Letters / Northbourne’s ‘unsightly’ entrance to the capital

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A dry argument… reader Peter Sherman’s photo of the unkempt and dishevelled median strip on Northbourne Avenue.

Letter writer PETER SHERMAN is unhappy at the state of the Northbourne Avenue median strip. “Unkempt, dishevelled and neglected,” is how he describes it.

NORTHBOURNE Avenue would have to be a top contender for being one of the most unsightly main city entrances in the world as the tall, dried-out “native grasses” alongside the Stage 1 rail tracks look like out-of-control weeds.

It is embarrassing when visitors ask why the median strip is so unkempt, dishevelled and neglected. It’s also very sad and annoying as the Stage 1 planners had landscape experts with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design a world-class gateway that all Australians could be proud of.

No matter how hard the ACT government tries to spin it and put lipstick on the proverbial pig, the prospect of having the Stage 2 route transiting the parliamentary and Lodge precincts would be a blight on this very important focal point of Canberra’s landscape.

However, if the NCA’s decision-makers happen to approve this route, my plea is please comply with the Authority’s vision, that states Canberra is “A national capital which symbolises Australia’s heritage, values and aspirations, is internationally recognised and worthy of pride by Australians”, and do everything possible to have aesthetically-pleasing landscaping alongside the Civic/Woden route.

In the meantime, I recommend the fire-risk grasses in the Northbourne Avenue median strip are mowed immediately and eventually replaced with low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants that are attractive when in bloom.

Peter Sherman, Aranda

Those pesky schoolgirls

IN the 1970s, I had the privilege to spend many shifts as a policeman on the beat at the Woden Town Centre.

The centre was a genuine hub of human activity, six days a week. 

Friday nights and Saturday mornings were the big trading and community times. Family entertainment was provided by the centre’s management every couple of months or so. 

Woden Square was busy at lunch times. I remember local member Kep Enderby speaking at a large lunch rally for the 1975 federal election with me – rubber truncheon, pistol, radio and white hat – comprising the security.

The bus interchange thronged at peak travel times, which brings me to the main point of my letter: those pesky schoolgirls (from St Trinians?) would gather on the bus station roof and look down into the yard at the rear of the old Woden Police Station, during morning parade and drilling of recruits. 

We were thus trained in the terror of facing the taunts of the public. Hence, we were ready for anything, including election-crowd security.

Are any of those girls still in Canberra? They are probably all now retired (as am I) and could offer to help train today’s AFP recruits, raw Woden style. 

Christopher Ryan, Watson

My street is a mess!

MICHAEL Moore, in his column “Wet-lettuce Budget brings weird times” (CN February 18) offers half-hearted praise for the Barr government’s efforts in taming the ACT’s emissions. 

This has been done by investing in domestic rooftop solar power and $20 million a year over the next five years in a “big battery” similar to the Tesla battery at the heart of SA’s Hornsdale Power Reserve phase I.

This is all very commendable, but it comes at the expense of this city’s “gardening”. For example, my street, in supposedly wealthy Deakin, is a mess. 

Every day I see grass and weeds up to a metre or so tall; dead, dying and bisected (by ActewAGL) trees; rutted and potholed roads; broken concrete kerbs, and cracked or disjointed concrete footpaths. I hate to think of the impressions this untidy ugliness would leave with visitors to the nation’s capital. This simply isn’t good enough, Mr Barr.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Giving fogeys a bad name

REALLY, Cedric and Gerdina? Really? You’re living in dread and fear” (“Scared for the kids”, letters, CN February 11)? You paint a picture of the wild west in school zones, of speeding drivers putting lives at risk. You seem to extrapolate your local experience across the whole of Canberra urging “a blitz”. Methinks you’ve overreacted. 

As an “old fogey” myself, I travel through a number of school zones daily, including at school peak hours and it’s my observation that we’re a compliant, law-abiding bunch driving well within limits. 

There’s little evidence to me that dangerous driving is an issue here. Speed monitoring vans are a regular sight around my area and there’s typically a “lollypop” person assisting kids cross the road. This adds to awareness and safety.

I might be wrong, but I’d like to see the official stats on bookings across Canberra school zones. I’m more concerned that traffic planners don’t seem to trust us to be able to turn right at minor intersections without holding us up awaiting an arrow.

Don’t give us old fogeys a bad name. We’ll be shaking our fists raging at the clouds if left to ourselves.

A Kusta, Deakin

Small works, big prices

ATTEMPTS to industrialise, standardise and exploit one-off minor domestic trade or labour works are apparently leading to spiralling higher prices and less protection for consumers. 

Colourful ads proliferate, for individual tax file number-carrying “tradies” to carry out minor, mainly domestic works. 

Quotes are often prepared location-unseen, as if site conditions are universal. They’re accompanied by copious lists of virtually identical small-print conditions, stiff with inappropriate legalese. 

Multiple quotes for the same job show only tiny variations in price. Many quotes are heavily conditional, and “unforeseen” circumstances often attract extra costs, out of proportion with the work item. 

Inordinate deposits are demanded. Specifications are scant and the meaningless term “industry standard” is bandied about. 

Hourly or quantitative rates are often used instead of lump-sum quotes, leaving consumers open to budget blowouts. 

Final accounts are often issued before work is complete. No defects liability periods, or retention funds, are offered or available. 

Apparently, this “industry” is largely being run and controlled by firms of accountants, bookkeepers, and lawyers. Consumers beware.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Tighten your belts, pollies

IF MLAs are sincere about clawing their way out of our tram-wreck Budget deficit, you need to look no further than travel. 

Current MLA conditions provide for: domestic flights less than four hours – economy class; domestic flights of four hours or more – business class and for international flights – business class.

All domestic air travel should be economy class, irrespective of distance/destination. The days of luxury are over people, tighten your belts.

John Lawrence via email

What’s with the payments?

I MUST be getting something wrong. I thought the media usually publish their news on their own website. Some also provide links to it from places such as Facebook. Customers can also find the news items through Google or Bing etcetera. 

If the media company wants online revenue from its news it charges a subscription, like “The Canberra Times”, “The New York Times”, “The Sydney Morning Herald” etcetera. 

Why would the Australian government want Google, Facebook or Bing to pay for connecting a customer to a media company’s own website? Isn’t this the same as using a street directory to find a restaurant and then expecting the street-directory company to pay the restaurant in addition to the customer?

Chris Emery, via email

More on Griffin’s grave

IN the “Seven Days” column (CN February 18), author Ian Meikle states that former Labor MLA Deepak-Raj Gupta “…tracked down Walter Burley Griffin’s 1937 grave in … Lucknow, India.” 

Although it may not have been intentional, that statement implies that Mr Gupta was the first to locate Griffin’s “lost” grave. This is not so. 

Several years before, Canberra citizen, public servant and author of several books on India, the late Graeme Westlake, located Griffin’s then-unmarked grave in 1987.

In response, calls were made to have Griffin’s remains reinterred at Canberra. Fortunately, the initiative was apparently never fully pursued. Instead, more appropriately, it led to the permanent marking of his Indian grave.

Barry Smith, Page

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