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West Belconnen damned or just delightful


John Thistleton

Kate Beach of Latham and her son Daniel walk their dog Bonnie through Charnwood.

Kate Beach of Latham and her son Daniel walk their dog Bonnie through Charnwood. Photo: Melissa Adams

Neglected, savaged or blessed, West Belconnen is coming under more scrutiny as other suburbs prepare for light rail, new schools and expansion.

Latham mother Kate Beach and her son Daniel, 11, one of eight children, count their blessings to be among good shops and services, churches, the Ginninderra Creek and wildlife.

“Kippax Library is the best in Canberra, and we are heavy users,‘’ Mrs Beach said. "And the healthy lifestyle; we can take the kids up to the ovals to kick a ball around, and there’s plenty of bike paths.’’

A reader challenged The Canberra Times, in the aftermath of the ACT budget, to report on how much the outer suburbs had fallen behind.

“How in the modern world can an ALP government neglect a safe ALP seat, run up so much debt, and deliver so little,’’ she wrote in response to editor at large Jack Waterford’s post-budget column.

A Charnwood resident since 1973, Brian Rhynehart has watched Belconnen Mall suck life from local shopping centres, the reconfigured bus interchange adds 10 minutes to a bus journey to the town centre from Higgins and Holt, and schools closed at Holt, Higgins, Page and Flynn.

“We were savagely hit with school closures,’’ Mr Rhynehart, a long-time Belconnen Community Council member, said. “Dunlop has never had a school, the children go to Charnwood."

Save Our Schools spokesman Trevor Cobbold said Flynn primary’s closure was hard to fathom.

“It is quite remarkable it will be replaced by a private school. When they closed Flynn they said it was excessive to needs."

Yet a kilometre away Brindabella Christian College would open a primary school on the former Charnwood high school site.

Mr Rhynehart said small shopping centres were struggling.

“Four shops are left at Holt, five shops at Higgins, Fraser lost its IGA, now there’s just the tavern and a Chinese takeaway. Latham has a tiny little convenience store, we have suffered badly with local shops."

The council had been waiting for the second stage of Belconnen Arts Centre to begin.

“We’re still hoping. Nothing was in this budget, after reading through the pages. Maybe next year."

Yet the suburbs west and north west of Coulter Drive had become more settled, with less crime, compared to earlier decades when Melba and Charnwood received undeserved bad reputations.

Mr Rhynehart said Ginninderra Creek from the lake had been a great playground for generations of children.  

Liberal member for Ginninderra Alistair Coe said urban infrastructure had not kept pace with new housing.

Heavy traffic on Southern Cross and Ginninderra drives had encouraged rat-running through Holt. The government responded with multiple speed humps in Spofforth Street and Beaurepaire Crescent.

Mr Coe said if the proposed Riverview housing development proceeded, infrastructure upgrading may have to include duplication of William Hovell Drive.

Labor MLA Chris Bourke says roads maintenance, library computer upgrades, new weekend bus services and a new fire and ambulance station for Charnwood show the area has not been not neglected in the past two budgets.

Dr Bourke said major budget initiatives to help West Belconnen were a new sub-acute hospital at the University of Canberra, which would bring benefits for rehabilitation and the sick as well as training and employment, and the $19-million Calvary Hospital car park. 

10 comments so far

  • Well, first of all, congrats to Jack W for taking on my challenge and getting an article published from my challenge to him about West Belconnen. I respect an Editor for that.
    I would like to see a break down of funds spent on West Belconnen compared to other electorates of Canberra. The inner north and Gungahlin seem to be getting so much more funding. We have lost schools, and the ovals are being sold off soon. We should not lose green space. We need ovals to reduce obesity and for kids to run around on.
    I would like to see a 50m indoor pool at Kippax.
    Also, a light rail station sooner rather than later. Not just a promise in the future. If Gungahlin get it, we should too.
    What do readers think West Belconnen needs? So many kids at KSS can't swim, we need a 50m indoor pool so local kids can walk down for lessons.
    One problem is that the ALP put a higher percent of public housing in the area which keeps their vote safe, keeps them in power, but then they neglect their safe ALP voter base.
    I respect the Daily Telegraph for running the "Fair Go for the West" campaign for Western Sydney, and Mike Baird has announced good funding recently for Western Sydney. It's time the ALP started funding its safe seat of West Belconnen, and perhaps The Canberra Times can start seeing if the ACT infrastructure budget is fairly distributed to all of Canberra, and not just scooped out on the inner north to Gungahlin area.
    Bravo Jack for starting, but much more required. We don't have the lobbying power of Gungahlin, but I'm glad the issues finally got aired. Thanks.

    Date and time
    June 25, 2014, 12:33PM
    • Yes West Belco and Tuggers are similarly neglected - it seems all the MLAs care about are inner North and Gunners.

      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 1:16PM
      • Mr Rhynehart, do you even live in the West Belconnen area? We have everything there, have you visited the Charnwood and Kippax shopping areas and observed the growth (with car parking being the only thing which doesn't seem to be keeping up with the expansion?). And by the way, Fraser has NOT lost its IGA, I was in there this morning buying items for lunch. Before you make claims in the media you should check your facts first.

        Date and time
        June 25, 2014, 1:41PM
        • The duplication of William Hovell Drive needs to be done ASAP.
          You cannot add two extra suburbs (Dunlop & New Macgregor) without some new road infrastructure. And there wouldn’t need to be much cost for planning as there is plenty of room to duplicate it. Perhaps STOP wasting buckets of money on speed humps and road markings for “rat runners” and building the infrastructure.
          ALSO its time to get back Ginninderra Falls to the public!

          West Belconnen
          Date and time
          June 25, 2014, 1:52PM
          • There is a simple solution to this alleged issue and that's to deregulate land development and allow industrious individuals and businesses to invest in those things they feel would make their communities better (schools, arts centres, etc.). If there's something that could make the community better and it can be delivered in an economically viable way then let's get rid of the barriers and let the private market sort it out. Private investment brings jobs, prosperity and economic incentives for people to work together to look after their community because their financial investments are tied to community success. Waiting around for the government to build what you want is a fool's game.

            Date and time
            June 25, 2014, 2:07PM
            • Isn't the local member Ms Berry? She seems more concerned about the Northbourne flats, might explain a bit.

              Date and time
              June 25, 2014, 2:43PM
              • I think Belconnen is way behind the rest of Canberra. They really to revamp everything because it is so old and tired looking. They need some up to day children's play areas and some places for people to enjoy the outdoors with their kids that doesn't cost a fortune.

                Date and time
                June 25, 2014, 2:45PM
                • Children's play areas. Heavens no. They are taking them away because little Johnny or Susie might hurt themselves! The equipment I played on and my children played on apparently is no longer safe. Talk about cotton wooling our kids. As for those stupid covered in trampolines. They cause more harm than anything. On a windy day like in Melbourne yesterday, they just fly through the air.

                  Date and time
                  June 25, 2014, 4:36PM
              • Yep, these days it seems that anywhere outside a 10km radius of the Legislative Assembly just doesn't matter to the Gov't. Happy to take our rates but that's about it.

                Date and time
                June 25, 2014, 2:59PM
                • The gradual destruction of Spofforth Street as an arterial road by so-called experts has led to the build up of traffic on Southern Cross Drive and the rat-running through Holt. They are still spending obscene amounts of money due to the downgrading of Spofforth Street and it will continue.

                  Date and time
                  June 25, 2014, 3:40PM

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