8 April 2020

Rail corridor housing in mix for Curtin horse paddocks

| Ian Bushnell
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Ana Stuart and Boo

Ana Stuart and Boo at Curtin. Boo is currently a resident of the North Curtin Horse Paddocks. Photo: Sarah Neilson.

The ACT Government has acknowledged that the section of the North Curtin Horse Paddocks not affected by the recent West Basin land swap may end up being developed as part of the light rail Stage 2 corridor to Woden.

The future of the remaining nine-hectare strip along Yarra Glen left from over from the land swap remains undecided, but its inner south location and proximity to future light rail makes it a prime development prospect.

The government is also looking at a new site for horse paddocks, which should be ready within three years. Horse owners have until 2022 to vacate the 21 hectares at Curtin now owned by the Commonwealth.

While an ACT Government spokesperson said nothing had been ruled in or out, the eastern portion of the horse paddocks would be considered as part of the upcoming City to Woden Planning Framework, in which the proposed light rail link will play a major role.

”The ACT Government will consider the most appropriate use for the portion of the land it is retaining from the Curtin Horse Paddocks,” the spokesperson said. “This will be determined closer to the end of 2022.

”The government will continue to assess the best use of available land while maintaining the ACT’s bush capital status and keeping up with demand for new housing.”

The land swap with the Commonwealth has paved the way for the government to proceed with reclaiming the lake bed at West Basin and press on with its urban renewal plans, including extending the boardwalk, another lakeside park and, eventually, potentially 2000 apartments.

The National Capital Authority says the Commonwealth will use the Curtin land to service its needs for embassies and diplomatic housing for the next 25 years.

North Curtin Horse Paddocks

The portion of the North Curtin Horse Paddocks now in Commonwealth hands. The strip alongside Yarra Glen remains ACT land and will be considered as part of the upcoming City to Woden Planning Framework.

But horse owners remain furious that they were left in the dark about the deal, despite having a Memorandum of Understanding with the government that they would be advised of any potential changes to the operation of the paddocks.

ACT Equestrian Association president Christine Lawrence said there had still not been a written communication from the government about what happens next, except for a buck-passing exercise from the office of Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman, which told her that the City Renewal Authority had carriage of the land swap negotiations with the NCA.

”It’s unethical to sign an MOU which states that you’re going to communicate with people and make sure they’re aware of any changes to the system and then ignore it completely when it suits,” she said.

”The Minister’s office must have known, it can’t have been a secret.”

While the ACT has allowed two years to prepare for any development on the site, Ms Lawrence said that it may take longer before a sod is actually turned due to the presence of the endangered Golden Sun Moth and probable objections from Curtin residents.

In any case, the site will not be developed fully for 25 years and there remained questions about how the land will be managed.

Ms Lawrence said the loss of the land would not disrupt the trails network as the swap had only removed an end portion of a trail, leaving most of the trail intact.

The government says horse owners face no immediate impact because the National Capital Authority has agreed with Territory Agistments that the horses can stay until 2022.

”The plan for how agisted horses will be moved off the land by 2022 is a commercial decision for Territory Agistments and the agistees,” the spokesperson said.

The NCA and Territory Agistments would work with horse owners over the next 24 months to make alternative arrangements for their horses.

The spokesperson said the land swap would benefit the ACT in several ways.

“Canberra is the National Capital and land must be available to the Commonwealth for diplomatic mission purposes to fulfil this national capital function,” the spokesperson said.

“The Acton Waterfront Project will create more than five hectares of high-quality, accessible lakeside public spaces that will encourage more people to enjoy Lake Burley Griffin.

“There will also be jobs created during the construction phase and ongoing employment in the small scale retail and hospitality offering in the precinct. This will be particularly important as we recover from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.”

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It is obvious that this land was always going to be developed and so it should be. It’s ridiculous to have this amount of empty space on a major transport route reserved for a privileged few horse owners.

The more our cities change to look like European and Asian cities the more at risk to things like Coronavirus we will be.

Apartment style living and dominant public transport will put us at more of a risk when the next pandemic hits.

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