Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

West Basin development needs more scrutiny

By Greg Cornwell - 27 June 2017 9

An artist's impression of the West Basin waterfront once completed.

Win some, lose some. The container village is moving from Lake Burley Griffin but the West Basin infill is proceeding.

And if you pause and think much of our central lake is being eroded by development with only the manicured area between the two bridges currently under no threat.

East of King’s Avenue Bridge the Kingston foreshore legoland provides an improvement upon the original industrial site and because of its size removes any further opportunity to spread along the lake into the Jerrabomberra wetlands.

West of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge is another matter.

Here, termite-like, the shoreline has been eaten away by development: Yarralumla Bay rowing sheds and soon-to-be-moved water police headquarters and, on the opposite bank, the boat repair dock. These activities complement the National Museum, the Southern Cross Club and the hidden Aboriginal site – all sitting comfortably in largely natural Australian surrounds.

The intrusion of the West Basin housing will disrupt this environmentally acceptable and generally attractive setting, with what will probably be stark white units upsetting the tree-lined areas.

Most cities in the world have learned from past mistakes not to build to the waterline and Canberra is no exception – hence the West Basin boardwalk. However, this is but a sop to opponents of the scheme and will involve filling in a section of the lake basin.

How this will fit with the proposed housing is unknown. We are told the buildings will be of medium-density height but given the capacity for planning mistakes in this city there should be doubts. Then there is the matter of spread. Why should the development not move along to the old container village site which is sitting vacant?

Sections of the business community and the ACT government itself seem determined to develop Canberra into another Sydney or Melbourne in the name of progress. Business out to make money can be dismissed for its self-centred predatory behaviour but governments have broader responsibilities and should not facilitate development if it is not in the interests of these other obligations to the community.

People regard this attitude as naïve but unless we examine government decisions in a wider context we risk destroying irreplaceable resources for short-term illusionary benefits.

Does several million dollars profit in lakeside land sales do much for an already overdrawn budget bottom line? Do such sales provide welfare assistance to Canberra’s poor? Or will the money simply be absorbed into consolidated revenue to be allocated to expenditures which may or may not be beneficial to the ACT community? And, finally, has the ACT population been asked if they want their lakeshore given up to expensive housing?

Governments claim they have a mandate through the election process to take various initiatives but most voters don’t pay detailed attention to policies so any such approval is questionable.

Hence the need for regular community consultation between elections as suggested by the Chief Minister – four year gaps seeking residents’ opinions is too long.

And where in this challenging West Basin development is the National Capital Authority?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
9 Responses to
West Basin development needs more scrutiny
Postalgeek 10:06 pm 28 Jun 17

Queanbeyanite said :

Postalgeek said :

Hope they don’t stuff up the cycle route around the West Basin like they did with the Kingston Foreshore.

Depends how fast you go, OK for a recovery ride, the western arc of the lake loop has to be shared with joggers now. You can go as fast as you like on the new Majura bike path with a hill at each end.
The CFMEU has to make a quid too you know.

It has nothing to do with speed. Several hundred meters of cycle path in a dooring zone plus parked cars pulling out from both sides, a crossing completely out of alignment with a path, choke points, and disjointed/disconnected paths. It is simply sloppy ad hoc design., squeezed in as an after-thought.

Holden Caulfield 10:41 am 28 Jun 17

wildturkeycanoe said :

Holden Caulfield said :

However, as a place of interaction with the broader community, be that through dining/entertainment, community facilities, or housing, this area is a terribly underutilised resource.

It had these amenities – the bicycle and paddle boat hire place and the container village. All they needed to do was make it financially viable for more businesses to open there and the whole area could have been re-invigorated. But unless it costs millions of dollars and reaps a huge windfall for developers, it won’t satisfy the vested interests of the folks in the planning and governing departments. It isn’t like there are huge bundles of red tape and financial barriers preventing small business making an area great for visitors and locals, is it? Just ask the ex-container village business owners.

They’re all good points too. Regardless, the area is still underutilised.

Let’s hope they do it better this time.

We do need to accept the developer angle though. Accept that the ACT Government needs the revenue developers bring.

It’s true such a reliance on this income source is fraught with danger, but there’s no signs it’s going to change under the current regime.

So rather than complain about developer-led revenue, let’s focus on making sure the money is spent wisely. Which may seem just as futile sometimes, but it seems like a better use one’s energy and attention.

wildturkeycanoe 6:58 am 28 Jun 17

Holden Caulfield said :

However, as a place of interaction with the broader community, be that through dining/entertainment, community facilities, or housing, this area is a terribly underutilised resource.

