Symmetry must star in a new vision for City Hill

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Architect and letter writer JACK KERSHAW lobbies for a design competition not a call to developers for a key site in Civic. 

THE City Renewal Authority is calling for development proposals for the open car park next to the courts, opposite the Melbourne Building, on the corner of London Circuit and the City Hill part of Northbourne Avenue. 

A more enlightened course of action would be to include the corresponding land opposite the Sydney Building; plus the footprint of that section of Northbourne itself (now that Constitution and Edinburgh Avenues are connected to Vernon Circle, and able to handle local and through traffic), in order to realise a comprehensive, not traffic-divided, development for this very important part of the City Hill precinct, facing north towards the main entry to the city. 

Symmetry comes to mind, given the matching colonnaded duchesses opposite. However, we don’t know what’s in store for the land across London Circuit from the Sydney Building – maybe a new theatre (good). 

An overdue fine new civic square, for all sorts of events, with eating places, fountains, artworks, gardens, etc, comes to mind, on the footprint of the City Hill part of Northbourne; with a bus station (like Brisbane’s very successful one), car parking (accessed from Vernon Circle and London Circuit), shops, and maybe a skylit ice-skating rink, all below. The square would connect directly to the currently largely inaccessible hilltop park. 

Each side of the new square, we could see close-matching, landmark, multi-use buildings of the highest architectural and environmental-design order, with their owners contributing to the cost of the square etcetera, in recognition of beneficial mutual synergies.

Further enlightenment would see this whole process being the subject of a properly constituted design competition, and not, as it currently is, merely a call to developers – and we know where that can lead.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Thin end of the wedge

THE suggestion by letter writer Marion McConnell (Letters, February 4) that if we followed Michael Pettersson’s Bill the drug-abuse problem would lessen or go away. But it is really the thin edge of the wedge.

A law is there to prevent illegal activities and protect the community. How far can it be spread under the shield of: “Well, a little bit is okay if you get counselling”?

Ms McConnell should realise that by suggesting that just because current drug laws are barely holding the line, such philosophy could be spread to include all illegal acts – paedophelia, child pornography, spouse assault, minor theft, mild discrimination, etcetera.

Human nature is naturally weak and a small percentage will commit incorrect acts unless there is law to forbid it and so protect the majority

Paul O’Connor, Hawker

‘Legalising’ drug abuse

I THOROUGHLY agree with Bill Stefaniak’s column “Going soft on drug possession won’t fix Canberra’s drug problem” (CN January 21).

The issue of decriminalising possession of small amounts of hard drugs has a lot more ramifications than people dying from taking the drugs. Drinking and driving is illegal with high penalties if caught. Yet if small amounts of drugs are made legal, would you still be able to charge the drug user if caught driving erratically or dangerously? 

I do not relish the concept of driving on the road if drug abuse is made legal.

Vi Evans, via email

What’s the ‘why’ for prison?

I WRITE in response to Jon Stanhope’s column, “In a class of our own for locking up Aboriginals” (CN February 4). 

We lock up Aboriginal youth 18 times more than non-indigenous; indigenous adults are locked up 19.4 times more than non-indigenous adults etcetera.

These are significant statistics that demand the question,”why”? I would have thought that people – indigenous and non indigenous – are locked up when they break the law, not because of the colour of their skin or ethnicity.

Time and again we are quoted these alarming statistics, but the question “why” is never answered. 

Should indigenous people be exempt from obeying our laws? That would certainly have an effect on the statistics quoted. Is the adage “do the crime, do the time” being applied to indigenous offenders?

It’s about time we had a bit more info about “why” this situation exists rather than lamentations about what the status quo is.

John Quinn, Spence

Calling all MLAs, hello?

NOW all our MLAs are comfortable in the saddle and the new ones have made their maiden speeches, it’s time you all stepped out into the media spotlight and openly discussed the ACT’s known and projected budget deficit, unless of course you think it’s like shooting yourself in the foot, or cutting your throat. 

Letters of explanation would be welcomed at our local confessional (aka “CityNews”) by our wonderful parish priest Ian Meikle for relaying to battered ratepayers. Currently you seem to be silent as an Egyptian tomb.

John Lawrence, via email

Pedants and glass houses

FOR me, as former president and sole member of the (now sadly defunct) Canberra Pedants’ Society, it is reassuring to know that there are people in our community who keep an eagle pedant’s eye on our usage of Australian English.

