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Why is Canberra so unkempt?

By Roger Allnutt - 19 April 2017 15

Garema Place

It was only after spending a few days in Perth that I realised how unkempt and uncared for Canberra was compared to the Western Australian capital.

Throughout Canberra the never ending roadworks create a very messy look, developers equipment takes up much road space with dangerous consequences for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike (high screens attached to fences are a particular problem), cracked pavements, graffiti is everywhere, even the lack of bins for garbage in public areas means many people just toss cans and other detritus on the ground. Although the authorities make efforts to mow parts of Canberra in open spaces and along major roadways there never seem to be enough mowers to keep up.

As the population of Canberra grows the amount of public open space for activities is being whittled away as infill gathers pace. Many open spaces have been allowed to run down. Equipment like barbeques in parks and even toilets do not operate.

By comparison Perth appears to treasure its open spaces especially iconic Kings Park on the edge of the city and overlooking the Swan River.  Other parks such as the Esplanade Reserve and the gardens adjacent to Government House are well maintained and green (perhaps due to the heavy rains in Perth in the previous month). Perth residents really seem to appreciate and use the facilities along the Swan River while here preservation of the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin seems anathema to authorities and at the whim of developers.

Garema Place and City Walk as the ‘focal’ point of the centre of Canberra is not a place you want to linger. Although there are a number of nice trees the ambience is not great and the whole area needs a good clean. Being bailed up by charity donation ‘gophers’ doesn’t make you more tempted.

By contrast Perth has two pedestrian malls stretching for a long block in Murray and Hay streets.  Each has flourishing trees for shade, plenty of seating, a number of outdoor cafes and a large tourist office booth central to the passing traffic with helpful staff – great for tourists not in cars.

Hay Street Mall, Perth:

Hay Street Mall Perth

With Canberra’s reliance on cars the city centre is surrounded by large car parks. I don’t know where vehicles go in Perth but there appeared to be relatively few in the central area. Perth recently decided against a light rail system. Running continuously on four separate ‘loops’ around the city are free buses and it appears many commuters come in to stations or parking areas outside the CBD and are quickly transported to offices etc on the buses. With the aid of very helpful attendants at major stops it was easy for a visitor to get to key attractions eg the ferry quays for Swan River and Rottnest Island cruises.

I realise that the huge cost of the light rail is absorbing a large proportion of Canberra’s finances for infrastructure and maintenance but surely some money is available to improve the ‘look’ of Canberra. We are the National Capital after all.

 

 

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
Why is Canberra so unkempt?
1
wildturkeycanoe 6:47 am
19 Apr 17
#

Simple response to this story – Canberra is not Perth. We don’t have copious quantities of sunshine and beautiful sandy beaches. Nor do we have a resource rich state budget revenue that gives us $25.7 billion to spend, rather a measly $5.1 billion.

“By comparison Perth appears to treasure its open spaces” Whilst the A.C.T government is using up all the green spaces to develop more multi story apartment blocks, just to increase their revenue stream and pay for the tram we don’t need. Perth is a much larger city with more available space whilst Canberra is locked in by borders, thus limiting how much it can expand. You are comparing apples and oranges. You cannot expect a primarily public services supported bush capital to compete with a beautiful city in a tourist hot spot, with a budget supported by rich natural resources. Canberra is unique and perhaps the locals do not have the same respect for the appearance of their home.

2
crackerpants 8:58 am
19 Apr 17
#

Be careful what you wish for. This government’s response to “unkempt” is to raze it. As is the NCA’s. Northbourne is looking so much tidier these days. That bothersome 50-year-old (positively ancient!) social and physical anchor of the ANU, Bruce Hall, has been denuded and will soon be succeeded by neat and tidy glass towers. Our green spaces will benefit from a good razing. It will no longer be possible to use them as community space, what with all the apartments in the way, and they probably won’t be very green either, but they will be most assuredly “kempt”.

A little benign neglect is looking quite good at this point.

3
Rachel Ziv 10:44 am
19 Apr 17
#

I have to say, coming from Sydney (and going back regularly to visit family), I am always relieved to come home to Canberra and all its cleanliness and beauty. If we fall short compared to Perth, you only need to take a drive through Sydney (and parts of Melbourne) to appreciate the upkeep of our city.

4
Elias Hallaj (aka CB 11:48 am
19 Apr 17
#

Rachel Ziv said :

I have to say, coming from Sydney (and going back regularly to visit family), I am always relieved to come home to Canberra and all its cleanliness and beauty. If we fall short compared to Perth, you only need to take a drive through Sydney (and parts of Melbourne) to appreciate the upkeep of our city.

