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Welcome to Canberra! Some thoughts on the ACT’s gateway signs

Paul Costigan 19 April 2016 46

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I enjoy the drive between Sydney from Canberra. I do it reasonably often. The mood of the country changes according to the weather, the drought, the latest rains and the time of day. Lake George and the surrounding hills have many moods to be enjoyed.

All of this leads back to how the traveller is welcomed back to Canberra. This is not so good. In fact, many country towns do a far better job. As Australia’s national capital, Canberra deserves something far better than the insignificant tokens at the borders.

What do we have on the return from Sydney? There’s a small stonewall with a concrete sign – Australian Capital Territory. This is followed by a couple of signs about the indigenous connections and the sister city arrangements. And there’s a threatening 100 km per hour speed sign.

When you leave, there’s a sign that welcomes you to New South Wales. But there is no sign to welcome you to Canberra.

A couple of decades ago I used to suggest that there should be a large set of statues at the border. These were to be at least 18 metres tall and should have been statues of public servants. The perception by people outside of Canberra was that this was a city full of public servants, and no one else, so why not give them what they expected at the border. The gateway was to be dominated by a series of large public servants, complete with lunch boxes and briefcases and boring clothing.

Given that the current federal government has been working extra hard to make public servants a thing of the past, I need to update this concept.

There should now be large illuminated signs alerting visitors to watch out for the endangered species known as public servants. The signs should have phone numbers to bring assistance to this rare species of humans as many are now often seen wandering about the city in a distressed state.

Given the introduction nationally of the new Border Force, maybe Canberra should introduce its own border force to check on who is entering the city and where they have come from.

Travellers would feel as though Canberra was a very important city if our own uniformed border force officers greeted everyone at the border checkpoints. And given the Chief Minister’s recent statements that venues such as Westside were not designed for people over 50, the Border Force could enforce limits on those pesky aging travellers trying to jump the queues and sneak through our borders.

And now for more serious thoughts.

While the landscape along Northbourne Avenue is about to be altered, as any landscape does, it is a good time to consider the whole road entrance to the city. At the moment, when you travel from Sydney across the border, the greenery is patchy and there is nothing special to indicate that you are in Canberra.

These early parts of the road entrance could be enhanced with a greater variety of trees and shrubs to provide a range of visual interests as you drive up and over that last hill and down towards the city. Along the way there should also be a range of artworks, both hard sculptural pieces and landscape artworks.

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To be honest, whether it is more greenery, artworks or whatever, both this entrance and the one from Yass urgently need a rethink. The entrances to Canberra should offer very clear messages that welcome people to the national capital.

So the first target should be to have some far better signage and sculptural pieces at the entrances. Given the way planning is carried out in Canberra, whereby committees meet to discuss setting up other committees and then meet in venues to hold workshops, I hope that there is a way to cut through the bureaucracy and for some visionary within our government to push hard for new gateways to be installed sooner rather than later.

Canberra has loads of creative residents, so maybe it is time to hear from some of them.

What would send a message of welcome to visitors to Canberra and welcome back us travellers after we have ventured by road in to New South Wales and beyond? Over to you!


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46 Responses to Welcome to Canberra! Some thoughts on the ACT’s gateway signs
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Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 9:11 am 15 Jul 15

I completely agree – although to be fair there’s only a small metal sign on the highway welcoming people to Sydney. Two separate issues I guess – one is the border, the other is the city.

There was a proposal to put a Hollywood style sign on the hill out near Eaglehawk, which wasn’t a bad idea.

I think the unofficial entry point to Canberra – the one most people see – is the intersection of Northbourne and Mouat/Antill Streets there at Dickson/Lyneham. And it is extremely underwhelming! There is a flowerbed, followed by dreary gum trees – and some of the dodgiest old flats in the ACT… It can’t all be dazzling – but there should be at least 3 significant pieces that show: “this is the border”, “this is the outskirts” and “this is the city”.

tim_c tim_c 9:48 am 15 Jul 15

Wait, did I read that right? The chief minister has said the newest addition to the city is not designed for people over 50, while his current registration plate slogan is “An age friendly city”???
Yeah, we’re an age friendly city, as long as you’re not over 50.

And a public servant with a lunchbox? You’ve got a sense of humour! Whenever I see them, they’re invariably carrying a take-away coffee, and probably a cigarette.

Weatherman Weatherman 10:08 am 15 Jul 15

Eagle Hawk in Sutton, New South Wales is considered to be a gateway suburb to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. I think that further services could enhance Eagle Hawk so that it becomes a main gateway town and satellite commuter community for people arriving to Canberra. Currently Eagle Hawk contains a service station, a pub and many hotels and motels for people travelling to and from Canberra. There were plans by locals there to put up signage for Eagle Hawk that would be similar to the Hollywood, California signage for tourists and visitors to see when entering Australian Capital Territory.

