The brewing clash between Canberra's Anglican diocese and Campbell residents over a plan to build townhouses on a quiet suburban street might make some roll their eyes.
Some may dismiss it simply as another case of NIMBYism. It has been suggested there are larger issues to worry about. Undoubtedly there are, but the objections raised by Rosenthal Street residents to plans to build a block of townhouses on their narrow road should not be discounted.
The growing dispute is part of a pattern of residents pushing back against developments that transform Canberra's ideal as a "garden city".
It's also a symptom of a transformation in some of the city's oldest suburbs forcing residents to let go of the suburban character that defined the national capital's early development.
Residents in these situations are told to say goodbye to the green space, including trees, that is believed to define Canberra's proud status as the "bush capital".
The national capital is a planned city that couches itself more seamlessly in its natural surroundings than its more monstrous big cousins to the north and south. Many Canberrans hold on tightly to the city's low-density character, trees, and easy access to the bush, for all these city-defining reasons. Arguments like the one simmering in Campbell are important.
Looking askance at other development stoushes, related questions arise in the opposition to the Australian War Memorial's plan to build a car park over part of Remembrance Nature Park, behind the museum's Anzac Hall. The National Capital Authority's decision to keep open the option of building Monash Drive, a road that would cut through Canberra Nature Park, raises eyebrows for similar reasons.
The city reportedly lost more than 10 per cent of canopy cover between 2009 and 2016, ridding it of a natural cooling agent as more climate change threatens to make summers even hotter. Access to shade, parks and open green space will only become a more pressing question for planners and residents. The loss of up to 16,000 square metres of open space with expansion planned at Kippax Fair shopping centre is another flashpoint, as the local community council says residents cannot afford to lose any green space while the region's population prepares to swell on the back of construction of the Ginninderry estate.
Access to shade, parks and open green space will only become a more pressing question for planners and residents.
At the same time, Canberra's growth could threaten native habitats if it sprawls outwards. Urban infill has its role. There's a tough balancing act to perform.
Canberra's rapid growth and development, and its thriving economy, has the city bursting at the seams of those ideals that many residents believe should guide its growth. Walter Burley Griffin learnt that the city was a project diluted by competing visions. That remains true today, only with more voices to mediate.
The ACT's suburban disputes over planned construction are a test for those planning controls meant to give members of the community a say in their city's direction. The territory's inquiry into Canberra's green spaces has resonated, drawing many submissions. The city needs to pause and think carefully about its treatment of green space while growing. Is the community content to raze bush and condense housing in its suburbs? What green space is it willing to discard?
Dealt with separately, conflicts over developments may be resolved in ways that favour developers. Seen as a whole, there's a better chance for the larger community to decide together.
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