I agree with this comment and disagree with a lot of what Roger has opined. Canberra & Perth is a false/illogical equivalent (unless we’ve had a $50 billion dollar mining boom in Canberra recently that I didn’t notice?). Canberra is actually quite tidy compared to many Australian cities and towns. Having lived in Sydney for most of my life and Canberra for the past 17 years I’m certain where I’d rather be raising my kids right now. I’ve also visited many smaller cities around Australia. Compared to a city our size we’re doing pretty well here. And I bet the things that I would like to see more of (like street food, street art, live music and a bit more spontaneous community culture and celebration), I suspect Roger and his fellow complainants would probably oppose, because it’s a bit “untidy” and new and not what they wanted when they moved into Canberra in 1957.

5
gbates 1:33 pm
19 Apr 17
#

As a West Australian who resides in Canberra, I’ve often found myself asking the same questions. You don’t need copious quantities of sunshine, or sandy beaches, to maintain the footpaths and provide rubbish bins. The good quality public spaces of Perth also predate the mining boom so I’m not sure you can attribute it to that either. Canberra just doesn’t maintain its public spaces, especially outside of Civic, to an acceptable standard given the rates we pay. Before I moved to Canberra I never knew what it was like to drive around with bagged dog poo in the boot because there are no rubbish bins. The gardens in Perth look good all the time, regardless of rain. This is also despite the permanent garden watering restrictions which mean people must learn how to use less water regardless of whether there’s a drought or not.

Roger, there are several multi-storey car parks situated around the edges of the CBD so that you can park “at the city” without having to drive directly into the middle of it. There is also a network of heavy rail lines and buses which bring connect people with the city so you don’t have to drive and park.

A need for increased density is common to both Perth and Canberra. All those Canberrans who complain about densification really should go an look at a few of the outer Perth suburbs or the ridiculously clogged arterial roads to see what happens when a low density city just keeps spreading and spreading.

6
petunia petal 2:22 pm
19 Apr 17
#

When you have a human rights commission for a population the size of Canberra and spend a quarter of the funding on executive salaries there is not much left for basic services that people actually want. I still think visually Canberra still looks relatively tidy compared to other cities, where I see the real neglect is delivering services to rate payers that many other jurisdictions seem to receive. This extends from providing recycling and green waste bins to not turning away outpatients for ultrasounds and X-rays at our hospitals.

7
ChrisinTurner 4:29 pm
19 Apr 17
#

The ACT government has to find $1.73B for each of 7 tram lines and cover a doubling of maintenance and operating costs per passenger. Bitumen now covers the paving circles on Cooyong Street in Civic where once there were street trees – obviously no intention of replacement. Our streets are only swept every 3 months rather than once a week in other major cities like Perth – hence the blue-green algae in the Lake.

8
Robert Issell 5:29 pm
19 Apr 17
#

Yes. Definitely it is a shame in so many areas and in so many ways.
Community pride does not exist.

How many shopfronts these days do you see cleaning or sweeping their shopfronts.

Don’t point the finger on this one completely at the government but everyone who lives in Canberra.

It is the responsibility of everyone. Start the “Clean up Canberra Campaign” and bring back civic pride.
Everywhere I look I see rubbish laying in the streets, in the gardens on the roads.
Where do we see the flower gardens, certainly not in our suburbs any more.

One of the big problems is that we have such a big footprint and so much to look after that unless we double our rates there will never be enough money to employ the clean up team.

9
No_Nose 11:52 pm
19 Apr 17
#

Simple response… we have a glorified Shire Council who spend time pretending that they are important enough to sit with the adults at COAG and other forums, instead of just dealing with their own after after-school chores.

I say we should take their pocket money away and grounded them.

10
wildturkeycanoe 7:07 am
20 Apr 17
#

Robert Issell said :

Yes. Definitely it is a shame in so many areas and in so many ways.
Community pride does not exist.

How many shopfronts these days do you see cleaning or sweeping their shopfronts.

Don’t point the finger on this one completely at the government but everyone who lives in Canberra.

It is the responsibility of everyone. Start the “Clean up Canberra Campaign” and bring back civic pride.
Everywhere I look I see rubbish laying in the streets, in the gardens on the roads.
Where do we see the flower gardens, certainly not in our suburbs any more.

One of the big problems is that we have such a big footprint and so much to look after that unless we double our rates there will never be enough money to employ the clean up team.

