Lobby turns into a blot on the landscape 

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The Lobby Restaurant… waiting for the boys from Burley.

We’ve got an icon-turned-eyesore in Parkes, a hapless performance in health, a spinning tram and lots of repatriated frogs… all in another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

WHAT a forlorn and shabby eyesore the former Lobby Restaurant on King George Terrace in Parkes looks these days as it seemingly sulks behind temporary fencing. 

Ian Meikle.

Over its five decades it’s seen all sorts of political intrigue and, in more recent years, been symbolically “invaded” by the Aboriginal tent embassy folk next door.

In December, 2017, restaurateur tenant Bruce Gibbs grumpily decamped when the National Capital Authority refused an extension of his lease.

By February, 2018, the NCA didn’t miss a blink and had the place on the market.    

“Once sold, the NCA and the Commonwealth will remain committed to protecting and preserving the heritage values of The Lobby as well as the Commonwealth Heritage listed landscape, which it forms part of,” opined NCA chief planner Andrew Smith at sale time. 

“We’re eager to see a revitalisation of the space, which has the potential to continue to be a successful establishment in one of Canberra’s most prominent locations.”

“Eager” has had to wait. It was reported sold on May 29, 2018, and settled (says the title search) on May 3 last year. 

So who owns the eyesore? 

“Seven Days” tickled up the NCA, who confirmed the sale, saying: “The new owners are working on plans for the future of this space and the NCA has been in touch with them as to the timings of the reactivation as well as maintenance of this site.” 

That suggests they don’t know much either, but they wouldn’t name names and suggested the ACT Land Titles Office. Sigh.

So $30 later, via a title search, “Seven Days” can reveal Burley Group Pty Limited, of Lonsdale Street, Braddon, acquired a 99-year lease on May 3. 

Burley’s directors are Tristan Maddigan and William Honey, who operate the Walt and Burley bar and Bad Betti’s Caribbean burger place on the Kingston Foreshore.

But the lads should get a move on, not only to please the “eager”, heritage-sensitive NCA, but there’s a mortgage to Westpac needing to be serviced and a blot on the landscape to erase. 

REGULAR readers of former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s incisive columns in “CityNews” will be unsurprised to see the wheels falling off the hospital performances. 

As Stanhope has tracked, as recently as the edition of February 20 (“How the health budget cuts put the poor at risk”), the Barr government has been cutting the health budget by about one per cent a year since 2013, that’s about $100 million less every year. 

The “Canberra Health Services Half Yearly Performance Report” reveals  that four in five Canberrans requiring urgent medical attention at the Canberra Hospital emergency department are not seen on time. 

Opposition Health spokesperson Vicki Dunne says that in 2001 more than 80 per cent of urgent patients were seen on time and that Canberra Hospital has gone from having one of the top performing emergency departments in the country, to one of its worst.

By the way, it’s not Labor’s fault. Coronavirus? No, it’s all those NSW people crossing the border (which the ACT charges NSW for). How to fix it? October 17 might be a good place to start. 

Fire chief Joe Murphy… hanging up his helmet in April.

AFTER four years as ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer, Joe Murphy announced he’s hanging up his helmet at the end of the bushfire season in April. He says his 33-year career with ACT Emergency Services started by chance when he signed up as an SES volunteer with the south unit (Woden) in 1987. 

THE 2A tram-plan spin was given another outing as Transport Minister Chris Steel fantasised with a press release headed “Light rail to Woden takes shape”. 

No it doesn’t, Minister. Light rail to Commonwealth Park is certainly within your remit, but getting over the lake is an unsettled Federal decision and you know it. 

For the 1.7-kilometre extension into the NCA’s domain, the ACT has to add wire-free track from the Alinga Street station, along the western side of London Circuit and on to Commonwealth Avenue, finishing at Commonwealth Park. 

To support wire-free, the trams need to be fitted with “onboard energy storage”. Expensive, said an academic in a TV interview; affordable, said the minister. 

Meanwhile, architect Jack Kershaw has criticised stage two of the ACT light rail in an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for more public debate and saying it needs more wide-ranging expert assessment.

“The tram is literally on the ‘wrong track’,” Mr Kershaw tells Scotty. 

GOOD to see the 450 critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frogs and six koalas evacuated on January 30 and housed at the ANU during the summer fires have been returned to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. 

Other threatened species, such as 24 eastern bettongs and 24 brush-tailed rock wallabies evacuated to Mt Rothwell in Victoria, and four other rock wallabies and seven platypuses sent to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo will be home soon.

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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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