Page 624 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

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Importantly, the government is committed to improving access and choice in how we live while retaining most of Canberra’s suburban areas. With new, vibrant communities created through urban renewal projects, there are many economic opportunities that deliver tangible benefits to our community. These opportunities include encouraging more affordable commercial accommodation for new enterprises and medium and small businesses as part of the mixed use developments along the rapid public transit corridors and in group centres. This will further help distribute employment opportunities to allow people more choice to live close to work, with convenient, direct transport connections.

Urban renewal plays a pivotal role in activating underutilised spaces and driving economic activity in and around shopping precincts. Urban renewal arrests population decline and makes more efficient use of existing infrastructure.

By way of example, north Canberra’s population fell from 53,100 in 1971 to 38,500 in 2001 as children grew up and established their own homes in other districts. This decline led to lower school enrolments and reduced support for local shops. The urban renewal that occurred over the period 2001 to 2010 saw the population rise again, to 48,000, largely due to a significant level of urban renewal in Turner, Watson, Braddon and the city. It is this reactivation of suburbs that has created a network of shared public spaces, new housing types and many viable small businesses. It has also brought new employment opportunities within walking distance and cycling distance of where the local communities live and play.

When I arrived in Canberra in 1977, our town centres—indeed, the Civic centre and Canberra as a city—were totally different from now. But with the continuing urban renewal and infill initiatives, we are seeing more and more people moving into our town centres and preferring to live in townhouses, and apartments in high-rise buildings—for instance in the Belconnen town centre.

People who are moving into our town centres are obviously attracted to the convenience of a CBD, which, as you know, means being close to public transport corridors, taxis and shops. In the case of Belconnen, we see thriving nightlife and we see more and more people eating out at the restaurants and using the beautiful Lake Ginninderra as their backyard. And as more people move into the CBD they generate greater demand for commercial and cultural services and entertainment, which, in turn, contributes to cultural, economic and social identity. In the case of Belconnen, I look forward to the eventual completion of the second phase of the Belconnen Arts Centre, which will be an important addition to this wonderful cultural centre, providing a much-needed expansion of arts and community services in Belconnen and its environs as well as enhancing the lake foreshore.

Only today the government introduced a bill to help the University of Canberra secure its long-term future while at the same time continue to drive the renewal we are witnessing in Belconnen. It is a very exciting development, I think you would agree, Mr Assistant Speaker. The bill will see further new jobs created, and more housing choices, which in turn will create new commercial opportunities in the Belconnen area.

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