Page 3660 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 23 October 2013

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MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for Ageing) (10.16): As the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, I will be taking the lead on this, although the Chief Minister will also speak shortly. I thank Mr Doszpot for putting forward this motion today and I welcome the opportunity to speak about Green Square in Kingston. The motion calls on the government to take note of the impact that the loss of grassed areas is having on the area and for the government to work with the local Kingston businesses to enhance the space for families by returning grass to the area.

Some Kingston traders have proposed returning some grassy areas to Green Square, and this was accompanied by the generous offer by the traders to fund this reinstatement of grass and the associated irrigation infrastructure changes that may be required. I take this opportunity to thank the Kingston traders and other people in the area for their words of support of the recent government investments to continue to improve Green Square by funding upgrades to the paving, new seating and the general redesign of the square in 2010, at a cost of around $150,000. Community support for capital improvement projects is, of course, always appreciated, as we see with the various shopping centre upgrades going on across the city.

I will take a moment to reflect on the reasons Green Square in Kingston was redesigned away from grass in 2010 and replaced with what was considered to be a more robust design, which included drought-proof plants. Mr Doszpot has elaborated on some of the history, but I will add to that by noting Territory and Municipal Services, which manages Green Square, had significant resourcing issues with maintaining the grass due to the high compaction rates from constant pedestrian traffic and limited ability to irrigate during the drought as the ACT government needed to critically assess which areas could remain irrigated due to water shortages. The grassed areas also needed to be fenced off for extended periods during the grass establishment phase, which was a challenge in itself.

Extensive public consultation was undertaken during the design stage of Green Square, and there were certainly mixed views, with some people wanting to retain the grass whilst others felt the landscape could be changed. In the end it was agreed to redesign Green Square’s public realm with a design which retained the green feel of the area through the installation of low-growing, green strappy-leaved plants and which paid particular attention to sustainability and water sensitive design. The design also considered ongoing maintenance costs, improved landscape amenity, the provision for passive recreation, a relaxing atmosphere for visitors and an opportunity for interactive public space through the funding of the landscaping of the raised garden beds and reverting them to grass whilst maintaining the new walls and other landscape features.

That is the history, and that was the basis on which the decision was taken by the then Minister for Territory and Municipal Services. Whilst there obviously were differing views, I think there was some rationale to that decision making. That said, as members may recall, my colleague Ms Le Couteur made a number of comments in this place at the time and I certainly had discussed it with my colleagues in the party

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