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Canberra a potential world heritage site, experts say

ANU's Ken Taylor (right) and World Heritage Institute expert Dr Ron van Oers will speak at a conference on Canberra.

ANU's Ken Taylor (right) and World Heritage Institute expert Dr Ron van Oers will speak at a conference on Canberra. Photo: Jay Cronan

Canberra should look to apply for a world heritage listing, according to planning experts, who say the capital is often taken for granted locally but lauded globally as a remarkable example of a planned city.

In his first visit to the capital, global urban conservation expert Ron van Oers said he’s found Canberra’s access to the environment and open space is not always appreciated as much as it would be in other parts of the world.

Who owns this city? We the people own this city, the people of Canberra and the people of Australia ... And I think we should celebrate this place. 

Emeritus Professor Ken Taylor, ANU

“In my readings of the debates and what I’ve been discussing briefly with some people here in Canberra, there might be an impression on my side that much is taken for granted here in Canberra in terms of how special the city is,” he said.

Dr van Oers, who works with the World Heritage Institute, will speak on Tuesday night at a public lecture, where he’ll outline how conservationists and developers should work together to maintain the city’s character without impeding necessary modernisation and development.

He said developers shouldn’t fear heritage status, as it actually can add value to a city, and recommended Canberra go through the application process for world heritage listing, even if just to encourage conversation and understanding around what makes the city unique.

“I would strongly recommend Canberra goes through that process … I think that Canberra certainly has something to offer that is worthy of world heritage listing,” he said.

“There’s nothing to fear, but what people fear is that they have to put a little bit more effort in it. Development will always be possible, but you’d need to justify better why you’re doing things.”

Emeritus Professor Ken Taylor, from the Australian National University’s Research School of Humanities, said Australians are often the last to recognise how important Canberra is in the history of planned cities and cities within landscapes.

“International colleagues have a greater regard for Canberra than we do in Australia,” he said.

“Canberra is a remarkable achievement by a small nation in building the city, envisioning a city in the landscape.”

Professor Taylor said he was hopeful Canberra would be awarded national heritage status soon, after being nominated in 2009, which would pave the way for a world heritage application.

“Who owns this city? We the people own this city, the people of Canberra and the people of Australia, because it’s both local home and national capital. And I think we should celebrate this place,” he said.

The Shaping Canberra conference runs from September 17 – 20. Dr Ron van Oers will give a free public lecture titled Canberra: An International Heritage Perspective at 6pm on Tuesday at the National Museum. Bookings are via the museum’s website.

 

11 comments so far

  • That's a very good idea!

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 4:30PM
    • For the first time (I think?) I agree with you :)

      Commenter
      Deutsch
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 12:31PM
  • Crazy, mad idea. Let's hope this madness doesn't go any further. Heritage list Canberra? Are these guys for real? Just as this city starts to develop some character, some different housing options, and new places with a bit of life, these guys want to embed all the things we've got wrong and protect it with heritage legislation. So, what does this mean exactly? Heritage listing for my ex-govie stopping me making changes to turn my place into something more attractive and manageable in my retirement? Get real.

    Commenter
    Barry64
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 5:18PM
    • Right on Barry64! You can't get rid of a tree that's about to fall on your house 'cause some numty says it's a heritage issue. Heritiage list Canberra, and development will slow to a snails pace.

      Commenter
      Joel
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 7:01AM
  • What a load of nonsense. A socialist utopia built for public servants should not be world heritage, it should be demolished. It should never have existed in the first place!

    Commenter
    Jim
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 5:18PM
    • Are you suggesting we bulldoze the city I grew up in? Is there a spare room for my family at your place? Myself, along with the 40% of Canberrans who are not public servants, are intrigued by your notion. Where should the capital exist?

      Commenter
      XR
      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 1:31AM
  • Jim/Barry... you wouldn't be developers would you by any chance?

    Commenter
    Bob222
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 8:43PM
    • As this article mentions in passing, the Australian Heritage Council is considering an application for Canberra to be awarded national heritage status -- however, this does not mean the entire city. The details of the nomination can be found here:
      http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ahc/national-assessments/canberra/index.html

      Commenter
      Karina
      Location
      Belconnen
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 10:37PM
      • Great link Karina, thanks. We just need everybody to check this before commenting .......... Barry, Joel, Jim?????

        Commenter
        Deutsch
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        September 17, 2013, 12:34PM
    • You're quite right there.
      The barbaric bickering between Sydney-siders and Melbourne-ites led to the annual exodus of people to the "land of dreams" called Canberra.
      Now forced to contend with scarce resources, some of us Canberrians could put the lost paradises "Sydney" and "Melbourne" to much better use than those locals do.

      Commenter
      Wolf Clanner
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 11:22PM

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