ACT News

Northbourne Avenue's trees to be replaced as part of Canberra light rail development

Northbourne Avenue's failing River Gums look set to be replaced with Eucalyptus rossii and year-round plantings of wild flowers as part of the light rail development. 

The ACT Government will recommend the species, also known as as Scribbly Gums, to the National Capital Authority as the replacement for hundreds of existing trees set to be cut down as construction begins in 2016. 

An artist's impression of Northbourne Avenue after the introduction of light rail.
An artist's impression of Northbourne Avenue after the introduction of light rail. 

Common to the New South Wales Tablelands, Western Slopes and the Central Coast, the tree is common in Canberra and grows to about 15 metres. With a straight trunk, green and greyish-green leaves and flowers from December to February, it has yellow bark which sheds to create a grey and white appearance. 

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said replacing the median strip's irrigated grass with wild flowers from around the Canberra region will allow for an attractive and fitting entrance to the national capital. 

Northbourne Avenue as it looks now.
Northbourne Avenue as it looks now. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Mr Barr and Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell launched a community consultation process on the urban design for light rail on Tuesday, promising to consider feedback from around Canberra. 

Results collected during the three-week consultation will be given to business consortiums tendering for the $800 million project and to the NCA for approval before the formal request for proposal stage begins. 

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Four consortiums have already expressed interest in construction and operation of the 12-kilometre line

Officials will consider how semi-mature trees can be planted along Northbourne Avenue to replace the existing canopy, as the government looks to public and private development to boost the area and promote growth in the city. 

A Eucalyptus rossii in O'Connor.
A Eucalyptus rossii in O'Connor. 

Conservation expert Ian Fraser gave his support to the plan for Scribbly Gums to replace existing eucalyptus elata trees, which he said were a poor choice for Canberra.

"I think it's an excellent replacement. It's a local tree that is very common on Black Mountain for example so it's perfectly adapted to the situation.

"It is drought proof so it won't need the watering that the elata needed and it's not prone to dropping limbs."

Mr Fraser, the former ACT Conservation Council director, said the plan for wildflowers could present some challenges.

"If I was doing it I would incorporate native grasses, at least as an interim thing at times when the flowers aren't growing, but if they reckon they can find species that are flowering all year round, so be it," he said.

"In addition to being the national capital, we're also an important regional centre so it's good to acknowledge that I think. This plan does that in a way that wasn't happening before." 

Four options for the placement of cycle lanes and footpaths along Northbourne Avenue are proposed as part of the urban design process, including widened footpaths, on-road cycle lanes, and the so-called Copenhagen style which sees pedestrians and cyclists share a dual-level pathway. 

With the opportunity to create an appearance unique to Canberra, tram stops and shelters will provide passengers with protection from weather, include integrated lighting and CCTV security cameras and real time passenger information displays. 

Mr Corbell said light rail could become the source of new recognisable public infrastructure similar to Canberra's ageing concrete bus stop shelters. 

"There's a great opportunity to have an iconic station design that can be spread right across the city as we grow this network over time.

"We've seen that happen in other cities across Australia," he said. 

An information stall will visit Canberra's north and south as part of the consultation and respondents can provide feedback through the Capital Metro website. 

Mr Barr said further plans for urban renewal in Canberra would be unveiled by the government in 2015. 

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