Heavs Heavs 10:15 am 15 Jul 15

Whatever happened to old mate who had set himself up a nice little campsite just inside the border on the Federal Highway? Had a good couple of months there before he disappeared one day.

dungfungus dungfungus 11:06 am 15 Jul 15

Heavs said :

Whatever happened to old mate who had set himself up a nice little campsite just inside the border on the Federal Highway? Had a good couple of months there before he disappeared one day.

Probably got served with a rates assessment.

Milly Withers Milly Withers 11:50 am 15 Jul 15

“Given the introduction nationally of the new Border Force, maybe Canberra should introduce its own border force to check on who is entering the city and where they have come from.

Travellers would feel as though Canberra was a very important city if our own uniformed border force officers greeted everyone at the border checkpoints”

BAHAHA. Paul, don’t give them ideas!

Evilomlap Evilomlap 12:13 pm 15 Jul 15

How about….

“If you’re here for the fireworks, you’re too late. Still plenty of hookers though!”

vintage123 vintage123 5:54 pm 15 Jul 15

Having recently passed by the art work at the GDE Barton Hwy overpass, i noticed the distorted steel and metal artwork which i can presume is interpretive of the bridge collapse.

Using this theme, we could have a Mr Fluffy interpretation in the form of artwork on the border. I am sure there are plenty of artists out there that can come up with something funky that artifies the importance of Mr Fluffy on the ACT culture and history.

bd84 bd84 6:37 pm 15 Jul 15

I think there’s better things to spend time and money on than a border sign that you will see for approximately 2 seconds as you pass through. A basic sign is all that’s needed. A sign is pretty much all you get crossing into every state and territory in Australia, and when travelling between ‘states’ overseas. People aren’t coming here to look at the entry sign, they pass it momentarily and think ‘yay we’re almost there’. I’m sure they’re also not bemoaning the border signage when they remember their trip to Canberra.

If someone wants to improve the entry impression of Canberra, steal a bulldozer and take it to the public housing on Northbourne to circumvent the heritage idiots.

Sandman Sandman 7:20 pm 15 Jul 15

Heavs said :

Whatever happened to old mate who had set himself up a nice little campsite just inside the border on the Federal Highway? Had a good couple of months there before he disappeared one day.

Judging by the large red padlocked gate now present at the entrance to his campsite, I’d say he was asked to move along.

As for the OP, what about that itty bitty protrusion at the top of Black Mountain? For my family, that’s what says “welcome home”.

dungfungus dungfungus 9:55 pm 15 Jul 15

vintage123 said :

Having recently passed by the art work at the GDE Barton Hwy overpass, i noticed the distorted steel and metal artwork which i can presume is interpretive of the bridge collapse.

Using this theme, we could have a Mr Fluffy interpretation in the form of artwork on the border. I am sure there are plenty of artists out there that can come up with something funky that artifies the importance of Mr Fluffy on the ACT culture and history.

The “artwork” was there before the bridge collapse, perhaps to mock the future.
It was erected under the name of “public art” and probably cost more than both bridges that were eventually constructed over the Barton Highway.
It will eventually rust away (like the rails for the light rail are destined too).

dungfungus dungfungus 9:58 pm 15 Jul 15

Sandman said :

Heavs said :

Whatever happened to old mate who had set himself up a nice little campsite just inside the border on the Federal Highway? Had a good couple of months there before he disappeared one day.

Judging by the large red padlocked gate now present at the entrance to his campsite, I’d say he was asked to move along.

As for the OP, what about that itty bitty protrusion at the top of Black Mountain? For my family, that’s what says “welcome home”.

It’s that old double standard again.
The authorities will evict a maverick but the ones in the “long stay” camp in front of the old Parliament House are untouchable.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 11:40 am 16 Jul 15

bd84 said :

I think there’s better things to spend time and money on than a border sign that you will see for approximately 2 seconds as you pass through. A basic sign is all that’s needed. A sign is pretty much all you get crossing into every state and territory in Australia, and when travelling between ‘states’ overseas. People aren’t coming here to look at the entry sign, they pass it momentarily and think ‘yay we’re almost there’. I’m sure they’re also not bemoaning the border signage when they remember their trip to Canberra.

If someone wants to improve the entry impression of Canberra, steal a bulldozer and take it to the public housing on Northbourne to circumvent the heritage idiots.

Something tells me you and Mr Costigan will rarely see eye to eye.

Grimm Grimm 12:07 pm 16 Jul 15

Yeah, what we need to be spending a ton of public funds on is another owl or waste of steel that should have been recycled…

Antagonist Antagonist 12:09 pm 16 Jul 15

Once upon a time the signage was perfect because it was understated. We didn’t need a sign after travelling the noisy and rough roads to be found all across NSW. We *knew* we were somewhere better when we hit the line on the road at the NSW/ACT border and the road noise and bumps immediately disappeared. The dramatic transition to the super-smooth and quiet ACT roads of days gone by was far more noticeable than any road sign. Our super-smooth road surface said “Yeah! Feel that! It is so good here we don’t need a dumb sign to welcome you. Now enjoy your stay while we still have trees on Northbourne Ave for you to marvel at.” Ahhh – the good old days.

