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Canberra Today 2°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

As if from the grave, a grave warning of stupidity

“As we face years of Civic disruption, beginning with the London Circuit realignment, don’t say we weren’t warned,” warns IAN MEIKLE. It’s “Seven Days” with another burst of crappy road signs, they are shockers.

PLEASE, read this: I’ll explain who wrote it and why it matters at the end: 

Ian Meikle.

“One of the tragedies visited on the citizens of this town is that the present crowd of so-called elected representatives are handicapped in their ambitions by any professional knowledge of the problems of planning for supervising or managing the city in which we live.

“The destruction by the ACT government, following ‘self government’, of the planning and development agency that was originally created by Mr Menzies, who had sought international advice on how the development of Canberra should be planned and managed, was an act of unbelievable stupidity.

“We are now plagued by a slew of politicians who think that they know in their water what should be done and how. Moreover, the way they have bowed to the entreaties of the building industry and property developers is a disgrace.

“It also opened up the opportunity for one who had a bee in his bonnet about a silly tram that became the price of his support. 

“The tragedy of that disaster is that with the right approach we could have had a much greener public transport system, one which would have spared us from the experience we’ve had in trying to insert the silly tram ‘thing’ into our city. 

“Moreover, had we taken a more enlightened approach to ‘green’ buses we would have been able to make for a greener, easier system that could cope with the growth of the city.

“The failure by the ACT government to accept the evidence of research it funded but to persist with the argument that increasing density would be accompanied by reduction in water and energy was/is a disgrace. 

“It may suit some in the real estate business, but it does nothing to support the notion that our city is somehow made more ‘sustainable’.”

Patrick Troy… “with the right approach we could have had a much greener public transport system.”

This was part of an email exchange from esteemed Australian academic Patrick Troy, who served as Vale Professor Emeritus at the ANU, to environmental health researcher Dr Murray May on July 13, 2018.

Eleven days later, on July 24, Prof Troy died in Canberra, aged 82. What may be forgotten in this, until now, private and masterful critique is that Troy was revered nationally as a leading advocate for better Australian cities – he was an engineer, town planner, urban studies academic, senior federal public servant, author and activist. He knew his stuff. 

An obituary at the time by Frank Stilwell says: “The pinnacle of his influence was during the Whitlam government period in the 1970s. Pat left his job at the ANU to become deputy secretary of the newly established Department of Urban and Regional Development, with Tom Uren as its minister. 

“Pat recruited and led the team that created policies for urban improvement and more balanced regional development. The intention was to make the cities more efficient, equitable and sustainable.”

Troy was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) posthumously in the 2019 Australia Day Honours for “eminent service to urban and regional planning, to environmental sustainability and social justice policy, and as a mentor and role model”.

Four years later and our bloody minded government rolls haplessly on as Troy’s blunt warnings ring out, as if from the grave. And as we face years of disruption beginning with the London Circuit realignment, don’t say we weren’t warned. 

THE scruffy signs column (“The signs that point the shabby state of Canberra”, “Seven Days” CN April 21) has unsurprisingly had a solid response of supportive dismay. 

Optimists Kevin and Jenny Smith wrote to say: “We think this is a great idea to bring to the ACT government’s attention that residents are not happy with the state of the city. Maybe they may even do something about it!” But maybe not.  

They shared the shabby state of a sign on Hindmarsh Drive at the corner of Palmer Street, Garran.

Kate Hourigan forwarded a stunning array of ugliness, a series of photos she took on the cycle path around the Black Mountain side of Lake Burley Griffin. 

“They’ve been neglected for years,” she says. “Visitors to the national capital must wonder who is responsible for housekeeping. Residents know who is responsible and are not surprised at the state of untidiness and unrepaired damage.” 

Suzanne Christian cheered us on saying: “Please do what you can to get these signs fixed – we are the national capital after all and we’re not looking good at all.”

She says that there are shabby, predominantly green and white road signs all over Canberra. 

“They’re very noticeable all along Hindmarsh Drive, the Barton Highway and Mugga Lane. And it’s not just a recent phenomenon – I think the signs deteriorated significantly since the intense summer heat of a couple of years ago,” she says.

And former chief minister (and minister for Territory and Municipal Services) Jon Stanhope spotted an amusing road-safety sign on Belconnen Way in which the word SPEED has the first and last letters almost blanked out followed by the word KILLS. Remind me again how much rates went up year? 


More shabby signs welcome to


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Ian Meikle, editor

Ian Meikle

Ian Meikle

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5 Responses to As if from the grave, a grave warning of stupidity

Mike of Canberra says: May 2, 2022 at 2:48 pm

Until the people of Canberra stop swallowing the propaganda from this government and its supporters that Zed Seselja and other Liberals are extreme right-wing zealots rather than the legitimate conservatives they really are, this city will continue on the path of destruction set for it by its so-called “progressive” government.
In effect, Canberrans are allowing two country boys (Barr and Rattenbury) without a clue about real planning, to destroy this place.
You can roll out as many eminent and knowledgeable town planners as you like to illustrate this point – “progressive”, “educated” Canberrans will still believe the boys from the bush because they have told us they are “progressive”. Indeed, some Canberrans are so “progressive” they are about to desert the boys from the bush and vote for a has-been footballer instead. Canberrans are truly tragic – they deserve everything they get.

Betty says: May 2, 2022 at 4:26 pm

I couldn’t agree more and please keep up the pressure-you may get through to “those who do not listen” in the LA although methinks it may be too late already.

Michael Lawson says: May 2, 2022 at 4:50 pm

I was absolutely dismayed to see the state of the very expensive Henry Rolland Park on Saturday, with rubbish, graffiti and evidence of extensive drug use in plain sight of the “security cameras”, all of which shows this mob simply don’t care at all about maintenance of public facilities. It’s all about making vanity spaces for their developer mates to build more apartments and to hell with people who actually use these public places day to day.

Ben Fairhall says: May 3, 2022 at 2:12 pm

The year that WBG submitted his master plan for Canberra, there were a total of 3000 mass produced busses worldwide. At the time no one thought that the car would be adopted by the masses with one sitting on a driveway at almost every home. The glory days of Holden producing 1 million HQ Holdens wasn’t even a pipe dream at this stage. The bus entirely replaces the tram or light rail as a cost effective mode of mass transport. It uses the same infrastructure as the cars, trucks and busses which means that more land isn’t needed to be used to facilitate it’s addition. The tall splendour of Northbourne avenues shady trees has been replaced with an abomination, a tramelator. The light rail doesn’t go anywhere important and is far from cost effective in comparison to the bus system. Light rails and trams have been ripped out worldwide because they take up too much room and have been completely superseded by the mass produced bus.


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