Canberra's future needs to be planned
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Canberra's future needs to be planned

Those people who have been asking who is going to live in the thousands of apartments under construction in Canberra have just had their questions answered.

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According to the ACT Government's latest planning strategy as many as 589,000 people may be calling Canberra home by 2041, just 23 years from now.

This is a huge increase on the current 400,000-odd and is equivalent to all of the ACT's population growth between 1913 and 1975/1976.

Canberra faces the huge challenge of having to provide the infrastructure and housing for an additional 190,000 people in just over one third of the time this task once took.

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The hurdles facing the Barr government, and the administrations that will come after it, are immense given the very limited supply of land suitable, or appropriate, for development within our borders.

Andrew Barr's recent, and belated, reaffirmation that Canberra's unique "bush capital" character is worthy of preservation confirms that urban infill and high density development around the satellite centres is inevitable.

We just don't have the land to give everybody a 1000 square metre block.

While the ACT still has a long way to go before it faces the congestion issues besetting Sydney and Melbourne the potential is definitely there with many recent apartment projects criticised as being driven by the wishes of the developers, not the best interests of Canberrans.

While the frequently expressed view that the developers always have it all their own way may be excessive, it is a fact the pressure is on for Mr Barr and his colleagues to take a stronger line when it comes to deciding what goes where and what the optimum locations for future services such as schools and hospitals should be.

Those charged with planning the services to supply the growing city's needs will have many challenges to deal with in the coming years.

Given this projected growth will create a rolling building boom that is going to take decades to play out, the ACT government is also under strong pressure to lift its game when it comes to licensing builders and ensuring mandatory construction standards are complied with.

There have been too many reports in this newspaper and elsewhere of dodgy building, corrupt practices and the use of phoenixing to allow builders to escape their legal obligations to consumers.

While one jerry built house is one too many - and a tragedy for the family involved, a shoddily constructed apartment tower that is home to hundreds of people has the potential to become a catastrophe.

The Barr government's long overdue decision to name and shame builders and contractors, including those behind some of this city's largest recent development projects, who have been disciplined for poor quality work is definitely a step in the right direction.

The Chief Minister's reference during the week to seeking not only quality, but stylish architecture is also welcome. But there is still a long way to go and the future we are building depends on doing better than we have to this point.

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