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Canberra Today 15°/19° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

We’ve lost the plot with planning in the triangle

The new multi-storey building being built on a single corner block in Evatt. Photo: Ron Edgecombe

Reader ANN KENT, of Forrest, writes to say the ACT government is “treating City Hill as just another piece of real estate” and RON EDGECOMBE, of Evatt, bemoans a multi-storey development that “totally ignores” the surrounding streetscape in favour of maximising floor space. 

THE recent “Inquiry into Fostering and Promoting the Significance of Australia’s National Capital” by the Joint Select Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, has done a good job in eliciting the opinions of a broad range of the Canberra community. 

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However, the committee has appeared more concerned to look for new ideas and inspiration than to analyse the reasons for a recent decline in that significance. 

Look no further than the federal triangle, linking the three hills – Russell Hill, City Hill (the symbol of local government) and Capital Hill (the symbol and seat of the national government). The political symbolism of that triangle has long been respected by Canberrans and Australian and overseas visitors alike. 

But now, the ACT government, with the presumed consent of the National Capital Authority, is treating City Hill as just another piece of real estate, to be repurposed and remodelled according to political and economic whim.

Likewise, it is treating the majestic sweep of Commonwealth Avenue to Parliament House as a replaceable track that can be modified and sprout new trees at will. 

Hack down the great avenue of cedars that have taken decades to mature, for a tram to Woden! And ignore the huge loss of the vista to the Brindabellas from Commonwealth Avenue that this tram will also entail.

We have not only lost the plot but are in danger of losing our compass, our sense of national self-respect and our history. The rabbits grazing freely on City Hill tell us that. 

Let us hope that, in its final report, the parliamentary committee will not only produce some new ideas, but also help confirm and strengthen the original vision and plan for the national capital of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, a vision that hundreds of Canberrans over decades have worked so hard to maintain.

Ann Kent, Forrest

Character compromised by developers

ON a quiet through street in Evatt, a massive new multi-storey building is being built on a single corner block. 

This block previously contained a single-level house. The adjacent corner property built on two blocks is also a multi-unit development. Every other house in this tree-lined street is single level.

While this street is located some distance from the local Evatt shops, it would appear that it has an RZ 2 zoning, otherwise one would think that multi-unit developments would not currently be permitted in this locale.

Unlike the adjacent unit development, whose built form is generally sympathetic to the surrounding streetscape, the new building totally ignores this requirement in favour of maximising floor space. 

It is understood that residents had to fight very hard to achieve the final built form of this adjacent unit development. On-street resident and visitor parking appears to be the only issue with this development.

However, the new building will overshadow the existing single-level residences with its fence-to-fence bulk with no room for planting trees for shade purposes. The plot ratio and setback requirements also may have been compromised.

While this specific building design is problematic, my biggest concern is that it is a harbinger of what is to come for every homeowner in existing older outer-lying developed suburbs, such as Evatt. 

Under the proposed new ACT planning framework, it is understood that most existing RZ1 zoned lots can be subject to higher development thresholds, which no doubt most developers will be more than eager to take advantage of.

These comments are not a case of Nimbyism. In terms of meeting the need for increased housing, there is a strong case to be made for enhanced development thresholds in the existing town centres, group centres, around local shops and on major transport routes. 

These new developments would blend in with existing multi-storey buildings and be consistent with surrounding streetscapes.

However, it is entirely inappropriate for higher development thresholds to be foisted on to middle and outer-ring developed suburbs, which ultimately end up looking like how Braddon, Reid etcetera, are now fast evolving into. 

Any proposed developments in these former suburbs must only be granted approval if they are sympathetic to the existing streetscape. Otherwise, the character and appeal of these suburbs, which are quintessential to Canberra’s design, will be lost forever.

Ron Edgecombe, Evatt

Golden wattles, we’ve got golden wattles!

