Page 782 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 April 2014

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City Hill as the civic centre of the city, and yet today it is the hole in a donut of fast moving traffic and car parks. There is great opportunity to revitalise this precinct, and transport through the city is a key part of making that a reality.

The plan brings the light rail alignment down to City Hill to link with potential expansions to the east and south. It also proposes changing Vernon Circle from a major arterial road to a minor collector road. I think this makes a lot of sense. At the moment a lot of north-south traffic goes straight through the centre of the city and, by finding clear alternatives, we can keep this traffic away from the heart of town.

Again, it has often been observed in this place, and certainly in conversations I have had with people, that having essentially six lanes of traffic cutting our city in half is perhaps one of the great urban planning disasters of Canberra. I think it really detracts from the city. It particularly detracts from the Sydney and Melbourne buildings, which are universally popular amongst residents, I think. They see them as some of the icons of our city, and yet they are constrained by the fact that most hours of the day there are six lanes of traffic roaring by. I think that is a great shame.

We need the city to integrate with the suburbs and town centres in a coherent way. I think the city plan is an important piece of that puzzle, but there is no doubt that it is a work in progress. I think Mr Smyth had some interesting thoughts on how the city needs to progress. Stripping out the political criticisms of the government, there is a really important discussion to be had. At the dinner he referred to that Mr Barr and I attended there was a very interesting discussion about how city spaces should work, and trying to bring that to life.

I personally hold the view that bringing more residential development to the city is an important part of that, actually having people around. I had cause to be walking through the city this past Sunday evening at about 7 pm, just going across from work to the supermarket there, and there was not anybody around.

Mr Coe: This lease variation charge killed the—

MR RATTENBURY: Mr Coe interjects that it is driven by the lease variation charge. I think it actually goes back a lot further than that, Mr Coe. For as long as I can remember, there has been a bit of a dearth of activity in the city in the evening period, particularly on a Sunday night, and that remains an ongoing challenge. In the recent efforts going into the rebranding of Canberra exercise, some of the people working there observed they actually found it quite challenging to find photos of Canberra that had people in them. Again, I think this goes to some of the issues that the residents of Canberra regularly raise. They say they want to see more life in the city. The challenge to bring in residential development is an important part of that.

I must observe, in the context of Mr Smyth’s remarks, that he reflected well on the new Acton precinct. That is an outstanding development on the whole. He observed that one of the important components of that is public art. Of course, that reminded me of the fact that all the pieces of public art that have been put in place have invariably received considerable criticism for the expansion of government on public art; so I see a disconnect there.

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