It had these amenities – the bicycle and paddle boat hire place and the container village. All they needed to do was make it financially viable for more businesses to open there and the whole area could have been re-invigorated. But unless it costs millions of dollars and reaps a huge windfall for developers, it won’t satisfy the vested interests of the folks in the planning and governing departments. It isn’t like there are huge bundles of red tape and financial barriers preventing small business making an area great for visitors and locals, is it? Just ask the ex-container village business owners.

Queanbeyanite 10:34 pm 27 Jun 17

Postalgeek said :

Hope they don’t stuff up the cycle route around the West Basin like they did with the Kingston Foreshore.

Depends how fast you go, OK for a recovery ride, the western arc of the lake loop has to be shared with joggers now. You can go as fast as you like on the new Majura bike path with a hill at each end.
The CFMEU has to make a quid too you know.

Postalgeek 4:21 pm 27 Jun 17

Hope they don’t stuff up the cycle route around the West Basin like they did with the Kingston Foreshore.

A_Cog 1:03 pm 27 Jun 17

Eating away at the lake? Are you serious? How many days in a year do you spend walking on the shore? Three? Five? Ten? Twenty? WB will have people living there every day each year. Their homes are more important than someone’s leisurely stroll.

With all the local community groups opposing infill, where can new homes be built? Further and further out, dooming families to spending hours apart every day as they commute at a crawl? Or at inner locations like this with near-zero local resident populations, neighbours who will actually be impacted (not distant NIMBY’s shrieking about “visual amenity”).

I hate Barr as much as anyone (oh gawd I do I do I do!) but WB and Kingston Foreshore are necessary, and for people who believe we must reduce our climate impacts, high-density inner developments are pretty much the best housing measure possible.

Holden Caulfield 11:44 am 27 Jun 17

I think you’re right to ask questions.

Equally, while pining for the “largely natural Australian surrounds”, it’s worth remembering we’re talking about an artificial lake, which was designed and built, in part, for the amenity of Canberra’s citizens.

Currently the West Basin area is good if you’re prepared to cycle or walk around it. However, as a place of interaction with the broader community, be that through dining/entertainment, community facilities, or housing, this area is a terribly underutilised resource. For all of the detractors for Kingston Foreshore, there seem to be enough people who like it enough to have decided to live there, and then support the businesses that have followed. It may not be perfect, but so far it works.

As a general concept, the development of the West Basin area has the potential to make an enormous positive impact for Canberra.

Of course, areas of little or no development around the lake edge should be maintained; for example the wetlands, or the grasslands between Yarramundi and Scrivener Dam.

At the moment West Basin is a confused space crying out for reinvigoration. This area should complement New Acton and provide a better link to the Museum and ANU, while maintaining a dedicated shared pathway for the existing recreational traffic (cyclists/joggers etc).

As to what happens to the money gained from the land sales etc, by all means demand answers, promote worthwhile suggestions. But let’s not leave West Basin as the underutilised area it currently is.

CanberraStreets 10:37 am 27 Jun 17

In the spirit of encouraging the scrutiny of the development, here is a link to the LDA summary of the West Basin waterfront development – http://www.lda.act.gov.au/citytothelake/west-basin-waterfront .

It appears this development has been coming for a long time – with the necessary changes to the National Capital Plan occurring in 2006. There is a community consultation report from 2013 that seems to be supportive of the development – with some provisos regarding stuff like ongoing community access and lake water quality. Mixed use developments on the lakes of Canberra seem to generally successful even if they do not provide the expansive vistas of vacant prime land.

There is considerable pressure on the ACT to increase urban density in order to make it sustainable. No development will ever meet with universal acceptance and delight.

As a resident of the boonies of Tuggeranong, I fully accept there may be strong community connections to the site as it stands, but I have no idea what they might be. It seems to be a location uncontaminated by people or unique beauty whenever I whizz by. All I really notice are the expansive carparks.

wildturkeycanoe 8:25 am 27 Jun 17

“And where in this challenging West Basin development is the National Capital Authority?”
The NCA is too busy finding ways to disrupt all traffic in and out of the city across the lake, too focussed on the needs of cyclists and pedestrians who need a coffee shop or fancy burger restaurant every twenty meters or so and all excited about looking like every other major city in the world instead of keeping Canberra unique. They couldn’t care less what we think, no matter how many “consultative” procedures they advertise. It has been seen before that consultation is just a gimmick to show they’ve asked the public’s opinion, but in actual fact they just tell us what they think we need and go ahead despite the protests.
You say there needs to be scrutiny of these government planning decisions, but apart from the votes of the residents of Canberra, who else has the authority to oversee or even to make changes or recommendations to these decisions? Nobody. That’s right, the only way we can get things changed is to wait four years for the next election but by then it will be too late. They certainly were clever enough to give themselves so much power and to make sure nobody could undermine that power, weren’t they?

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site