ACT News

West Belconnen damned or just delightful

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.

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

“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.