SOMETHING very worrying has happened to the National Capital Authority (NCA). There’s been a shift in its planning culture somewhere in the last five years.
This cultural change is on show through its consultations on a proposed commercial venture to operate an inflatable aqua park on Black Mountain Peninsula (see map).
Reading through the documentation for this proposal it is obvious that the firm has been in conversations with both the NCA and ACT planning, and that, given the nature of the documentation, it has been given some encouragement to go to the next stage.
From the planning documents: The plan is to build an “L” shape 1600 sqm of inflatable obstacles in the first year of operation. Provision is made to increase inflatable size to 2000 sqm from year two onwards. The inflatable obstacles will include tunnels, bridges, runways, slides, jumping pillow, obstacles, slip waves and swing tower.
The impression is that the NCA would see no harm in a commercial venture taking over a significant part of the lakeside reaction area on Black Mountain Peninsula and it thinks it would be okay to have part of the lake closed off for public use – unless you pay.
On first glance most people who read about this in the media would see the provision of something entertaining by the NCA as being a fun thing. Naturally, very few people will read the details and understand the impacts on the present open spaces.
And we can be sure that a very small number will respond by the deadline, COB today.
The NCA planner will say that there have been extensive consultations (they say that about all consultations) and that there will be no harm done – and besides the NCA will make money on the deal.
The loss will be to the general public who use this beach site on the peninsula because it is a fun place to relax, to let the kids go for it and for everyone to enjoy the surrounding parklands environment and the views across the lake.
There are other users such as Triathlon ACT and rowing clubs. All have a history of using this space and mention how crowded the area can get at various times – especially during the summer months when this commercial venture is proposed to dominate this cherished and popular area.
With this new proposal coming in on top of these activities and the public’s enjoyment of this open space, one wonders how the NCA allowed this to progress to this point knowing it would be causing anxiety with so many.
This same NCA has initiated unpopular amendments to the planning regimes that could see apartments of 15-plus stories on the corner of Northbourne and MacArthur. Campbell residents have their NCA stories – about how above additional limit heights of a building on Constitution Avenue can be agreed to by the NCA even though their own rules say otherwise.
The recent NCA leaders have joined hands with the ACT government in looking to activate parklands – sites that should be cherished for what they are and for what they were always planned to be – parklands. Along West Basin they are both planning for the activation of the foreshore with apartments towers while filling in the lake to make the foreshore more available for sales.
All these terrible decisions, along with the Black Mountain Aqua Park proposal, point to an authority showing no respect for the city’s heritage and an authority not understanding its role in stewardship of the national capital.
The Aqua Park proposal is the latest sign of the changes within the culture of the NCA that has come to be the new normal in how they approach planning issues. This planning culture is not healthy.
Leave this parkland and foreshore for people to enjoy – and to do so without having to pay. The lake is not there to be handed over for commercial use.
Bring back the NCA we used to respect. The Aqua Park thing should be not allowed to progress.
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Ian Meikle, editor