O don’t know if it is still the case, but when I used to work in the Mort Street area there were petrol powered leaf blowers going almost every morning around Civic. Occasionally after moving the piles of debris into the gutters a street sweeper would scoop them up. There were workers in hi-viz emptying the bins, watering the flowers in those street light-come pot plants. Of course I am going back to around 2010 so things may have changed.
There are still some isolated pockets of community pride around Canberra. On rare occasions I can see elderly folks on median strips and traffic islands picking up trash. Even some ratepayer funded government workers sometimes get out the elbow grease and some hessian bags to clean up parks and reserves. It doesn’t leave much of an impression though as litterbugs will be back the very next day to decorate Canberra with fast food packages and smashed beer bottles.

What ever happened to “Clean up Australia day”? I remember as a kid seeing advertisements on TV every year and participating in school organized rubbish collection days. This year, Sunday 4th March went by without my senses picking up a trace of activity surrounding this great event. There were No TV ads [though we seldom watch FTA], nothing in the mailbox and no spam on Facebook or my email inbox. Have they lost their motivation? Has the event been swamped by other useless advertising? If there were indeed posters at the shops or some other avenue of communication, it didn’t do enough to make me aware. Did anybody else miss it too?
According to a report in the CT, “More than 237 tonnes of rubbish were collected by volunteers in the ACT in 2016.”. I don’t know if this was all on one day or across the year, but wow! Talk about a load of rubbish.

Is it sheer laziness causing this problem? Or is it the lack of rubbish disposal receptacles? In my opinion it is probably more the latter. Apart from the local shopping centers, there are seldom any bins around for you to dump your waste when out and about. On sports grounds for example, they have large dumpsters in the car park, but usually they are sealed up with chains and impenetrable padlocks. Why? Why do they need an industrial sized skip bin for an oval, where a normal amount of trash would barely fill a couple of Sulo bins? Why keep it locked to prevent people disposing of their coffee cups and water bottles? Would it be of more usefulness to have proper facilities so that the oval doesn’t become a dumping ground? Surely it is easier for the council to empty some domestic wheelie bins than to have to pick up after people because the only bins on site are closed up like bank vaults.
I know people should just take their trash home with them, but people are by nature quite lazy. They won’t walk 300 meters to the other end of the field to dispose of one muesli bar wrapper, then miss out on watching their child score a goal or do a personal best in an event. People are selfish and do not care about their environment. It is a side effect of changing attitudes in society, where everything is about “them” and nothing else is as important. Even at sporting events where there are bins located within throwing distance, spectators will leave their wrappers and bottles under the seat or in cup holders. It is total laziness, a sad consequence of not taking pride in oneself, but it does provide employment for cleaning staff.

It is not just society that has taken this devolutionary process though, our government is taking shortcuts too. One example is the way they approach footpath repairs. Instead of ripping up and replacing broken and irregular trip hazards, they have now adopted the grinding approach. By simply shaving off the raised section to smooth over the problem, a temporary fix is applied. The section of path is still broken into pieces and the underground shift that caused the problem is still present and will continue to move up and down. So in another few months as ground moisture increases, the piece of cracked footpath will destabilize further, then again become a hazard to pedestrians. The gaping cracks left behind by this process are sometimes large enough to swallow the wheel of a stroller. There is no effort made to fill it, they just move on to the next section.

11
dungfungus 8:58 am
20 Apr 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

Robert Issell said :

Yes. Definitely it is a shame in so many areas and in so many ways.
Community pride does not exist.

How many shopfronts these days do you see cleaning or sweeping their shopfronts.

Don’t point the finger on this one completely at the government but everyone who lives in Canberra.

It is the responsibility of everyone. Start the “Clean up Canberra Campaign” and bring back civic pride.
Everywhere I look I see rubbish laying in the streets, in the gardens on the roads.
Where do we see the flower gardens, certainly not in our suburbs any more.

One of the big problems is that we have such a big footprint and so much to look after that unless we double our rates there will never be enough money to employ the clean up team.

O don’t know if it is still the case, but when I used to work in the Mort Street area there were petrol powered leaf blowers going almost every morning around Civic. Occasionally after moving the piles of debris into the gutters a street sweeper would scoop them up. There were workers in hi-viz emptying the bins, watering the flowers in those street light-come pot plants. Of course I am going back to around 2010 so things may have changed.
There are still some isolated pockets of community pride around Canberra. On rare occasions I can see elderly folks on median strips and traffic islands picking up trash. Even some ratepayer funded government workers sometimes get out the elbow grease and some hessian bags to clean up parks and reserves. It doesn’t leave much of an impression though as litterbugs will be back the very next day to decorate Canberra with fast food packages and smashed beer bottles.

