Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2021) . . Page.. 373 ..
Despite significant space being allocated towards commercial development in the past, there has been a lack of actual results in Gungahlin. As a result, we just see more and more apartment buildings instead of real employment opportunities. During the work week Gungahlin town centre can be a ghost town. Every morning a large proportion of Gungahlin’s population commute out of the area, and in the evening they all commute home. Our roads become clogged during peak hour. Light rail and other public transport are even busier than usual.
The very jarring experience I think most Gungahlin residents can relate to is watching light rail vehicles trundle north up Northbourne Avenue at 8.30 in the morning completely empty, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic and seeing that the road going the other way, into Gungahlin, is completely empty. Having to commute these long journeys, either by car or by public transport, has been shown time and again to reduce people’s quality of life. The livability of Canberra is being negatively impacted by Gungahlin’s status as a commuter district. My constituents can easily spend half an hour sitting in traffic to work and experience the same on the way back home. It can often take several minutes just to get through one intersection near the town centre, and even longer as you hit congestion heading into the city.
We want people to be spending time with their loved ones, close to home, being active outdoors, living the life they want, not being stuck in traffic trying to get to a job some place distant. If you walk around Gungahlin during the day you can see empty cafes, quiet shops and empty trams. The town centre is not lively and invigorating like residents want. And the businesses that are open, mainly hospitality and retail, often struggle without the regular customers that other town centres have.
Without any major employment hubs in the area these businesses rely on weekend trading and the kids from Gungahlin College to keep things ticking over. When you compare this to the activity in other town centres, it is a stark contrast. In and around Gungahlin town centre, apartments have been built more rapidly than in almost any other part of Canberra. People have flocked to Gungahlin as they jump at the opportunity to live on the north side. The new light rail route, the country-town main-street feel of Hibberson Street, and the proximity to amazing nature reserves like Mulligans Flat all draw people in.
Unfortunately, at the same time, commercial development has not followed. We are yet to see any major employers move businesses or public service departments to the area. Supporting businesses and industries to take up commercial opportunities in Gungahlin would not only improve the lives of Gungahlin residents but also improve business at our local cafes, restaurants and shops. I do not think that many people in this place would disagree that the role of government is to shape communities. I am of the school of thought that, when our communities need help, the government should step up. We have waited a long time for the market to invest in Gungahlin. We have even been waiting on the commonwealth government to deliver the agency they promised. In the meantime, time is ticking away and we are still waiting for the revitalisation and reinvigoration of the town centre.