But pedantry is an area in which the adage “people who live in glass houses…” becomes highly relevant.

For example, in a recent letter (CN, January 28) the writer asserts that lead is to be preferred to helmed.

It can be assumed the writer meant led, the past tense of the verb to lead (lead, pronounced led, is a mineral, not a part of a verb). I understand that this has since been remedied by the writer.

However, this is a common solecism and, inevitably, it will be absorbed into “accepted” Australian English, as has happened in the past.

Like many others, the writer maintains a list of pet hates – mainly what he apparently perceives as breaches of proper grammatical English. Such a notion is linguistically inappropriate – there is no such thing as “proper English”.

However, as this is an area in which people have strongly held and sometimes unshakeably fixed views, I would recommend (that!) before going public again, he check (s) that very list and excise any other inadvertent solecisms

For example, the basis for his concerns about the “conjunction” that is misconceived (it is not a conjunction).

Fergus Thomson, Weetangera

What a load of rubbish!

SO let’s get this straight. 

The fact that we have the highest rents, escalating levels of homelessness, a shortage of up to 3000 units of social housing and a reduction in the actual number of units of public housing over the last decade (despite an increase of over 60,000 in our population, leading to a wait time of up to four years for public housing) is, according to the Chief Minister, all the fault of Gladys and the NSW government and now Ms Davidson and the Greens advise that the fact that tens of thousands of Canberrans, including over 30 per cent of all Aboriginal children, are living in poverty is ScoMo’s fault and nothing to do with the policies and priorities of the ACT government. 

What a load of rubbish!

Jon Stanhope, via

Jaw-dropping hypocrisy

JAW-dropping hypocrisy would best describe the Greens-ALP response to poverty questions (“ACT government rejects calls for poverty taskforce”,, February 11). 

The Greens campaigned on the politics of a “new normal”, presumably implying a new way of doing things, possibly even caring and sharing, thoughtful etcetera. 

But the refrain of blaming the federal government (of a different political complexion) for pronouncedly ACT exacerbated poverty problems (amply exposed by a former ALP chief minister, Jon Stanhope) and trying to tie the opposition into supporting the stunt by co-signing a letter was definitely the politics of the “old normal”. This sort of deflection always looks tacky. 

The third team in the sandpit (the Greens) helpfully claimed it was well-informed on this issue. Perhaps rather than grandstanding, they might have just pointed out exactly what they are doing. It would be refreshing and possibly something worth taking note of, and be a new normal in practice, rather than just words. 

Martin Gordon, Dunlop

Thank you, Paul Costigan

MANY people will be looking forward to reading the submissions provided by the City Renewal Authority, the ACT Planning Directorate and the ACT Heritage Council on the important opportunity that could ensure Lake Burley Griffin’s inclusion on the Commonwealth Heritage List (“Consultation crunch for lake heritage listing”,, February 5). 

Thank you, “Canberra Matters” columnist Paul Costigan for helping to alert the broader public to this public consultation process, its February 26 deadline and how it has been “promoted” so underwhelmingly and sneakily by the federal government.

Sue Dyer, Downer 

The ‘deteriorating’ drug situation

IN the “CityNews” of October 15, I wrote, in part: “Pennington Institute CEO John Ryan has commented: ‘Unintentional deaths where stimulants were detected have almost tripled in the ACT in the last decade, and they’ve almost tripled nationally in the last five years alone. That points to a problem that we’re just not getting to grips with. It’s time to call this what it is: Australia’s very own overdose crisis. The ACT is no exception’. 

“So, as long as all our ACT politicians remain paralysed in the face of the disaster that is drug taking, Canberra parents must brace themselves for more needless family tragedies.”

It was heartening to hear on Ian Meikle’s 2CC “CityNews Sunday Roast” program high concern from law officers and radio personalities about the deteriorating drug situation. May these people help to make a difference.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

End the culture of silence

WITH our beloved platypus now at the risk of extinction, how long before we as a species face a similar dilemma? 

Our choices need not be at odds with the natural world and the longer we excuse political inaction, the more life we will see disappear. The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act is only independently reviewed once every decade and does not currently reflect the issues in which we (and animals) are destined to face. We need a federal environmental law to actually protect the web of life and the biodiversity of our unique country. Only then can we ensure a livable and prosperous future for all. 

We are not powerless; I urge you to reach out to your local MP to place this issue on the national agenda and end the political culture of silence.

Samantha Ann Dean, Munno Para, SA

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