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The mass exodus – do we love Canberra?

By Steven Bailey 30 December 2014 28

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As many of us make the mass migration to the coast for the holiday period, this year, I decided to stay at home in Canberra. However, I did make a fleeting three-day visit to my family in the Victorian Highlands. A part of my heart remains there on the rocky roads, in the cold nights, and where the wind whispers contours into the long grass and tall trees. I returned to an almost similar Canberra: quite, long and leafy streets; closed shops; and a silence in which to ponder and recuperate.

Canberra’s silence is almost like the beginning of the play Under Milk Wood where it is summer yet ‘spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black’. Although there is the slight bustle of the city shopping rush, and of course there will be Summernats – whatever tickles your fancy. Neither tickle mine – except if you’re talking about a 60’s Valiant with the graceful grunt and torque of the slant-6 engine, its beautiful bench seats of red leather, and its 3 speed column shift! Sorry, I got a bit excited for a moment.

I wonder in this silence: do we love Canberra or do we love Canberra enough? Or do so many of us see it as a sterile and unreal city of perfect form yet characterless, and something from which to escape whenever it’s possible. Canberra is certainly too mature and intelligent a place for the parochialism of patriotism, but patriotism is different to love and pride. We hold love and pride for people; we have patriotism for things. And so I wonder, do we see Canberra as a thing; a machine for working the wheels of the nation, or do we see it more as a person with life, love, and feelings?

I have some wounds to lick after such a big year, and this is probably the most pensive piece I’ve ever written for the Riotact. I apologise in advance. But when we lick our wounds, we think of the future.

When I think of the future of Canberra, I wonder if it will be marked by the flaccidity of Floriade, the failure of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations – which left us with nothing, or the Multicultural Festival which is nothing more than a two-day frenzy of over-priced finger-food, and as about as cultural as an Hawaiian T-shirt on an obnoxious American tourist. The Multicultural Festival is nothing compared to what it used to be.

Or, will Canberra be more like a person… a person of culture and creativity; fun, fair, free, and with a glint in her eyes that pulls you in like an irresistible tide electric with her the charm, intelligence, and imagination? Will she have a talent for life and a song in her heart that unwraps you, and will people be brave enough to sing it with her?

Will she be beautiful, or will she be boring?

I love the coast, the games of monopoly gone wrong, and drinks with friends. I must admit that I’ve spent more summers by the beach than in Canberra. Yet something in me this summer asks: instead of leaving it; why not change it?

What’s Your opinion?


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The mass exodus – do we love Canberra?
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rommeldog56 10:28 am 04 Jan 15

GuruJ said :

Had a very interesting conversation with my mortgage broker a while back (we had a possibility of a job up north and had to know how much we could borrow if we needed to move). I made a comment along the lines of “Well, all the retirees from the most recent job losses are going to move down the coast now” and he said “no they’re not, everyone says Canberra is a much better place to live than the coast these days”.

We’ve been here 13 years now, and I have to admit the changes are quite impressive. Bunda St mall has gone from a wasteland carpark to a vibrant restaurant and cafe strip. New Acton didn’t exist. The Belconnen town centre infill is going to continue to bring better food and entertainment attractions up north. Admittedly the area down near the Casino needs to be refreshed and poor old Tuggers isn’t doing so well, but overall the city is in far better shape than it’s ever been.

rommeldog56 said :

I know, I know – some on here will say that the up to tripling of the Annual Rates is the “best decision that this ACT Labor Gov’t has made ” – or “you should move into a smaller townhouse/unit”.

But that not the point. I already paid full stamp duty on my modest house when I purchased it in Canberra as a self funded retiree 3 years ago. Now, over time, i have to pay it again, and again, and again. It is legalsuied theft.

Tripling of Annual Rates was a decision by the ACT Gov’t – qand as a previous life long Labor voter, one which has lost my vote for Labor in the ACT forever.

