Don’t surrender West Basin to the developers

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The waterfront development of West Basin, envisaged under the National Capital Plan, will reclaim about 2.86 hectares of lake bed to create a lake edge.

“Water’s-edge projects, such as that proposed for West Basin, will destroy the current habitat, remove access for ordinary Canberrans and concentrate the benefits in the hands of a few. UnAustralian!” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

PLANNING is set to be an election issue yet again with one of the key issues for the October election being the protection of the foreshores of our lakes, and particularly the West Basin of Lake Burley Griffin.

One of the great joys of our beaches and rivers in Australia is the broad access by all people. Beach and riverfront ownership is now rare as successive governments have largely retained beaches and riverfronts in public hands.

What could be in the minds of the ACT and National Capital Authority planners and our governments that they even consider moving Lake Burley Griffin foreshore into private hands. 

“Water’s-edge projects such as that proposed for West Basin will destroy the current habitat, remove access for ordinary Canberrans and concentrate the benefits in the hands of a few. UnAustralian!

The Kingston Foreshore is illustrative of how a lakefront changes with intense development. Buildings push out into the lake and, where there was beachfront, the character is lost. 

Kingston Foreshore provides Canberrans with a clear understanding of the sort of changes that will transform West Basin and Acton Park if the city crosses Parkes Way. Developers and governments will invariably argue “vibrancy”. 

Such developments invariably bring a swathe of coffee shops and restaurants. However, these can also be developed on the foreshore for community good without destroying the longest piece of beach left on Lake Burley Griffin.

The recently developed Henry Rolland Park, just to the west of Commonwealth Avenue, illustrates how lake foreshore developments can be done in the community interest. West Basin can be improved and restaurants and cafes added. It can be made more attractive to encourage greater use by Canberrans as well as visitors from Australia and internationally. Well, when our country opens again!

There is a community group “committed to safeguarding one of Canberra’s greatest treasures, the open space of Lake Burley Griffin and its lakeshore landscape setting”. The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians were formed in 2015 and are supported by other organisations such as the North Canberra Community Council, the Walter Burley Griffin Society and Canberra Planning Action Group.

As the October election for the ACT approaches, the group is becoming more active. A “call-to-action” brochure, authorised by Penny Moyes on behalf of the association, has been dropped in letterboxes. It is political, pointing out that the Community Action Party does oppose the West Basin development while “independents and other parties have yet to state their policies”. 

Juliet Ramsay is the current convenor of the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians and was featured in a “must-read” article by my colleague Paul Costigan in “CityNews” in May. The article reviewed Ms Ramsay’s presentation to the Australian International Council on Monuments and Sites arguing for lake protection.

Although COVID-19 has played havoc with the electioneering, now is the time for the group to be political.

The Canberra Liberals’ shadow minister for planning, Mark Parton, indicated a cautious approach by his party arguing they will not be rushed into premature development. The most important thing for the Liberals is maintaining appropriate access to the West Basin Foreshore for the community. 

Independent candidate for Murrumbidgee Fiona Carrick recognised the importance of Lake Burley Griffin to all Canberrans. 

She said: “If development does go ahead, there must be a really significant setback from the lake”. Ms Carrick explained that all members of our community must be able to enjoy the amenity of the lake and our city.

Canberra does not have to be handed over to the developers. We can learn from international experience. The lake foreshore in Geneva provides a great example of a city that has protected its foreshore and is enjoyed not only by people of that city but by visitors from all over the world. Canberra could emulate that thinking as was done with the water spout!

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good on you, Michael. With fond memories of the original Residents’ Rally, formed by you, Bernard Collaery, Hector Kinloch and others. Residents’ Rally had its origins not far from the West Basin site, and grew in opposition to the public parking that had been opened up at the base of City Hill. Hopefully, in 2020 the Residents will rally once again and express their protest, this time at the ACT elections.

    Ann

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