Seaplane shows how lake could be put to use

Ian Bushnell 17 December 2020 22
Kingston Foreshore

Kingston Foreshore: why not catch a water taxi to town from here? Photo: File.

This week’s first seaplane landing on Lake Burley Griffin may be a harbinger of a less ornamental city centrepiece and more of a working waterway.

Like the big country town that we are, Sydney Seaplanes’ test flight on Tuesday was greeted as the novelty it undoubtedly was but if the enthusiasm of NCA boss Sally Barnes is any indication, there is a very good chance that the daily services proposed will become a reality next year.

If it does, it begs the question about what other uses the lake could reasonably tolerate, without impacting on its aesthetic and therapeutic value.

As Ms Barnes said on Tuesday: “We need the lake to be the heart of the city, we need the heart to pump but we definitely don’t want the heart to pass out from overuse.”

READ MORE: Lake first as seaplane demonstration flight splashes down in Canberra

The lake is hardly not used but it has been kept as a mainly recreational or event-focused body of water enjoyed by rowers, paddlers and sailors, and the odd person who may plunge into its icy waters, as well as being reserved for Australia Day or New Year’s Eve celebrations when boats and jet skis are allowed to tear up its waters.

But as the city moves towards the lake and people take up residence, there the opportunities arise for it to be used for transport, like other cities with a lake, such as Geneva.

It isn’t a new thought.


Could a seaplane service in 2021 be the start of a new era for Lake Burley Griffin? Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A group back in 2005 floated the idea of a water taxi service and there have been ferry cruises on the lake for years. The ACT Government’s City to the Lake masterplan back in 2014 envisaged such services at West Basin.

It remains a bit of a pipe dream but perhaps the time is approaching where we have a critical mass of potential passengers, and a city more open to the possibility.

We already have the Kingston Foreshore and a growing number of people moving into that area, and like it or not, residential development of some kind is planned for West Basin. Along Parkes Way and Constitution Avenue, apartment complexes are rising within walking distance of the lake.

There will soon be a significant population of people living near the lake working in the city or the Parliamentary Triangle whose journey to the office would be appreciably shorter and more pleasant if it were a quick trip by water taxi, smaller than a ferry and less of an impact on the lake.

Imagine living in Kingston and the ease of boarding a water taxi with capacity for about half a dozen passengers and crossing the lake to the city. Or wandering down to Rond Terrace to slip across to the NGA.

READ ALSO: Canberra still has the longest emergency waiting times in Australia

For tourists, the convenience plus enjoyment of a lake transit system could be very attractive.

For those concerned about the pollution risks and noise concerns of motorised transport on the lake, the vessels need not even be fossil fuel-driven.

Obviously for private operators there needs to be a viable business case but maybe Transport Canberra could add water taxis to its network, at an appropriate fare and using the MyWay card or its successor.

The size, numbers and frequency of vessels would also need to fit with the lake’s capacity.

The idea may still be a stretch for some but if we allow a seaplane service then we should have a real discussion about what else will enhance our lives around the lake we love, and plan for it properly.

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22 Responses to Seaplane shows how lake could be put to use
Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:14 pm 22 Dec 20

I am probably wrong but I recall a Cessna 180 floatplane operating joy flights form LBG in the 1990s – could have been Lake Tuggeranong too. This being the case, the recent landing of the Cessna Caravan pictured is not the first time.

Ben Brighton Ben Brighton 8:15 pm 19 Dec 20

Water skiing/ wakeboarding should be allowed!

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:54 pm 18 Dec 20

I’m with Martin Budden – gondolas, preferably run by barcarolling baristas with suitable oar skills.

Slightly less whimsically, greater use of the Lake for transport might mean somewhat improved access to the Lake’s edge for people other than cyclists and pedestrians – a thought which might cause some brain explosions around this town.

Paul Stephens Paul Stephens 4:48 pm 18 Dec 20

Next will be JetSki & waterskiing!! No need for the seaplane. 🤬

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:27 pm 18 Dec 20

Well, if nothing else, this novelty for elitists has got people thinking. Why not “hover-trams”? That would solve the problem of getting them across LBG.
And for the thrill seekers, how about personal jetpacks to replace those soon to banned electric scooters. The sky is indeed the limit.

Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 4:01 pm 18 Dec 20

I suggest a hovercraft. Electric powered of course. That way it can get into the city using the roads, as well as travel on the lake.

Vander Leal Vander Leal 10:39 am 18 Dec 20

There we go... discussing again more cherries on top of the cake...

check again the size of this city and its demographics...

we have people from Banks, Richardson, Casey, Bonner, having to cross the town with a failing bus network even reduced because of a tram that doesn't serve them and we're discussing sea taxis and few flights for even fewer to Sydney... oh Canberra...

Martin Budden Martin Budden 9:59 am 18 Dec 20

Instead of trams, let's build a canal network! We can all catch gondolas to work.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 10:00 am 18 Dec 20

    Or we could just put more buses on our existing road network 🤷‍♂️

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 10:53 pm 18 Dec 20

    Daniel Duncan YES!!! But it will only work if combined with monorails and helipads and magic carpets.

    Or maybe just more buses?

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 11:10 pm 18 Dec 20

    Martin you are a Dreamer.. Magic Carpets.. we all ready have Helipads. Maglev would be better than a Monorail.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:22 am 19 Dec 20

    Daniel maglevs would be perfect! And an ekranoplan, with connecting rickshaws.

    Or maybe just more buses? 🤷‍♂️

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 9:44 am 19 Dec 20

    Well rickshaw's would employ more people.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 9:23 am 22 Dec 20

    Martin Budden get over it Martin

Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:15 am 18 Dec 20

I lived in Geneva for years and coming home to Canberra saw the stark difference between how we use our lakes. In Canberra, the lake is separated from daily life (except for Kingston of course). Using it takes a deliberate act to get there. I’m in favour of ideas like this, as well as more development, so that it’s integrated into the life of the city.

Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 7:40 am 18 Dec 20

Only if there electric, but I don’t really see the connection to the actual city, as it’s a fair walk to the majority of it.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 11:49 am 18 Dec 20

    Marc Edwards if they are electric they will be charged with dinosaur generated electricity

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 12:01 pm 18 Dec 20

    Jorge Gatica possibly, or through renewables but they won’t be polluting the lake through the oil that comes out of an ICE motor exhaust.

    Susan Nicholls Susan Nicholls 5:31 pm 18 Dec 20

    Marc Edwards I know! What about we we extend the lake into the city neighbourhoods via canals!!

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 5:43 pm 18 Dec 20

    Susan Nicholls the only issue is the city is 4 to 7 meters above the lake level, and that in itself creates more issues.

    Susan Nicholls Susan Nicholls 5:57 pm 18 Dec 20

    Marc Edwards Locks and waterfalls! Make it so!

Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 7:29 am 18 Dec 20

Surely more affordable for the average Canberran...

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