Letters / Lamenting the concrete canyons of Canberra 

Share Canberra's trusted news:

“Our beloved horse paddocks have been exchanged (without any community consultation) to provide an international housing estate, writes COLIN BLAIR, of Curtin. “How is this possible in a so-called democracy?”

FROM the deserts of Northbourne Avenue to the high-rise horrors of Woden, Canberra as the concrete capital of Australia is rising fast!

As a Curtin resident for nearly 40 years, I am horrified by the decimation of our local Curtin shops to provide a large number of small flats for rent only, and a few replacement shops as a token gesture!

Now, to add insult to injury, we learn that our beloved horse paddocks have been exchanged (without any community consultation) to provide an international housing estate. How is this possible in a so-called democracy?

Already there are many “container-architectural” new-builds swallowing up the spare blocks of Curtin released (with no building constraints) after the Mr Fluffy debacle! Much of this is to facilitate the inexorable advance of the “Toy Train” down Adelaide Avenue, with the Mint oval and surrounds doubtless the next to go.

Soon Canberra will be blessed with the same concrete canyons as Sydney and other “modern“ cities.

Goodbye the Bush Capital – what is left of you won’t be with us much longer!

Messrs Barr and Rattenbury must be so proud of themselves.

Colin Blair, Curtin

Common Ground not on a ‘green space’ 

A COLUMN by Paul Costigan in “CityNews” (July 2) about the proposed Common Ground development in Dickson is incorrect in numerous respects. 

Argyle Housing Ltd is not the parent body of Common Ground. Some years ago Argyle was appointed by the ACT government to provide tenancy services (rents, bonds, maintenance etcetera) at the Common Ground development in Gungahlin. 

Northside Community Services provides welfare support to social-housing tenants at that same site. 

The development at Gungahlin was built by the ACT government, part funded by the ACT and Australian governments, with strong backing from philanthropy, especially the Snow Foundation. The Common Ground Canberra organisation was a key player in lobbying for the development to be built. 

Common Ground began in New York. Some years ago its founder, Rosanne Haggerty, was a thinker-in-residence in Adelaide. 

From there the model spread to other cities around Australia. Its approach to providing high-quality, safe and supported accommodation has been shown to work in ending chronic homelessness. It is not, as claimed in the article, Argyle’s model. 

Other parts of the story are also inaccurate. The development is not in a green space – it is being built on a cleared block where a previous building was demolished. Costigan should visit the site – nothing could be further from “precious green spaces”. It is not eight storeys. It is not designed to lead to more apartment building. It will not lead to any loss of community facilities – quite the opposite, the Common Ground building will contain community spaces and social enterprises that employ previously homeless people and serve the local community. 

There is no “Common Ground management”. Everyone involved in Common Ground is a volunteer. Common Ground is a community based organisation that encourages partnerships between government, community organisations and the private sector to solve homelessness. Common Ground receives no benefit from the development and the previous land-swap deal. 

Stephen Bartos, chair, Common Ground, Braddon

Political silence is deafening

THEY may well wish otherwise, but Common Ground is enmeshed in the government’s machinations to permanently undermine the decades-long land zoning that set up Section 72 as a central Dickson land bank for future community, cultural and recreational use (“Land-swap shadow hangs over housing project”, CN July 1). 

The positioning, scale and mass of the planned six-storey residential edifice on a tight site within this irreplaceable land bank does not offer the ability to avoid or minimise a range of identified negative impacts on the surrounding environment and unmet community-use needs. 

In addition the reasons for establishing the original zoning that would safeguard Section 72 for non-residential community use are even more pertinent now. 

Growing nearby residential densification and significant population growth increases means that the much-degraded and neglected spaces remaining in this section are precious and needed more than ever for broader public use benefit. If they are lost under more concrete, they will be gone forever.

The area calls out for the inclusion of large-tree-canopied parkland, for respite and outdoor socialisation opportunities that are accessible day and night especially during our ever hotter summer months. COVID-19 has intensified the need for such a public mental and physical health focus, too.

All Section 72 revitalisation activity should provide hard evidence of how it will counter the heat-trapping hard surfacing that is surging across the inner north. 

There are certainly no clear, coherent government plans to reduce such negative impacts in nearby areas slated for infill building development.

Given the darkening shadow that hangs over Section 72, Kurrajong voters will expect to hear how all candidates standing for election and re-election in October will commit and work to deliver a visionary renewal of Section 72, in keeping with community expectations that have been clear since well before the 2016 election.

So far the silence has been deafening.

Sue Dyer, Downer

Bus service ‘controlled’ by union

FOR those in Canberra who use neither the buses nor tram it may come as a shock to know how much it’s costing you.

Canberra buses are the most heavily subsidised in Australia. Without the $200 million paid by taxpayers, fares would be considerably higher and fewer people would use buses. The subsidy is $5.76 a trip. 

Subsidies are paid because, when it comes to public transport, the Barr-Rattenbury government is controlled by the Transport Workers Union. They call the tune. 

