Shock and outrage at West Basin land swap with Curtin horse paddocks

Ian Bushnell 25 March 2020 64
The proposed lakeside park at West Basin

A render of the proposed lakeside park at West Basin. Image: City Renewal Authority.

A land swap between the ACT Government and the National Capital Authority involving West Basin and the North Curtin horse paddocks has been greeted with outrage by shell-shocked community activists and equestrian groups.

The NCA revealed on its website yesterday that the Commonwealth had secured land in Curtin for the expansion of the ACT’s diplomatic community, either to build new embassies or residences over the next 25 years.

The deal also clears the way for the planned redevelopment of the West Basin area on Lake Burley Griffin in the city, where the building of up to 2000 apartments has been flagged.

The City Renewal Authority’s next planned stage includes reclaiming the 2.8 hectares of lake bed to expand the boardwalk, followed by building another lakeside park, landscaped public spaces and eventually residential development.

While the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians were aware of the negotiations, the ACT Equestrian Association was blindsided by the deal which will carve 70 per cent of the North Curtin paddocks off for diplomatic use.

The other 30 per cent fronts Yarra Glen on the proposed light rail Stage 2 route to Woden and would be prime land for development along a public transport corridor.

Lake Burley Griffin Guardians representative Juliet Ramsay said the group was devastated and the deal set a frightful precedent.

“We cannot believe the Commonwealth cannot buy land or simply acquire land for embassies, and the fact that it is using the lake bed as a swap deal is appalling,” she said.

”It will be so damaging to the heritage of the lake and its parkland area.”

She said the NCA had avoided following through with the heritage listing of the lake and parklands and the government’s plans would destroy the balance and symmetry of the lake.

The result would be the loss of parkland and 200 trees and the blocking of vistas from Vernon Circle and New Acton, including those from Morris Property Group’s Barracks development.

Ms Ramsay said whatever park is being planned at West Basin would not have parking and would essentially be for residents.

The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians said it would campaign against the Barr Government at the October election and hoped a Liberal government would reconsider the plans for West Basin.

City Renewal Authority CEO Malcolm Snow said the deal would allow the City Renewal Authority to proceed with the second stage of its plan for a new urban waterfront at West Basin – the Acton Waterfront project.

Following on from the creation of Henry Rolland Park and the construction of 150 metres of new boardwalk, the second stage would extend the lake edge boardwalk by a further 500 metres realigning the lake edge consistent with the National Capital Authority’s 2002 Griffin Legacy plan, as well as two more public jetties.

He said that future stages would be subject to the NCA’s Works Approval and ACT budget bids, and include the construction of a new lakefront park and landscaped public spaces adjacent to the boardwalk that will separate the lake edge from any new buildings.

The North Curtin Horse Paddocks location

The portion of the North Curtin Horse Paddocks that will become a diplomatic estate. Image: NCA.

New buildings would be set back a minimum of 55 metres from the lake edge in accordance with National Capital Plan requirements but smaller public kiosks would be permitted on the boardwalk.

Construction of stage two was scheduled to commence in the second half of the year but may have to be reviewed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President of the ACT Equestrian Association Christine Lawrence said the horseriding community was shocked by the news.

She said the land had always been attractive for developers due to its position but it was a significant part of a network of paddocks and trails that included Equestrian Park at Curtin and the Arboretum.

Ms Lawrence said people had been using the land since the 1970s and the government had only last year reassured the association that it would not be rezoned.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has also flatly rejected suggestions that the Curtin horse paddocks would be released for development.

But horse owners will not have to move immediately as the NCA has a deal with Territory Agistment until 2022.

The NCA has told the association that development at the Curtin site would not commence until sometime in 2023/24 because the National Capital Plan will need to be amended and an estate development plan created.

The association will be talking with City Services and the planning directorate about appropriate land to replace what is being lost.

The North Curtin Horse Holding Paddocks are located off McCulloch Street in Curtin. The complex comprises 30 hectares divided into five paddocks.

The NCA said that it has been approached by a number of missions wanting to establish or expand diplomatic representation in Australia and these requests had not been able to be met to date.

