It’s not easy being green around Kippax centre

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Green space at Kippax… “Kippax Fair’s proposal has merit in that it integrates the centre into the green space.” Photo: Paul Costigan

THE ACT Labor/Greens government is constantly selling off public land, especially the city’s green spaces. Despite any spin, this government is not serious about climate change, biodiversity, heat-island effects and does not understand that, as we infill, every green space becomes important. 

Once any green spaces have been built on, they are gone forever. 

This piece could be about the plans to build on the Dickson Parklands (via a dirty political election trick) or the stupid idea to fill part of the lake to open up more land for developments on West Basin or the disappearance of Woden’s green spaces or parks consumed for public housing in Weston Creek or plans for the Coombs play space/sports facility on a designated open space. 

There are many of these planning tragedies. 

This piece is about the developer-driven concept to expand the Kippax Fair shopping centre by taking over a large part of the nearby parklands. What else is green space for?

As with other unjustified ideas endorsed by the ACT planning bureaucracy, what followed was the usual pattern of behaviour. 

First, the master plan with the predicted recommendations (sell land), the bureaucratically friendly community meetings (stacked with bureaucrats and bureaucratic-friendly locals – pesky residents excluded) and a flood of spin to justify the planned outcomes – the land sale.

The best line that surfaced during research was this:

Kippax Fair’s proposal has merit in that it integrates the centre into the green space

Wow! The expansion takes over a significant chunk of green space – that is one hell of a way for this development to be integrated with the parklands.

One big reason used for this shop expansion is that West Belconnen is growing. This includes the questionable development of Ginninderry (picture Yvette Berry with spade) that will eventually bring another 30,000 residents to West Belconnen. And, as they have done to the residents of Coombs and Wright in Molonglo, the developers, who in this case include the ACT government as a partner (no conflict here), will not be providing a major retail centre till much later. Who knows when? 

The Kippax owners have seized the opportunity to argue that their centre will need to expand to cope with all these eager shoppers. 

And as for the government – selling any land is always a priority. It is not hard to imagine the bureaucracy debate: do the people (and future generations) around Kippax deserve all this green space. Silly question, nope! 

None of the evidence-based points would be relevant to Barr’s planning barbarians. They have their political chief to be kept happy, so greenery and open spaces that are good for people’s health, for biodiversity and for dealing with climate are issues and worthy matters easily ignored – yet again.

When reading through the pages of reports on this, it was clear that residents would be happy to see well designed (good architecture) improvements to Kippax (they are sensible people after all!). 

But, more importantly, this was matched with the clear wish that any shop expansion should NOT consume green spaces. 

The contrast is stark between the preferred outcomes by the residents who, despite all efforts to stop them speaking, have voiced their opinions and those appointed to the government’s own consultation committees. So as written in the government’s own documents, there is indeed support for expanding the shops on to the nearly green spaces – just that it is from the chosen few plus a couple more.

People have stated over and over, there are better architectural and planning options to be explored. 

Do we have a government architect? Yes, she was there agreeing to the outcomes to take over the public land. Shame! There are definitely better design proposals to be considered for the Kippax Centre expansion. 

So again it falls to local politicians of all colour to insist on something better for their electorate and to make loud noises to defend local green spaces.

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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