I’m not entirely convinced of this change either, but bear in mind that the reduction in stamp duty is very likely to increase the capital value of your property. People buy on the basis of the total loan they need from the bank, and stamp duty takes a big cut out of what goes to the vendor. That doesn’t immediately help your cash situation, but if you don’t want to move it would give you extra room on top if you took out a reverse mortgage.

1) Re Capital value of a house increasing because of reduction in stanp duty : Sorry, I dont think that holds up. Avg.price for a place in Canberra decreased in the last quarter by about 3% as I recall – which is a lot in 1 quarter. Stamp duty was on top of the market assessed value of a house listed for sale – it did not affect that asking price. Buyers could either afford the asking price + stamp duty, or they couldnt. Strangly, buyers used to save up more for stamp duty or buy a marginally smaller house – or delayed getting the “must haves” nowdays when you move in, like massive TVs, home theater systems, brand new furniture, etc. The “market” took care of the stamp duty, as it does in the rest of Australia. It wasn’t regressive as some on here say – the problem with it is that if housing sales decline, ACT Gov’t revenue also declines.

2) Reverse Mortgages : Have u seen the interest rate on those ? Unless those are repaid, interest and repayments compound and are taken out of the estate. So much for leaving the kids a house to give them a leg up into the property market. Reverse mortages are rubbish – be careful and read the small print too.

3) Self funded retirees, like anyone, can apply to the ACT Gov’t for dererral of Annual Rates, a facility that i think will be increasingly used in coming years. But, the amount of the deferal + interest still has to be repaid out of the estate – it is not a “waiver” nor is it the 50% reduction in Annual Rates that Centrelink age pension recipients get. Again, the problem is that the ACT Gov’t does not extend those same concessions to self funded retirees on a means test basis.

Masquara 10:22 am 04 Jan 15

spades said :

The issue with Canberra is that its growth and development is ‘artificial’. The culture in cities like Sydney or Melbourne seem to naturally evolve whereas we always seem to want to manufacture Canberra’s future culture. I don’t think Melbournians regularly ponder how to be more like Paris or San Francisco, I think it just “happened”…while Canberrans always want to think about how to be more like this and that. It feels so artificial. I feel like this city is always trying to be something it’s not. The fact is, it’s a bit more boring than we think it is.

When I lived in Sydney I didn’t worry about how to make the city more exciting, it just was. Not the case for Canberra…

Read up on the history of Paris architecture and get back to us.

GuruJ 9:44 am 04 Jan 15

spades said :

The issue with Canberra is that its growth and development is ‘artificial’. The culture in cities like Sydney or Melbourne seem to naturally evolve whereas we always seem to want to manufacture Canberra’s future culture. I don’t think Melbournians regularly ponder how to be more like Paris or San Francisco, I think it just “happened”…while Canberrans always want to think about how to be more like this and that. It feels so artificial. I feel like this city is always trying to be something it’s not. The fact is, it’s a bit more boring than we think it is.

When I lived in Sydney I didn’t worry about how to make the city more exciting, it just was. Not the case for Canberra…

We’re hardly unique, most of our capital cities have had cultural cringe at some point or another. Have you never heard of the phrase “the Paris end of Melbourne”?

But it comes down to two factors I think. Firstly, Canberra has been a planned city from the start and some people don’t like to let go of that notion (if I hear the phrase “according to the Burley-Griffin Plan” one more time…!). Secondly, our state-local hybrid system of government encourages central planning in areas that are normally delegated to multiple local councils, each with their own vision and agenda.

As a group, we’re a little too smug while simultaneously being deeply insecure. Our somewhat pitiable self-congratulations at being noticed by the New York Times being a good case in point. I think we have things we can be genuinely proud of: a highly educated population and a strong tertiary education sector, a socially cohesive suburbia, and some of the best urban green spaces and walk/ride tracks in the country. But we don’t make the most of them!

