THERE’S still time to save the West Basin from ACT Labor’s controversial commercial and residential development plans, says Alistair Coe, but it will involve a change in government.
The Canberra Liberals leader says the Barr government’s plans for Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin, rebranded as “Acton Waterfront”, should be stopped and will be stopped if he forms government in October.
“The Canberra community still can, should and will have a say about the future of West Basin if the Canberra Liberals are elected,” Mr Coe says.
The government has announced plans to build public spaces and hundreds of apartments as well as reclaiming 2.8 hectares of lake bed in and around West Basin.
The ACT government secured the land as part of a controversial and secretive land swap with the National Capital Authority, which saw the Barr government handing over most of North Curtin’s horse paddocks.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has since said low-rise apartments in the hundreds, not the thousands that he initially proposed, would be built at West Basin in the second half of the decade.
The City Renewal Authority predicts that construction will begin by the end of this year for the part of the development that includes public spaces.
But according to Mr Coe, it won’t go ahead as Mr Barr has proposed if the Canberra Liberals have anything to do with it.
“Whilst the Labor government to date has steamrolled the community, there is still time to stop their bad plans and to ensure that there is genuine community consultation about how to ensure how this iconic public land is best utilised,” Mr Coe says.
“The land at West Basin is prime and cherished public land that should remain as an important part of the public realm of the lake. Under what Andrew Barr has proposed, a great deal of it, a majority of it, will be privatised and will be made inaccessible for Canberrans.”
Coe says a Liberal government will properly consult with the community about what is the best way to improve this area, noting that it is already much loved in its current condition.
“What’s clear is that Canberrans do love Lake Burley Griffin, they love the accessibility of the area and they want to ensure that it is a place that people, that families, that communities, can go to recreate and to appreciate the national capital,” Mr Coe says.
“Whilst I think the community would be happy to see some investment in a cafe or two, to have numerous apartment buildings along the lakefront at that location is very unwarranted.”
Estimated to cost the government about $100 million up front, Mr Coe says it suggests they’re planning on reaping in huge revenue through the sale.
“Everything that the ACT government does seems to be about a cash grab,” he says.
So what would the Canberra Liberals do differently?
Mr Coe says the Liberals would make sure that all agencies of the ACT government, including the City Renewal Authority, are charged with the responsibility of working with the community and undertaking genuine consultation, and then responding to that consultation.
“We have a government doing notional consultation, then they go ahead and do what they were going to do anyway,” Mr Coe says.
“When you have a government that is as secretive as the Labor ACT government you’ve got to ask the question what it is that they’re worried about the community finding out.
“We certainly want to see all the information about the West Basin deal. We think that the government has been very secretive when it comes to their plans for the site and I think it would be reasonable for Canberrans to fear the worst when it comes to Andrew Barr’s plans for the area.”
He also says a Canberra Liberal government will also fight to end the deal with the National Capital Authority to ensure the highly valued North Curtin horse paddocks can remain a recreational asset for the inner south.
Liberal member for Murrumbidgee Giulia Jones says she understands that 30 per cent of the block has not been given to the NCA and remains in ACT government hands.
“Our very real concern is for apartments, high rise, on Adelaide Avenue,” Ms Jones says.
“Our commitment is to not co-operate with this plan, to tear up the plan, to go back to the beginning and have a conversation with the NCA that’s public and not a secret one about such a huge asset for the ACT as the Curtin horse paddocks.”