A global cultural heritage body has called on the territory and Commonwealth government to immediately halt the planned development of Canberra's West Basin foreshore to make way for apartments, urging both governments to put Lake Burley Griffin on the national heritage list.
The call comes as the ACT government prepares to start reclaiming up to 2.1 hectares of the lake, to be filled in, ahead of reshaping the parklands at West Basin into a promenade and multi-storey apartment development as part of the City to the Lake project.
A letter sent by the International Council on Monuments and Sites to both levels of government last month asked the governments to halt the planned development, a call which the territory government seems to have ignored.
The letter said the proposed reclamation should be stopped "to ensure the removal of threats and to ensure that the inclusion of Lake Burley Griffin and Lakeshore Landscape to the National Heritage List is progressed without further delay".
It follows local representatives of the United Nations-linked group inspecting the lake late last year, amid talks with the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians, who are fighting to protect the parklands that line the lake to the west of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge.
Guardians' convenor Juliet Ramsay said the planned works would obliterate the parklands, and with a seeming lack of public carparking proposed for the development, it could create a new enclave for wealthy investors to buy lakeside property, to the detriment of Canberrans who use the area.
Other members of the group also voiced concerns that while the National Capital Authority had control over the lake and its surrounds, the infill was essentially pushing that boundary further into the lake to give the territory government more land to sell off for more apartments.
The Guardians have also twice applied to the federal government for an "emergency heritage listing" of the entire lake and parklands, given the site has previously been tagged by consultants for listing, which the environment department is currently considering.
While the territory government is still in talks with the Commonwealth about the proposal, the City to the Lake project was included in maps published last week as part of the Barr government's extensive urban renewal plans, which were jointly released by the territory and the NCA.
Despite the government's original plans including multi-million dollar proposals for a sports stadium, aquatic centre and convention centre, those have all been abandoned or significantly scaled back, with the apartments and a waterfront promenade including retail and restaurants the main remaining elements.
A government spokesman said that as negotiations were still underway with the federal government over the reclamation, the capital works, which were first scheduled to be completed this financial year, had now been delayed until 2018-19.
He also said the government was still going ahead with the development, which would replace the current three hectares of surface carparking with four hectares of "urban park".
"The ACT government believes that improvements to West Basin are consistent with the requirements in the National Capital Plan and will actually strengthen the cultural and heritage value of the lake," he said.
"The ACT government is proceeding as planned with the improvements of West Basin, to improve the area for all Canberrans and visitors."
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times
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