To move away from just being a public service town we need more innovation, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking. The CBR Innovation Network is a good start but may yet get bogged down in bureaucracy, I’m keeping an open mind. I would also love to see a greater policy focus on telecommuting and remote work instead of, for example, light rail.

dungfungus 7:21 am 04 Jan 15

GuruJ said :

Had a very interesting conversation with my mortgage broker a while back (we had a possibility of a job up north and had to know how much we could borrow if we needed to move). I made a comment along the lines of “Well, all the retirees from the most recent job losses are going to move down the coast now” and he said “no they’re not, everyone says Canberra is a much better place to live than the coast these days”.

We’ve been here 13 years now, and I have to admit the changes are quite impressive. Bunda St mall has gone from a wasteland carpark to a vibrant restaurant and cafe strip. New Acton didn’t exist. The Belconnen town centre infill is going to continue to bring better food and entertainment attractions up north. Admittedly the area down near the Casino needs to be refreshed and poor old Tuggers isn’t doing so well, but overall the city is in far better shape than it’s ever been.

rommeldog56 said :

I know, I know – some on here will say that the up to tripling of the Annual Rates is the “best decision that this ACT Labor Gov’t has made ” – or “you should move into a smaller townhouse/unit”.

But that not the point. I already paid full stamp duty on my modest house when I purchased it in Canberra as a self funded retiree 3 years ago. Now, over time, i have to pay it again, and again, and again. It is legalsuied theft.

Tripling of Annual Rates was a decision by the ACT Gov’t – qand as a previous life long Labor voter, one which has lost my vote for Labor in the ACT forever.

I’m not entirely convinced of this change either, but bear in mind that the reduction in stamp duty is very likely to increase the capital value of your property. People buy on the basis of the total loan they need from the bank, and stamp duty takes a big cut out of what goes to the vendor. That doesn’t immediately help your cash situation, but if you don’t want to move it would give you extra room on top if you took out a reverse mortgage.

A pox on reverse mortgages!

spades 12:45 am 04 Jan 15

The issue with Canberra is that its growth and development is ‘artificial’. The culture in cities like Sydney or Melbourne seem to naturally evolve whereas we always seem to want to manufacture Canberra’s future culture. I don’t think Melbournians regularly ponder how to be more like Paris or San Francisco, I think it just “happened”…while Canberrans always want to think about how to be more like this and that. It feels so artificial. I feel like this city is always trying to be something it’s not. The fact is, it’s a bit more boring than we think it is.

When I lived in Sydney I didn’t worry about how to make the city more exciting, it just was. Not the case for Canberra…

GuruJ 12:30 am 04 Jan 15

Had a very interesting conversation with my mortgage broker a while back (we had a possibility of a job up north and had to know how much we could borrow if we needed to move). I made a comment along the lines of “Well, all the retirees from the most recent job losses are going to move down the coast now” and he said “no they’re not, everyone says Canberra is a much better place to live than the coast these days”.

We’ve been here 13 years now, and I have to admit the changes are quite impressive. Bunda St mall has gone from a wasteland carpark to a vibrant restaurant and cafe strip. New Acton didn’t exist. The Belconnen town centre infill is going to continue to bring better food and entertainment attractions up north. Admittedly the area down near the Casino needs to be refreshed and poor old Tuggers isn’t doing so well, but overall the city is in far better shape than it’s ever been.

rommeldog56 said :

I know, I know – some on here will say that the up to tripling of the Annual Rates is the “best decision that this ACT Labor Gov’t has made ” – or “you should move into a smaller townhouse/unit”.

But that not the point. I already paid full stamp duty on my modest house when I purchased it in Canberra as a self funded retiree 3 years ago. Now, over time, i have to pay it again, and again, and again. It is legalsuied theft.

Tripling of Annual Rates was a decision by the ACT Gov’t – qand as a previous life long Labor voter, one which has lost my vote for Labor in the ACT forever.