With regard to West Basin, it said it was the approval authority and would ensure that all development was of a high quality and well designed.

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64 Responses to Shock and outrage at West Basin land swap with Curtin horse paddocks
David2424 David2424 9:00 pm 08 Apr 20

What makes a great city usually necessitates a city, not horse paddocks. A classic RiotACT zoom-in on the reaction of the narrow, vested-interest, anti-development group, which had been given a free-pass on government land for decades. Maybe try for broader, more representative views on articles about Canberra development? Many in the comments section think this is great.

Steven Chaytor Steven Chaytor 12:45 pm 28 Mar 20

I for one am very excited about the West Basin development and the potential to bring the city to lake in sensitive a innovative development, including residential.

Xtra Xtra 10:01 pm 27 Mar 20

Let’s get real, keeping the horse paddocks for a small minority group in the centre of Canberra is a luxury this city cannot afford. This is better utilisation of land. There is a bigger question to be answered. Can the land be legally swapped, the legislation only allows the transfer of land under certain scenarios, swapping isn’t one of them.

    stevew77 stevew77 11:45 pm 28 Mar 20

    Yeah…high density housing is so preferable to open land and greenery…..not…..

Dory Johns Dory Johns 1:08 pm 27 Mar 20

Time for the Barr Government, the Urban Renewal Authority and the NCA to GO

Spiral Spiral 12:54 pm 27 Mar 20

With all this infilling perhaps the ACT government is aiming for a new crown, trying to take over as Australia’s most densely populated capital city.

Currently we are (if Wikipedia is to believed) in second place behind Melbourne and well ahead of Sydney, but it does look like our government has set its sights on overtaking Melbourne.

    stevew77 stevew77 11:51 pm 28 Mar 20

    Infill is all UN treaty driven….the UN basically appears to view humans as parasites on the earth, to be herded into dense areas so they can be more easily controlled and “managed”. This is also why the big lie of “climate change” gets do much taxpayer money and govt airtime….its all about socialist control over humanity…

Colette Raison Colette Raison 9:47 am 27 Mar 20

Don't agree with infilling. Used to have horses in the Curtin paddocks. Came home from school. Walked up and had a ride. Great community then. Canberra WAS a bush capital. What happened?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 2:52 pm 27 Mar 20

    Colette Raison well what happened was 12 March 1913 Lady Denman proclaimed Canberra as the new capital of Australia.

    Every decision made since then has taken away bush, even the decision to build the suburb and home you would live in.

    Colette Raison Colette Raison 3:14 pm 27 Mar 20

    Ashley Wright yes a pity. Glad I moved to a village with my horses

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 3:23 pm 27 Mar 20

    Colette Raison and not doubt destroyed some bush to build your house and stables and everything else.

    Colette Raison Colette Raison 3:30 pm 27 Mar 20

    Ashley Wright no did not build. Luckily the house and out buildings were already there. So we are redoing the gardens and planting more trees.

    Colette Raison Colette Raison 3:31 pm 27 Mar 20

    I like nature rather than concrete. 😊

Sue Sutton Sue Sutton 8:49 pm 26 Mar 20

So over this government catering to ‘exclusive’ enclaves of development rather then governing for all.

Ann Smith Ann Smith 6:02 pm 26 Mar 20

The “missing link”, the westbound road from northbound Yarra Glen, should go right through the middle of this land, to connect with Lady Denman Drive as well as the Cotter Road. Instead, the planners decided that this traffic should go through Curtin. Curtin residents and all of Canberra lose out again.

    JC JC 9:07 pm 26 Mar 20

    How much traffic would need to come from Yarra Glen headed that way? I would say very little. The vast majority of the traffic from say Garrn south who would want to go to the Tuggeranong parkway or Molongolo would be using Hindmarsh drive.

    People from Deakin would use Dudley Street which only leaves people from Hughes and Curtain itself. Hardly enough traffic to warrant a full flyover intersection.

    As for people using Lady Denman drive I reckon many use that as a force of habit. Unless you are going to the zoo better off these days using Cotter road and the Parkway.

