Page 1457 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 April 2013

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settlement in existing urban areas, particularly around Civic and our town centres. There are only around five or so suburbs left to be completed in the Gungahlin area, and what this means is that we need to continue to plan for future greenfields development in important and select locations. So the planning strategy outlines that areas such as west Belconnen, areas around Weston Creek and areas in parts of Tuggeranong are areas for future investigation to try to assess whether or not they are suitable for greenfields urban expansion.

Of course, the Molonglo development front has been commenced by this government, and the Molonglo development front does provide us with some capacity for new greenfields release on the south side of the city. But we do need to focus also on the potential for greenfields housing release on the northern side of the city, and the west Belconnen analysis in that respect is very important.

But greenfields expansion has its limits, both in terms of the impact on having people live further and further away from the centre of the city, and the impact that can have in terms of social isolation, and the context around how effectively or how limited the capacity of the government is to provide services and facilities into those locations, as well as the obvious environmental impacts of greenfields release and the increasing restrictions that environmental considerations are putting on our capacity for greenfields release. Therefore we must also focus very strongly on our capacity to accommodate more citizens closer to the city centre, closer to our town centres and close to already established major transport corridors. And that is why the city plan work and the city to the lake project that were released for consultation by the government last week are so important.

There is enormous capacity to accommodate a large number of people living in our city centre. At the moment, the resident population of the city centre would be fewer than 10,000 people. But it is capable, in terms of the land that is available and the future development potential that is available, of accommodating many times that number. It is certainly possible to accommodate up to 50,000 or 60,000 residents in the city centre alone, and that is where we really need to think about why it is that work like the city to the lake project and the city plan are so important, to do the strategic planning to identify how those people can potentially be accommodated and where are the best places for them.

Of course, Walter and Marion Griffin, in their plans for the national capital, saw the city centre as having an address to the lake. They did not see it cut off from the lake by freeways. They saw a city centre sitting next to the lake, with its best address being its front door to what is now Lake Burley Griffin. Living by the water or close to a water address is, of course, attractive to many people. It provides for great recreational amenity, great visual amenity and, of course, it also makes better use of land that is currently not particularly well utilised.

I saw some comments in the Canberra Times last week where there was criticism of this plan. The suggestion, I think from Dr Jenny Stewart, was that it would be better to leave the land as it is because it has a value. Yes, it does have a value but I would challenge anyone to suggest that the land around that part of West Basin is particularly well utilised. Yes, people will go for a run around there or cycle around there, but the great majority of the site is simply not used.

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