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?