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:
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.