What ever happened to “Clean up Australia day”? I remember as a kid seeing advertisements on TV every year and participating in school organized rubbish collection days. This year, Sunday 4th March went by without my senses picking up a trace of activity surrounding this great event. There were No TV ads [though we seldom watch FTA], nothing in the mailbox and no spam on Facebook or my email inbox. Have they lost their motivation? Has the event been swamped by other useless advertising? If there were indeed posters at the shops or some other avenue of communication, it didn’t do enough to make me aware. Did anybody else miss it too?
According to a report in the CT, “More than 237 tonnes of rubbish were collected by volunteers in the ACT in 2016.”. I don’t know if this was all on one day or across the year, but wow! Talk about a load of rubbish.

Is it sheer laziness causing this problem? Or is it the lack of rubbish disposal receptacles? In my opinion it is probably more the latter. Apart from the local shopping centers, there are seldom any bins around for you to dump your waste when out and about. On sports grounds for example, they have large dumpsters in the car park, but usually they are sealed up with chains and impenetrable padlocks. Why? Why do they need an industrial sized skip bin for an oval, where a normal amount of trash would barely fill a couple of Sulo bins? Why keep it locked to prevent people disposing of their coffee cups and water bottles? Would it be of more usefulness to have proper facilities so that the oval doesn’t become a dumping ground? Surely it is easier for the council to empty some domestic wheelie bins than to have to pick up after people because the only bins on site are closed up like bank vaults.
I know people should just take their trash home with them, but people are by nature quite lazy. They won’t walk 300 meters to the other end of the field to dispose of one muesli bar wrapper, then miss out on watching their child score a goal or do a personal best in an event. People are selfish and do not care about their environment. It is a side effect of changing attitudes in society, where everything is about “them” and nothing else is as important. Even at sporting events where there are bins located within throwing distance, spectators will leave their wrappers and bottles under the seat or in cup holders. It is total laziness, a sad consequence of not taking pride in oneself, but it does provide employment for cleaning staff.

It is not just society that has taken this devolutionary process though, our government is taking shortcuts too. One example is the way they approach footpath repairs. Instead of ripping up and replacing broken and irregular trip hazards, they have now adopted the grinding approach. By simply shaving off the raised section to smooth over the problem, a temporary fix is applied. The section of path is still broken into pieces and the underground shift that caused the problem is still present and will continue to move up and down. So in another few months as ground moisture increases, the piece of cracked footpath will destabilize further, then again become a hazard to pedestrians. The gaping cracks left behind by this process are sometimes large enough to swallow the wheel of a stroller. There is no effort made to fill it, they just move on to the next section.

Re: lack of rubbish bins, read this from the Arboretum policy guidelines:

Rubbish bins
Limited rubbish bins will be provided at the central visitor area. A ‘Take Your Rubbish Home’ policy will apply for the remainder of the site, consistent with the policy across Canberra’s urban parks and open space areas, Cotter Reserve and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

12
tim_c 8:15 am
21 Apr 17
#

OP forgot to mention the abandoned cars littering every major road in Canberra.

13
tim_c 8:18 am
21 Apr 17
#

dungfungus said :

Re: lack of rubbish bins, read this from the Arboretum policy guidelines:

Rubbish bins
Limited rubbish bins will be provided at the central visitor area. A ‘Take Your Rubbish Home’ policy will apply for the remainder of the site, consistent with the policy across Canberra’s urban parks and open space areas, Cotter Reserve and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Yes, I’d noticed it at Cotter Reserve – a distinct lack of rubbish bins. Now if only I had a spare plastic bag I could put my rubbish in to take it home in….

14
dungfungus 9:39 am
21 Apr 17
#

tim_c said :

dungfungus said :

Re: lack of rubbish bins, read this from the Arboretum policy guidelines:

Rubbish bins
Limited rubbish bins will be provided at the central visitor area. A ‘Take Your Rubbish Home’ policy will apply for the remainder of the site, consistent with the policy across Canberra’s urban parks and open space areas, Cotter Reserve and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Yes, I’d noticed it at Cotter Reserve – a distinct lack of rubbish bins. Now if only I had a spare plastic bag I could put my rubbish in to take it home in….

QPRC is now scoping banning plastic shopping bags also.

Meanwhile, the ACT government is delighted to accept all of Queanbeyan’s garbage at MLRMC.

The stuff from Bungendore area goes to the Tarago bio-reactor however. Go figure that one.

15
Instant 8:29 pm
25 Apr 17
#

To the person who said Perth’s public spaces are better maintained because of the mining boom – every town in Australia, rich and poor, demonstrates civic pride. Canberra is comparatively rich yet has fallen behind. It wouldn’t cost much to clean the bird poo from Garema Place once in a while, put a few more bins around town, replace a few old park benches. What a disgrace.

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