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Libs liken city revamp to failed office tower plans

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The Canberra Liberals say they doubt if the ACT Government’s grand designs for the rebirth of Lake Burley Griffin’s west basin will ever come to fruition.

But the Canberra Business Council has described the project “transformational" for Canberra, calling for plans to transform Parkes Way into a “smart boulevard” to be funded immediately.

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Canberra's City Plan

An artist's impression of the proposed City Plan. Video supplied by the ACT Government.

Canberra Liberals Party leader Jeremy Hanson accused the Labor government of trying to fool the people of Canberra with glossy brochures and slick videos.

The government unveiled its long-term plans for west basin, including a new stadium, a convention centre, regional aquatic centre and lake beach on Tuesday morning and asked the public for its views on the early concept designs.

But the newly installed Liberal leader said Labor’s record of infrastructure delivery caused him to doubt if the plan could be delivered according to plan.


“Although many of the concepts look attractive, I question the Government’s ability to deliver on their promises,” Mr Hanson said.

“We all remember the grand designs for a new Government Office tower which Andrew Barr and Katy Gallagher promised to deliver, but then dropped once the hard questions were asked by the Opposition and their flawed planning was exposed.

“After the extraordinary Cotter Dam cost blow outs, the GDE, the prison and other botched infrastructure projects, Canberrans should not be fooled by glossy brochures and slick videos that are no substitute for competent infrastructure delivery.”

Mr Hanson vowed to keep the government and its agencies accountable as they progressed their vision for west basin.

“I will be seeking a detailed briefing from the Government on their proposal and will 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,” he said.

Canberra Business Council reaction

There’s no reason we can’t start that immediately and actually start work on it by 2015.

Canberra Business Council chief executive Chris Faulks

Meantime, the Canberra Business Council has called on the ACT Government to immediately fund work to split Parkes Way into a “smart boulevard” that will open up the west basin of Lake Burley Griffin to the city.

The council's chief executive Chris Faulks described the City to the Lake plan as a “transformational project” that would make Canberra the “liveable city that we all want to be in.”

“We’ve all got visitors from interstate who say why don’t you have restaurants round the lake, why don’t you have places where you can go for coffee – and this is the opportunity,” she said.

Ms Faulks welcomed plans to make the west basin a site for recreation and entertainment, as well as the proposal for a new convention centre – a project lobbied for by the business council.

But the chief executive said the Government’s short term focus should be on Parkes Way, which she believed would be the “catalyst” for realising its overall vision to transform the lake into a recreational and residential hub.

The business council will call on the Government to start funding the works to split Parkes Way in its June Budget.

Ms Faulks said “there’s no reason we can’t start that immediately and actually start work on it by 2015.”

“At the moment it’s very, very difficult to move from the city down to the lake, either through Commonwealth Park or through west basin,” she said.

 “We believe that by transforming Parkes way into that smart boulevard that you’ll be able to move freely down to the city and it really will open it up.”

Property industry's reaction

The Property Council of Australia has warned of skewed priorities following the announcement of two major infrastructure projects by the ACT Government.

“Without a doubt, it’s a visionary and exciting project,” the council’s ACT executive officer Catherine Carter said.

“However, I think this plan and realisation of this vision is a long way off. We need the Civic Master Plan first… This is wonderful, but it’s come the wrong way around.”

Ms Carter said projects such as the Kingston Foreshore were not yet completed, while plans for developments such as light rail investment were being pushed.

“It’s questionable if all of these projects can go ahead at the same time,” she said.

“It’s commendable, it’s visionary… but there are other infrastructure priorities. It’d better to get some of the other big projects right before spreading effort across all these projects.”

Paul Powderly from Colliers International said it was important to maintain the balance between supply and demand for the residential developments outlined in the projects, but said it oversupply shouldn’t be a concern.

“The current cycle of supply will be past and most of the supply at the moment is not the city area,” he said.

“This will be the next wave following on from the Kingston Foreshore and Braddon. I don’t see them competing.”

Mr Powderly said the projects would also provide density where it was needed.

“I think the critical issue is we’ve gone as far out as we can in Canberra,” he said.

“The inner city and the basins, that’s where you want your density and that’s where these projects will focus density.”

Mr Powderly said the project would help a heart for the city, something he was “definitely in favour of”.

The plans were also welcomed by the ACT branch of the Australian Institute of Architects, whose president Tony Trobe said it was fantastic to see moves towards big picture thinking for the city centre.

“It’s great they can move in one direction,” he said.