ACT News


Gallagher's big picture all about beating the rush

The ACT government has set out its vision for Canberra's next century, declaring the territory must plan for a population of 500,000 now to avoid ''crisis-driven'' development in years to come.

Plans unveiled on Tuesday will open the city up to Lake Burley Griffin and will lead to long-awaited projects including a new stadium and convention centre, as well as an urban beach, built on the west basin.

But sceptics have questioned the government's ability to see the plans through. Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said Labor's record on infrastructure delivery made him doubt whether the grand designs would ever come to fruition.

Others, however, said the projects were ''transformational''. The Canberra Business Council called on the government to immediately fund work to split Parkes Way, which would be the ''catalyst'' for realising its vision of a true lakeside city.

Tuesday's announcement included two projects: a ''City Plan'' to guide all future development of new infrastructure across the territory in its second century, and the ''City to the Lake'' project, a 10-15 year project to overhaul the west basin.

Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr unveiled plans to transform the west basin through a mix of residential, commercial and cultural developments. New apartment complexes will bring 15,000 to 20,000 new residents to the area, while boardwalks and restaurants would make the west basin a more vibrant entertainment and recreation space.


Mr Barr said the public waterfront was the centrepiece for the project, which would extend from the west basin to Anzac Parade.

The City to the Lake plan also identifies potential sites for the Australia Forum, a new multipurpose stadium and a regional aquatic centre fronted by Canberra's ''long-desired'' urban beach.

The other major component of the project is the conversion of Parkes Way into a split-level ''smart boulevard''. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said splitting Parkes Way would remove the barrier the artery road currently created between the lake and Civic.

The City Plan will incorporate the Capital Metro light rail network and guide development of future corridors through the inner south, Woden and Tuggeranong.

Ms Gallagher said eight weeks of community consultation would start immediately on both plans, through face-to-face meetings and two websites dedicated to each plan. But the government did not specify how much any of the projects would cost.

She said Canberra needed to enter its second century with an awareness of its future planning needs and what was important to residents of contemporary cities, including a desire to live closer to the heart of a city and not in isolated outer suburbs. ''The worst thing that could happen is that we don't do any of this work, the population grows to 500,000, and that development just occurs in a crisis-driven way,'' she said.

Mr Hanson said he welcomed conversations about the city's future, but doubted the government's ability to realise its grand vision.

He said he would ''pay particular attention to some of the hard questions that will need to be answered, including costs, timelines, consultation, parking, disruption to existing parkland and amenities, budgetary impact, and who will be paying for this project''.

The Canberra Business Council welcomed the proposals.

Chief executive Chris Faulks said the council would call on the government to fund changes to Parkes Way in its budget in June.


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