Page 3656 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 23 October 2013

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for Canberra. We pride ourselves on our natural credentials and our leafy suburbs, but we are in danger of losing that reputation and becoming just another glass and steel infill.

Canberra has an enviable reputation as the bush capital. The original Burley Griffin design intended that areas be linked with open space and inner city green areas. While cities around Australia and around the world are facing ever-increasing pressure for space and especially green space, Canberra has, at least until recent times, retained a sense of space and community.

City planners throughout history have never underestimated the importance of open space and parkland. Indeed, the most beautiful cities around the world are known not for their abundance of inner city apartments or just for mega skyscrapers, but for their parks. In London it is Hyde Park and St James’s Park; in New York it is Central Park; in Paris it is the Jardin du Luxembourg. There is Stanley Park in Vancouver and the Summer Gardens in St Petersburg.

Here in Australia, we have Centennial and Hyde parks in Sydney. There is Kings Park in Perth and in Canberra we have our own Commonwealth and Glebe parks. In Canberra our early planners showed great vision in ensuring that local communities had small parks nestled amongst houses. In just about all our suburbs we have streets that wrap around a green space and provide a community focal point for Australia Day picnics, for local family celebrations and for neighbourhood get-togethers.

Over the last few decades, suburbs have developed and shopping centres have matured, and with that has come Australia’s embrace of a coffee culture. Here in Canberra, we take our coffee seriously and finding places where we can relax over a coffee with friends, business colleagues and family is important. Nowhere is this spending time having a coffee more pronounced than in Manuka and Kingston—whether it is mid-week mornings with mothers and young children, a quick catch-up with a friend or a business contact, or retirees relaxing. Sitting around The Lawns of Manuka is a very popular pastime.

In years gone by, so too was sitting around the lawns at Green Square, Kingston an enjoyable way to relax and a great meeting point for friends and colleagues alike. But then we had the big dry. We can all remember the serious impact that the drought had on eastern Australia from 1997 to 2009. Here in Canberra we have always been known as the green capital and we did not really have experience of such prolonged dry periods. For any tourist arriving in Canberra, the view down Northbourne Avenue was always one of lush grass and trees. With the onset of the drought, water became scarce and watering became an unaffordable and unsustainable luxury.

The government at the time had some tough decisions to make. We either had paddocks of dust or we made alternative arrangements. Many ovals in Canberra were shut down at this time to save water and to prevent injuries from playing on hard surfaces, and to this day some remain closed. We have Canberra junior sporting teams still struggling to get local ovals like they once had for team practice.

One of the areas that suffered from lack of watering was the grass in Green Square. However, the government obviously recognised the social importance of the area and

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