilometres of shoreline. Some of it beautiful, but much is under-utilised and not maintained. West Basin is weedy, out-of-use, and hemmed in by Parkes Way. Why would one choose to go to West Basin when Commonwealth Park is right beside it? Or for a more natural setting there’s Weston Park, Black Mountain Peninsula, or even Barrenjoey Peninsula by the arboretum.

Yet the Guardians object to development of a small portion of the lake at West Basin, an area closest to the city, and the development of which was a part of Walter Burley Griffin’s original plan for Canberra.

Walter Burley Griffin’s Canberra plan was derailed by post-WWII car-centred urban sprawl. Canberra has more than its fair share of sprawl. Many Canberrans and visitors alike deride it as a city ‘where you need a car’. That people increasingly wish to live in apartments, increase urban density around the lake, and live closer to work is a welcome counter-balance to more sprawl.

The government consults the population every three years at the election. The only consultation that matters. How much more consultation is needed?

Considering the demographics of the attendees at the public meeting, surely they should be calling for the demolition of Scriviner dam and the restoration of the mighty Molonglo river through the Parliamentary triangle?

I mean they were clearly all well and truly alive when it was built after all.

cannedbeeria10:03 pm 20 Sep 18

Firstly, Chewie, I was not at the meeting, but I do remember when the lake wasn’t there, and I for one, was very much in favour of the lake being built.
Hence I am not so favourable to the idea of filling it in. Seems a waste of effort.
Why would you say that people who are experienced in Canberra’s history, would want to demolish the dam and dry up the lake? Bit presumptuous wasn’t it?

It’s a joke.

These people are completely anti development yet don’t acknowledge the fact that their precious lake only exists because of development.

It’s massively ironic.

Whilst design competitions can be an interesting way of calling in ideas and providing a consultative mechanism for future plans, we do need to be careful about calls for a “pause” in development. Does this also mean a “pause” in peoples’ jobs and a “pause” in available homes for people to live in?

I’m sure that the increased wealth of established homeowners derived from a dramatic rise in the value of existing housing stock caused by a city-wide development freeze is just a happy coincidence for these people.

The image from the 1963 master plan for Lake Burley Griffin has reminded me of what a ghastly place those modernists who ran and advised the National Capital Development Commission in the 1960s and 70s tried to build – soulless, sterile, and unsustainable. In their defence, I guess, they had no way of knowing what was coming in terms of environmental, social and economic change. But it amazes me that the self-appointed Lake Burley Griffin Guardians, who purport to protect the lake’s ‘aesthetic, social and ecological values’, would still champion such a plan with its dinky little freeways everywhere, and complete lack of amenity for walking, cycling or public transport (why would you do that when you can see everything without getting out of your car?). The only place for people in this plan is in little tin cans on freeways.

I think it’s time to dispense with the notion that these meetings are at all representative of Canberra’s population. Check out the images from the event – it’s like a sad game of “Where’s Wally?” for anyone trying to spot a person under the age of 40.

Aren’t people over 40 worth listening to? And there were people under 40 who put forward very worthwhile ideas. Why not come along and join in the conversation rather than commenting on the photos in a sarcastic way?

Believe it or not, I have no desire to reorganise my schedule in order to attend a bargain basement re-enactment of the “Battle of Black Mountain” at 6pm on a weeknight.

There were 450 people at a meeting in Canberra in a Monday night, so that says something about how concerned people of a certain generation are about the developer-led planning regime that rules in Canberra. My kids and grandkids could not make it, because they were busy with the usual Monday night routine. So yes there were a lot of grey heads, but hey we were the ones who stopped the Vietnam War, got the voting age reduced to 18, fought for Aboriginal land rights and yes voted for marriage equality. So there’s a lot of life left in these oldies yet and a certain Chief Minister would do well to remember that we can bite too.

The meeting attendees ages are irrelevant. Did you bother to attend the meeting and have your say?

And now you’re going to stop those kids and grandkids from enjoying the same types of amenities that you take for granted, forcing these younger generations to live on the outskirts of the city whilst ensuring your property portfolios grow at a enormous rate.

Grey (NIMBY) power.

petunia petal10:18 pm 20 Sep 18

A rather silly comment. Im under 40 and have noticed that at protests e.g. against live animal exports, supporting the refugees, climate change and other causes that many Canberrans would purport to support, the majority of people who bother turning up (on a weekend too!) are over 40. Disappointing that younger people don’t seem to care about issues in their town and across the country. Next you’ll be saying ‘oldies’ should vacate their houses so young people can buy them.

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