Alex Elliott Alex Elliott 5:58 pm 26 Mar 20

This sets a precedent for more apartment blocks to go up in more areas around the lake. The Barr Government has very little regard to community wishes. I know who I WON'T be voting for this year.

    Sher Bee Sher Bee 6:07 pm 29 Mar 20

    Alex Elliott as long as everyone remembers Barr does what he wants without community input

Mark Goodman Mark Goodman 3:47 pm 26 Mar 20

All part of the ACT Government's zero emission policy. An absolute falsehood.

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 3:09 pm 26 Mar 20

This is so they can hand the lakefront land to the developers and to extend the concrete “park” few people use because it has no facilities, shade, cafes or character of any description!

Doug Stewart Doug Stewart 2:37 pm 26 Mar 20

Sadly this is just a further example of this ACT Government ignoring the agreed territory plan for their own ends. I do note that they avoided all public discussion on this topic, prior to making their decision. I have to ask – are their kickbacks on this arrangement.
Sure looks shady to me.

    JC JC 9:00 pm 26 Mar 20

    What is the agreed territory plan?

    You know the plan can be changed?

    This block for example was last changed in 2008.

Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 12:11 pm 26 Mar 20

NCA looked at the curtin land back in 2007 as the ideal site for embassies. It just takes politics longer to understand planning.

Ann Eldridge Ann Eldridge 11:19 am 26 Mar 20

Most of the horse paddocks are under huge electric wire so unsuitable for building but I always thought such valuable land will always be looked at closely by this government!

chewy14 chewy14 8:16 am 26 Mar 20

I can’t believe the government is thinking of ruining the natural beauty of our man made lake through development.

The empty car parks of West Basin hold enormous heritage value and should never be touched.

I mean if they build units, restaurants, cafes and other entertainment venues, people might actually go down there.

    JC JC 4:19 pm 26 Mar 20

    Won’t someone think of the foosal slab?

    BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 6:36 pm 26 Mar 20

    People used to go there in droves to hire paddle boats, canoes, bicycles and tricycles, or just to swim or picnic.

    In future people will not go down there other than to sit on the board walk to the odour of coffee and rotting lake weed overlooked by the bogans that rent the units above. In winter the south facing balconies with the water views will be deserted as will the boardwalk, which will be in perpetual shade from the towers.

    chewy14 chewy14 7:33 pm 26 Mar 20

    No, they really didn’t go down there in droves otherwise there would have been more than just a small paddleboat business and the cafe.

    And I have no idea how you think “bogans” are going to be able to afford to live in a lakeside development area that will likely be more expensive even than Kingston foreshore.

    And the vast majority of the foreshore will receive significant amounts of sunshine, particularly in the afternoon, with the largest buildings to be located in the south east area of the development, shrinking to lower buildings in the North.

    It is exactly the type of revitalization this decrepit and unused area needs. It will breath life into the city with thousands of residents and visitors.

Christine Palmer Christine Palmer 7:45 am 26 Mar 20

And yet the West Deakin diplomatic area remains mostly empty and desolate. Fill this up first! If the countries allocated to this area don’t build within two years hand the land to other countries who can show they are ready to go and will build.

    Joyce Michell Deady Joyce Michell Deady 6:26 pm 26 Mar 20

    I totally agree, not to mention the block bordering State Circle, Flynn Drive and Alexandria Dr, which I thought was part of the Chinese Embassy but now sits empty with construction clearly begun but abandoned.

    Christine Palmer Christine Palmer 6:27 pm 26 Mar 20

    Joyce Michell Deady I think the Russians are meant to be building there.

    Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 1:06 pm 27 Mar 20

    the Russians or Chinese?

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 5:44 am 26 Mar 20

Time to change my vote to Liberal.

Reb Eb Reb Eb 10:34 pm 25 Mar 20

For the uninitiated- who owns and manages the horse paddocks, who has access to them, for what purposes? Thks

Lou Brooks Lou Brooks 10:16 pm 25 Mar 20

Annie Visser just like we always said they would.

Lisa Ries Lisa Ries 10:16 pm 25 Mar 20

Geocon for sure, well done Andrew Barr

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