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Residents to fight against embassies


John Thistleton

Foreign embassies looking for new diplomatic headquarters in Australia's national capital are facing fierce opposition from Canberrans, none more strident than in Yarralumla.

In the firing line is the Commonwealth's planning agency, the National Capital Authority, which is looking for 40 more large blocks of land, including nine blocks on Stirling Park, a popular stretch of bushland on Lake Burley Griffin's southern foreshore.

Peter McGhie, one of more than 30 residents who removed woody weeds from the park over the weekend said: ''The reality is no one will benefit from having nine embassies on the last prime unoccupied land left in Canberra.''

He said new embassies would be allotted to African dictatorships or minor countries in terms of trading. Part of Stirling Park is identified for the Prime Minister's new Lodge.

Mr McGhie said although it was an NCA issue, residents would turn up the heat on territory politicians on the eve of the election, including Planning Minister Simon Corbell, whose Molonglo electorate included Yarralumla.

''It is their place after all to preserve open spaces where residents want it.

''Our main aim is to let the NCA know they have a fight on their hands and this is getting serious. We'll keep going with this, we'll chain ourselves to bulldozers.''

Mr Corbell has agreed to meet with the group to listen to their concerns but said the government did not have any power to decide on the land, as the issue belonged with the NCA.

The Federal Golf Club was keen to sell some of its lease for embassies. Mr McGhie said Red Hill objectors against the golf club site came out in large numbers and included a high-profile media figure.

An NCA spokeswoman said no decision had been made and land was still being assessed.

''Environmental, heritage and community values, tenure, servicing and preliminary bushfire assessment will all be considered when assessing the suitability of the area.''

She said the golf course site was not as suitable as the Old Brickworks and Stirling Park in Yarralumla because it lacked services.

In comments posted on the NCA's website, the following was typical of many Yarralumla residents' objections:

''Stirling Ridge is a poor choice. Full disclosure; I live in Yarralumla. I've opted to spend a lot of money and pay a large sum in ACT rates to live here.

''So regardless of Australia's commitment to provide land for diplomatic use I've got a vested interest in what happens here.''

Yarralumla has premium diplomatic missions, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

Janet McGhie accepts her group could be called NIMBYS.

Nevertheless she believes big embassies are inappropriate and would be better located at O'Malley, the Old Brickworks, new Molonglo suburbs or a horse paddock in Curtin.

Residents are preparing legal arguments, saying Stirling Park is designated open space, and has not been fully considered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act or the ACT Nature Conservation Act and new embassies would take an amenity away from walking groups, runners, orienteers and children's school groups.

They believe substantial parts of the 60-year-old Fitzgerald Street pin oak plantation would have to be felled to extend Clarke Street into the park and to permit access to the park for construction vehicles.

''Inevitable destruction of parts of the Stirling Park environment will impact particularly on the bird life, the close to pristine condition of parts of the bush on the ridge, the grassland and threatened species of flora and fauna in the park.'' The nine embassy sites facing Fitzgerald Street would have access from extending Clarke Street into Stirling Park and continuing Clarke Street in a broad loop to join Hopetoun Circuit.


  • The fact is that the land inYarralumla was set aside for embassies long before many residents moved into the area. They should be welcoming these embassies, or would they rather have towering blocks of units instead.No doubt, you'll be hearing lots about how this area is of "heritage" value, the "last vestage of scrub" near the lake, and a "haven for native wildlife", when it really has had lots of uses over time and any heritage/cultural value has long gone. If they want to start a petition on developing this area for embassies, I'll sign it.

    Date and time
    July 30, 2012, 9:47AM
    • I agree. It's like NIMBYS who buy houses near airports and then immediately set out to close down the airports. People will oppose anything because of the Green zeitgeist but it will pass eventually. People and commerce are more important that trees. If progress through development is to occur, embassies on large blocks would beat the hell out of units on much smaller blocks and thinking people would want them but there are plenty of dills around who worship Gaia at the moment.

      davey street
      lane cove
      Date and time
      July 30, 2012, 3:47PM
    • After all, this is the nation's capital. Hence, embassies > NIMBYs.

      Date and time
      July 30, 2012, 4:16PM
  • my heart bleeeeds for them. in short their argument can be distilled to "we're rich and shouldn't have to suffer inconveniences like everyone else." as the admission of their nimby status makes clear, the only reason for their opposition is because they don't want to be inconvenienced. they want someone else to be inconvenienced. that's not a particularly compelling argument.

    yes, the value of your property will decline a little bit. suck it up. move on.

    Date and time
    July 30, 2012, 10:47AM
    • Couldn't agree more. Yarralumla is an embassy precinct, like Forrest and Isaacs. Don't buy there if you don't like embassies nearby. Simple.

      Date and time
      July 31, 2012, 10:56AM
  • It is an easy out for the cash-strapped ACT govt to allow large tracts of the bush capital to be felled by the developer's bulldozer without any consideration for the future legacy they are leaving for future generations of Canberrans. It is also easy to be dismissive of areas like Yarralumla as being home to elitists etc but with the large scale development which is occuring across the whole of Canberra, local residents have every right to be protective of their own backyards, especially when you see the quality of development going on around them. The aesthetic quality of the new suburbs up North is just appalling. Yarralumla residents have every right to be fearful of what lies in store for them if these developments go ahead.

    Date and time
    July 30, 2012, 10:57AM
    • Before everyone comments of the residents of Yarralumla all taking this elitist view, I believe the Canberra Times should be held accountable for this article. They have only written about one person's opinion - if they did any research at all they would know the Yarralumla Residents Association does not support the opinion of the person in the article and most residents don't. Secondly, Joe needs to get off his high horse because he doesn't have a clue and Cam is right - it doesn't matter what suburb development occurs in - existing residents always fight it. Poor Yarralumla is suffering - they've got a collapsing Brickworks with no funding and developers trying to build on every square inch of land. Give them a break

      Date and time
      July 30, 2012, 11:31AM
      • No indeed, why would I think that they are elitist when they say things like, "Stirling Ridge is a poor choice. Full disclosure; I live in Yarralumla. I've opted to spend a lot of money and pay a large sum in ACT rates to live here."

        So because this person has opted to spend a lot of money this person believe that s/he should be justified in demanding that the embassies be shunted off somewhere else. What's not elitist? I'm not on a "high horse" (except for the occasional game of polo w/my yarry school chums), just pointing out the blindingly obvious.

        Date and time
        July 31, 2012, 9:31PM
    • They should be building embassies in Queensland along the coast, and parliament should be moved to Queensland as well. Even Canberra's airport is too small to cater for more than a couple of diplomatic jets - Gillard's jets take up all the room.

      Let the disadvantaged people of Yarralumla keep their land and move the diplomatic corp to warmer, happier climates.

      Date and time
      July 30, 2012, 11:38AM
      • Yes i agree, moving parliament and the embassies to qld is a good idea it will reduce the cost of housing in canberrra as well as stop canberra bashing (except for the raiders)

        Date and time
        July 30, 2012, 4:28PM

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