Page 1124 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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created at the beginning of this city’s history for our amenity and our recreation then I believe it is beholden on us as a community to look after it to the best of our ability. We must also recognise that this central feature of our urban landscape actually sits on the Molonglo River. We are a river city, not a lake city, and we must not lose sight of that.

Lake Burley Griffin is an integral feature of the urban landscape of Canberra. It is a place for Canberrans and visitors alike to come together, socialise, access our great cultural institutions, take a quiet stroll, cycle or jog. The work Christmas barbecue by the lake is a great Canberra tradition that I am sure we have all partaken of at some point. Paddlers and rowers can be seen out on the lake every morning and sailors and tourists take to the water across the weekends. Our lake is an important place for people living in an increasingly urbanised environment to find some time out and some space.

It was once a common sight to see people swimming in the lake on a hot summer afternoon, but over the years this has been less and less commonplace. I can well understand why. The bad smells and slimy algae make the water less than inviting, and the regular closures do not inspire confidence in the safety of the water. But what a shame that swimming in the lake is not something that is considered a recreational option by all the people of Canberra. It would be wonderful to see more Canberrans enjoying this body of water so that people can not only have picnics on the lake shore but also accompany them with a swim in the lake. If we had confidence in the quality of the water then I am sure we would see this happening.

It is important to note the contribution that a healthy lake makes to the economy and vibrancy of the city by supporting recreational activities such as kayaking, as well as organised sports such as rowing, triathlon and dragon boat racing. I believe that Mr Barr is at the dragon boat racing this afternoon. Local clubs use the lake for training and to hold local, regional and national events. The guidelines used to determine closures in the lake changed in 2009 to allow “non-contact” activities to continue while the lake is otherwise closed. But the reality is that if water quality in the lake continues to degrade, these events will simply move elsewhere. Certainly, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is already happening.

Members know, of course, that I am an active triathlete. The quality of the lake has certainly had an impact on the community that I operate in. We have had events postponed, events cancelled and events changed. Anecdotally, our numbers seem to be dropping for some of the national events we hold. I think that is because the reputation is getting around that Canberra is not a reliable place to come to and have a race. You have trained for many months to do your event and you do not want to see it being cancelled or postponed at the last moment.

Of course, a healthy lake is not just about delivering a good quality public amenity for us humans and our pursuits. It is crucial to remember that Lake Burley Griffin is part of the Molonglo River system. It has biodiversity values both above and below the water level and should not be left as a breeding pool for weeds and feral species. The environmental issues surrounding the lake are symptomatic of the entire Molonglo River corridor. Weeds such as willows, which strangle the flow of the river, are also

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