I think two wind turbines (named Tony and Joe) would be good. The money generated can be used to smooth out that transition in the road surface from NSW back into ACT again.

dungfungus dungfungus 2:29 pm 16 Jul 15

Antagonist said :

Once upon a time the signage was perfect because it was understated. We didn’t need a sign after travelling the noisy and rough roads to be found all across NSW. We *knew* we were somewhere better when we hit the line on the road at the NSW/ACT border and the road noise and bumps immediately disappeared. The dramatic transition to the super-smooth and quiet ACT roads of days gone by was far more noticeable than any road sign. Our super-smooth road surface said “Yeah! Feel that! It is so good here we don’t need a dumb sign to welcome you. Now enjoy your stay while we still have trees on Northbourne Ave for you to marvel at.” Ahhh – the good old days.

I think two wind turbines (named Tony and Joe) would be good. The money generated can be used to smooth out that transition in the road surface from NSW back into ACT again.

The joke about wind turbines is not really funny as they cost a lot to build, a lot to run and probably a lot to dispose of.

Antagonist Antagonist 2:39 pm 16 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

Antagonist said :

Once upon a time the signage was perfect because it was understated. We didn’t need a sign after travelling the noisy and rough roads to be found all across NSW. We *knew* we were somewhere better when we hit the line on the road at the NSW/ACT border and the road noise and bumps immediately disappeared. The dramatic transition to the super-smooth and quiet ACT roads of days gone by was far more noticeable than any road sign. Our super-smooth road surface said “Yeah! Feel that! It is so good here we don’t need a dumb sign to welcome you. Now enjoy your stay while we still have trees on Northbourne Ave for you to marvel at.” Ahhh – the good old days.

I think two wind turbines (named Tony and Joe) would be good. The money generated can be used to smooth out that transition in the road surface from NSW back into ACT again.

The joke about wind turbines is not really funny as they cost a lot to build, a lot to run and probably a lot to dispose of.

You mean like light rail?

PeterC PeterC 2:46 pm 16 Jul 15

The simple informative sign is sufficient. Does spin and messaging have to infect everything? It is a bit like numberplates – why do they need a slogan? Their function is to uniquely identify each car.
At most have ‘Welcome to’ in front of ‘Australian Capital Territory’, but really that is redundant. The sign with a name is enough to let you know where you are.
I like public art (particularly the owl derided by some) but there is no special reason to have art in this particular location.

watto23 watto23 3:25 pm 16 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

Sandman said :

Heavs said :

Whatever happened to old mate who had set himself up a nice little campsite just inside the border on the Federal Highway? Had a good couple of months there before he disappeared one day.

Judging by the large red padlocked gate now present at the entrance to his campsite, I’d say he was asked to move along.

As for the OP, what about that itty bitty protrusion at the top of Black Mountain? For my family, that’s what says “welcome home”.

It’s that old double standard again.
The authorities will evict a maverick but the ones in the “long stay” camp in front of the old Parliament House are untouchable.

But they do get issued parking fines now 🙂 Seriously they do and they argue about it. Whether they pay up I’m not sure….

watto23 watto23 3:32 pm 16 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

Antagonist said :

Once upon a time the signage was perfect because it was understated. We didn’t need a sign after travelling the noisy and rough roads to be found all across NSW. We *knew* we were somewhere better when we hit the line on the road at the NSW/ACT border and the road noise and bumps immediately disappeared. The dramatic transition to the super-smooth and quiet ACT roads of days gone by was far more noticeable than any road sign. Our super-smooth road surface said “Yeah! Feel that! It is so good here we don’t need a dumb sign to welcome you. Now enjoy your stay while we still have trees on Northbourne Ave for you to marvel at.” Ahhh – the good old days.

I think two wind turbines (named Tony and Joe) would be good. The money generated can be used to smooth out that transition in the road surface from NSW back into ACT again.

The joke about wind turbines is not really funny as they cost a lot to build, a lot to run and probably a lot to dispose of.

You’ve swallowed the coalition propaganda. Recent reports and studies suggest wind is actually now one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation. In fact it competes with Coal on cost. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the recent anti-wind sentiment form the government. Also disposing of a wind turbine is far far easier than to fill in a mine or 2 and restore its natural beauty.

Yes there are other differences between the electricity coal can generate vs wind.

So maybe we could have a Hollywood style Canberra sign, in from of a few wind turbines, just so Joe and Tony don’t see them? or do they get around by helicopter like the speaker does on short hops?

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