Their members – the bus drivers earn more than most other bus drivers in the country – in the region of $100,000 a year. On top of that, they dictate when buses run. They had it written into their award that they could choose if they worked on weekends. 

On top of losses on buses there is the cost of the tram. Last time I looked, it cost ACT taxpayers $1 billion. I have never used the tram, no one I know has ever used the tram and I will never use the tram and yet my taxes pay for the tram.

When will this government come clean and tell us what we are really paying for is an inefficient, overpriced public transport system that many of us never use? 

If the sheer cost wasn’t enough, there is the issue of buses running around Canberra completely empty – except for the driver. Who would think this was a good idea? What a waste! Not only are we paying bus drivers to drive empty buses – which is ludicrous, they are spewing out greenhouse gases. Why don’t the Greens object to the waste of money and greenhouse gas emissions? 

Lucinda Spier, Campbell

Rattenbury wants to undo his own damage

Scandalous. There is no other way to describe the land supply and planning policy settings adopted by ACT Labor and the Greens that have resulted in the exclusion of Canberra families in the bottom two income quintiles (i.e. 40 per cent of all Canberrans) from access to the detached-housing market. 

Opposition leader Alistair Coe is correct, the only realistic option now available to working-class Canberrans who aspire to live in a detached house is to move across the border into NSW.

Shane Rattenbury, in launching his campaign for four more years as a minister, has promised to invest $450 million in public and affordable housing. 

Having worked with Labor as a minister over the last eight years to drive the ACT Budget over a cliff, Rattenbury chose not to explain where the money would come from to fund his sudden interest in the provision of affordable housing. 

Neither did he address the question why, having participated in the emasculation of every affordable and community housing program in place when he became a minister eight years ago, anyone would believe for one minute that he has any intention or interest in undoing the damage that he has wreaked on affordable and community housing in his time as a minister. It is an interesting election pitch that Shane is making: “Give me another four years and I promise to undo all the damage I did in the last four years.”

Actions speak louder than words. It is clear to anyone that bothers to look at this Labor/Greens government’s record on housing that it simply does not care that the dominant housing choice of working-class families is for an affordable, detached house. 

It is an aspiration that the government has chosen to callously ignore. 

What will be interesting to see is whether home-owning, middle-class Canberrans care or whether they are perfectly comfortable about reaping the windfall spike in the value of their detached houses as a result of the deliberate strangulation by Labor and the Greens of the supply of land.

Jon Stanhope, via citynews.com.au

‘Win-win’ suggestion on paddocks

RECENTLY, I was approached by a concerned lady at the Kippax shops about the proposed land deal between the ACT and Federal governments to trade the iconic Curtin horse paddocks for a bit of the lake in West Basin 

While the paddocks are not in the Ginninderra electorate, the Belco Party nevertheless cherishes Canberra’s bush-capital status, which is largely being eroded by the Barr/Rattenbury Government ( I thought Shane was meant to be a Green).

The Belco Party offers a helpful suggestion. Why not build the new embassies at O’Malley where there are already lots of embassies and still lots of land (even if it means using some of the foothill areas) and keep the Curtin horse paddocks for horses and the little-known resident wombats that also call those paddocks home That would be a win-win for everyone. 

Bill Stefaniak, co-ordinator, Belco Party ACT

Free course on budgeting

CAP Money Management, which assists participants to manage debt, budget, save and get more control of their finances, is offering a free budgeting and money management course on two Saturday mornings – July 25 and August 8 – 9.15am to 12.30pm. 

Our free seminar on “Age Pension and Your Choices” run by Centrelink a few months ago was a great success and there was considerable benefit for everyone who came.

The budgeting course will be held at the Tuggeranong Baptist Church, Wanniassa. Intending participants can register at capmoney.org.au or email to capmoney@tbcchurch.com.au or ring me on 0402 007551.

Robert Ardill, CAP money coach, Tuggeranong 


Who Can You Trust?

In a world beleaguered by spin and confused messages, there's never been more need for diverse, trustworthy, independent journalism in Canberra.

Who can you trust? Well, for more than 25 years, "CityNews" has proudly been an independent, free, family-owned news magazine, serving the national capital with quality, integrity and authority. Through our weekly magazine and daily through our digital platforms, we constantly and reliably deliver high-quality and diverse opinion, news, arts, socials and lifestyle columns.

If you trust our work online and believe in the power of independent voices, I encourage you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support will be invested back into our journalism so we can continue to provide a valuably different view of what's happening around you and keep citynews.com.au free.

Click here to make your donation and you will be supporting the future of journalism and media diversity in the ACT.

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Previous articleSitting guiltily alone in space
Next articleCanberra’s not immune to enemy of complacency


  1. Last time I looked, it cost ACT taxpayers over $1 billion for Education. I no longer use schools or colleges, no one I know uses schools or colleges yet my taxes pay for education. However, I do use buses and I do use the tram. I am willing to pay my taxes for the public or collective good even if I only use some services, and not others.

Leave a Reply