I’m not entirely convinced of this change either, but bear in mind that the reduction in stamp duty is very likely to increase the capital value of your property. People buy on the basis of the total loan they need from the bank, and stamp duty takes a big cut out of what goes to the vendor. That doesn’t immediately help your cash situation, but if you don’t want to move it would give you extra room on top if you took out a reverse mortgage.

Steven Bailey 8:04 pm 03 Jan 15

rommeldog56 said :

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

The future for Canberra will be a widening in the gap between rich and poor or more succinctly, those who can fund the rapidly increasing costs of living and the rest of us who can’t.
With rates increasing and services diminishing and no commensurate increase in retirement income, a lot of us will have sell up and move to decaying country towns.
I just received a motor vehicle registration renewal notice for my humble 2 litre sedan last week.
The cost is $966.30 which includes a Road Rescue Fee for $16.60, a Road Safety Contribution for $2.00 and a Lifetime Care and Support Levy for $34.00.
How many renewal notices encompass a fee, contribution and levy on top of everything else?
I suppose there will be a “Tram Rescue Levy” before too long.
To save some money, I recently cancelled my membership to one of the national seniors’ associations who do very little except bash the government for “doing nothing either”.
I was reminded that I wouldn’t get the “senior’s discount for restaurants and motels” anymore.
My reply was “who needs a discount for goods and services one can’t afford anyway?”.
As far as I am aware, the ACT Government hasn’t yet taxed greetings and salutations so “Happy New Year Everybody”.

Yes Dungfungus, I too fear that the future of Canberra will entail a widening gap between the rich and upper-middle class, and the poor. Happy new year to you.

Steven : As a self funded retiree, my CPI linked pension (which is modest – but which i stupidly thought was better that than bludging on the Age Pension and so, on other taxpayers and ACT Ratepayers !), went up 2.1% – well under CPI.

Also, my Annual Rates here went up 9.49% – and will apparently continue to do so at a similar rate pa for the next 18 years or so.

I have sbsolutely no hope of being able to afford that – so will have to move away from my family & friends and out of Canberra within a few years.

No doubt, i will be joined by many more self funded retiree’s in Canberra who are at the lower – mid end of the self funded pension income scale.

Self funded retirees also get no assistance what so ever from the ACT Gov’t in terms of cost of living concessions (eg. car registration fee, reduction in annual rates, concessional bus travel, etc) that Age Pension/Centrelink recipients get.

Those are not means tested.

I know, I know – some on here will say that the up to tripling of the Annual Rates is the “best decision that this ACT Labor Gov’t has made ” – or “you should move into a smaller townhouse/unit”.

But that not the point. I already paid full stamp duty on my modest house when I purchased it in Canberra as a self funded retiree 3 years ago. Now, over time, i have to pay it again, and again, and again. It is legalsuied theft.

Tripling of Annual Rates was a decision by the ACT Gov’t – qand as a previous life long Labor voter, one which has lost my vote for Labor in the ACT forever.

And my disillusionment with the well healed (and no doubt, far too affluent) Canberra voters/Ratepayers who knowingly voted this in at the last ACT election, is extreme.

So, yes Steven, the gap between lower/middle income earners and those more affulent and/or earning two good wages, will dramatically incrase here in coming years. And done by a Labor Government too.

Thanks for sharing that mate. Your position exemplifies one of the greatest political challenges of our times. I would like to understand more about your situation. If you thought it was okay, I’d really appreciate speaking with you to understand more specifically your situation. I’ll ask the administrator to give you my email address. Of course, don’t feel obliged, and all the very best.

Steven Bailey 7:50 pm 03 Jan 15

Pork Hunt said :

@Steven Bailey, any tips on where to go in the Vic Alps? I have been to Bright, Omeo and Dartmouth in recent times. I think Dargo has to be on the list of where to go next…

Bright is one of my favourites. I have friends there. Although, I think the place has been overwhelmed with too many thick pine plantations. I spend a lot of time around the East Gippsland Shire. The Cottonwood Range is close to where my parents live and I enjoy the fire tracks around there. But from Mount Bogong you can see the world!

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