14 February 2024

What ideas do you have to transform City Hill from a 'massive roundabout' to a proper park?

| Claire Fenwicke
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City Hill park

Canberrans have six weeks to submit their grand designs to transform City Hill park. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Canberrans have been invited to submit their ideas to transform City Hill park from a bunny haven into a more accessible, comfortable and welcoming green space for all.

While an east-west path and pedestrian lights have been installed in recent years, Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants to see the five-hectare piece of land utilised to its full ability.

“It’s a lot of land and it can be more than it currently is,” he said.

“Canberrans of all ages are encouraged to share their ideas on how this underutilised site could be turned into a more interesting and engaging public space.”

A flagpole in the centre could present an opportunity for ceremonial flag-raising events, and Canberra’s Centenary Obelisk is also among the trees.

Ideas could include an exercise track, water and electricity infrastructure for pop-up food trucks and events, or just a nicer place to relax and enjoy some open space.

But don’t let your imagination run completely wild – the space falls under the National Capital Authority, and there are restrictions on what can reasonably be done.

“It is a park. It will be nothing other than a park, so there should be no conspiracy theories about any significant development here,” Mr Barr said.

“More significantly, I think [there’s potential] with the southern view over the Triangle … people do come to viewpoints to look at cities, so I suspect that would be the area where you might want to focus a seated area or a viewing platform or something to that extent.

“I guess the live question would be: to what extent could we put in some infrastructure that would support either food trucks or pop-up cafe-type things, or whether a permanent kiosk structure [is possible].”

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There’s no budget or timeline for the work to be done at this stage, with six weeks of public consultation the first step.

City Renewal Authority chief executive Malcolm Snow said despite the NCA constraints and the fact the park is also on the heritage register, he didn’t want that to discourage people from pitching their best ideas.

“If some people thought [for example] that the trees are a barrier or perhaps need to be replaced with more appropriate species, then of course we’d receive those ideas,” he said.

“Things like the flagpole and some of the geometry of the plantings [would need to stay], those are all things that are well documented and need to be understood while not constraining people from coming up with fresh ideas.”

Some research will also need to be done with local Indigenous people into the cultural significance of the hill.

Once consultation is over, a report will be devised for the government to consider.

Mr Snow said while some ideas may need a lot of planning and design, others could be achieved in the short term, such as pathways, lighting issues and upgrading public seating.

“I think all of those small, potentially low-budget things could be done quite early,” he said.

aerial view of City Hill park

The Chief Minister wants City Hill park to be more than a ‘massive roundabout’. Photo: ACT Government.

But of course, the final vision for the park will come down to what funds are available.

“There’s not going to be hundreds of millions of dollars spent here, but I think some strategic investment could make it a place that isn’t just seen as a massive roundabout,” Mr Barr said.

And if it turns out people are happy for it to remain a thoroughfare, that’s OK, too.

“It might be that will be the extent of people’s interest, but I suspect that we can do a little more and at the very least improve the street furniture, having places where people can meet,” Mr Barr said.

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A physical City Hill ideas exhibition will be established at the Civic Library during March, and a Discover City Hill Day will be held on 11 March. This will include a First Nations Walk on Country and tours with experts in landscape architecture, active travel and local heritage.

The community can draw or describe their ideas and submit them through the YourSay portal until 25 March.

The consultation will also inform the Canberra Civic and Cultural District and help the government understand the park’s role between the Acton Waterfront development, the Canberra Theatre Centre redevelopment and connecting light rail.

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Barr say there should be “no conspiracy theories about any significant development here.” He has already stated that he has no interest in heritage or other constraints. Money talks, and the Labor money-pit needs it.

Whilst the ACT government does not want responses outside of its directives, Riotact is more open so I’ll comment here.

Given the increasing heat island in the city with more steel, concrete, asphalt and glass, a little oasis at City Hill could provide some respite, if it was full of large deciduous trees to provide shade in summer and sunlight in winter. Seating for picnics, water bubblers and taps, perhaps even a BBQ or two so those in the city have a central place for lunch or dinner or even breakfast before the day begins.

It could be a great spot for sunrises and sunsets, but those conifers provide no real invitation for people, other trees or other plants due to their acidity and evaporating oils in the heat, just good for cover for rabbit holes.

This really could be a park with a garden where people could walk, sit, talk or read a book if it had the right vegetation, water and seating. Perhaps even some trees that kids can climb? Now that would be fun, even a place for an adult to sit up high whilst reading a book.

As for entertainment, what about local musical groups using the space, like you see and hear on Sundays in Montmartre. Very relaxing and a great opportunity to learn of new groups without them having to hire an expensive venue.

Yet again this government wants to restrict ideas by channelling them into the only things it wishes to discuss using a survey. Experience tells me it’s a waste of time doing this as they always exclude options that they don’t wish to be raised or considered.

Alternatively, you can draw your ideas or join a tour organised by government. Yeah right. Quite limiting for many.

No chance to just write what you think in free form. Too hard for this mob to allow people to be able to freely express their ideas for all to see. That would challenge them too much.

Put a few small tunnels underneath it for the cars/traffic, get rid of the surface roads around it, make the whole area way more relaxed and enjoyable to walk to and from.

It doesn’t matter what you do to it – if you can’t get to it then it’s not going to be used. If they are serious they would cut and cover it and run Northbourne through a tunnel beneath it. perhaps expand the footprint a bit and turn Vernon Circle into a bike only lane

Yesssssss…. 👆

This!

The park isn’t a bunny haven any more – they have all been ‘controlled’.

Tom Worthington1:59 pm 15 Feb 24

Turn the hill into one massive dome shaped grass covered building complementing the grass covered Parliament house in the distance. The building would hold the ACT Assembly chamber, & offices, public service offices, a public library, child minding, schools, a TAFE, and a bus & tram depot.

Can’t we just leave it alone? You don’t HAVE TO meddle with everything, you know!

Yes! Except I heard a whisper that Barr wants to build high class housing – so it’ll be gone, gone …

I think they should lower it. At the moment the ‘hill’ creates a barrier between the city.

Lower it to connect.

Connection could also be the theme for the use. Pedestrian underpasses could be added for access and personally id like to see an active garden with interconnecting paths and pockets of spaces designed to connect and collaborate outdoors.

Just LEAVE IT ALONE!!!!!! It’s just fine as it is. What part of Canberra can be left as it was? Why doesn’t the ‘tradition’ of white people matter?

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