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Canberra needs higher density to match Gold Coast light rail success: economist

An economist who determined a $300 million increase in land value around the Gold Coast's light rail stations since it started operating says the effects from Canberra's system will not necessarily mirror the rise.

Dr Cameron Murray from The University of Queensland researched changes in the land value along the $1.2 billion Gold Coast public transport system since it began in July 2014.

He found the plots of land within 400 metres of a light rail stop had risen by a combined $300 million in value, 7 per cent more than land between 400 metres and two kilometres away.

In an article published by The Conversation, Dr Murray said the gains would generate between $1.5 million and $3.9 million in additional land tax revenue and levies per year. 

When it came to Canberra, however, Dr Murray said factors such as lower density, the original land value and access to amenities meant the capital was unlikely to find the same swift success.

Dr Murray said the already high land value along the Gold Coast light rail line, which includes waterfront properties and the Surfers Paradise tourist precinct, meant even small percentage increases would have meant millions on extra dollars in value.

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"One of the curious things about the Gold Coast is that you would think there would be a lot of buying before in anticipation of it, but in fact there was a lot of scepticism about how good it would be," he said.

"In Canberra [the land value change] is going to be a bit different, but the width of Northbourne Avenue means construction itself is probably going to be a lot less disruptive and cheaper than on the Gold Coast," he said.

About 6.5 million passenger trips were recorded on the Gold Coast light rail, or the G:, in its first financial year, above the 5.7 million the state government expected ahead of its launch.

By June 30 this year, a total of 14 million trips had been recorded.

In order for such successful outcomes to be replicated in Canberra, Dr Murray said density would need to improve near light rail stops, as well as proximity to amenities such as shopping centres, hospitals and universities that are included along the Gold Coast route.

"It's going to start quietly, but how many thousand extra people are going to move in along the corridor in the next 10 years will help determine it," he said.

"Maybe five years after it starts we'll start to see some momentum."

Property developers and real estate agencies have extolled the virtues of "transit-oriented development" in the ACT since the light rail project was first announced.

Planning Institute of Australia ACT division president Michael Jollon​ last month said "frequent, rapid services between popular origins and destinations" needed to be combined with high density development in order for such plans to succeed.

The ACT Land Development Agency has committed to "urban intensification" along the light rail corridor, including the acquisition of public housing along Northbourne Avenue for commercial and residential blocks, as well as the urban renewal program in Dickson.

Dr Murray visited Canberra earlier this year to present a report on the ACT's land value tax transition.