THE National Capital Authority (NCA) acknowledges Mr Michael Calcoviks’ fervour for our national floral emblem, the iconic golden wattle (acacia pycnantha), as featured in a paid advertising feature (CN August 24). 

His enthusiasm is commendable and shared by us at the NCA.

However, considering initiatives taken by the NCA, we find it important to address any misunderstanding regarding golden wattle plantings in the national capital. 

Contrary to the notion of their absence, we take pride in our recent introduction of 70 golden wattles into the landscape.

These vibrant additions include a garden bed near Rond Terrace, where 20 golden wattles were planted in March 2022. Over the coming years, these wattles are expected to grace the area with their blossoms. Additionally, we have strategically placed 50 golden wattles, along with many other wattle species, in two locations along the end of Commonwealth Avenue, creating a striking visual near Capital Circle and Parliament House.

Central to this endeavour has been our partnership with the Wattle Day Association, which has played an important role in our collective success. This collaboration has culminated in the planting of over 1300 wattles throughout the expanse of the NCA estate.

The NCA’s partnership with the Wattle Day Association serves to enhance awareness and appreciation for the golden wattles. NCA staff are preparing to plant wattles in Commonwealth Park.

We extend an invitation to Mr Calcoviks for a tour of our recent golden wattle plantings. We believe this firsthand experience will highlight the flourishing presence of these emblematic blooms within the national capital.

Peter Hay, NCA senior horticultural project officer

Land holds the key to affordable housing

LAND is the key to affordable (and better) housing. New house plots are kept scarce, and are shockingly over-priced (typically, more than $650,000 for a miniscule block).

Contrary to concerns about sustainability and the environment, plenty of suitable land is available, in the right places, for on-going supply – with readily accommodated on-plot trees and gardens, able to restore characteristics of the original environment.

Responsible reforms in the delivery and pricing of such land are clearly needed. The correction would have healthy flow-on affordability effects through most housing typologies and locations. Existing mortgage holders may need protection for a time.

Overturning the current divisive “neo-liberal” approach to an essential commodity will also precipitate better, more appropriate houses, encourage building price competition, and enable a more sustainable and diverse economy.

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Ageing issue could lead to national extinction

CONSTRAINING migration to take the pressure off housing (Mike Quirk, Letters, CN August 24) does little to address the big problem of ageing that we have been making for ourselves over recent decades.

Strangely, we are investing hugely in combating climate change, even though it is out of our control, yet we are not prepared to even discuss the solution to ageing, something largely within our control.

Our only response to ageing is to take engineers, doctors and nurses from developing countries where they are desperately needed, while the few children we bear are too often without a family, poorly educated and unskilled.

Unless addressed now, ageing could lead to national extinction or at least economic ruin. The problem is that the culture of personal autonomy is anti-family.

“The family is the institution that has made Western civilisation possible. It requires two people to set aside their pleasures, their opportunities and their ambitions, in order to provide for their children. It requires fidelity, self-discipline, economy and faith in the future” (Roger Scruton). Therein lies the solution to ageing.

John L Smith, Farrer

In praise of Clive’s parade of jokes

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Clive Williams’ parade of Irish jokes. I had feared that the PC mob had forever deprived us of this pleasure.

Don Witheford, Civic

Would Zed ever listen to ACT voter views?

THE clutch of stuck-in-the-mud, right-wing federal opposition politicians, ACT Liberal Party MLAs and party members who are reportedly pushing for and getting excited by a possible Zed Seselja Senate candidature rerun should listen to the speech made on August 29 by the incoming RBA governor about climate change and climate risks. 

While doing so they should try to imagine how Zed would digest, let alone discuss and actively help tackle such major matters that are guaranteed to affect our future quality of life and economic security. Earlier on that day, on the ABC’s “Afternoon Briefing”, Senator David Pocock addressed these and other pressing “big issues” that the main parties are still poorly committed to acting on in deep and enduring ways. 

Zed’s over-excitable current and potential backers should also query if and how Zed would ever listen to ACT voter views, and initiate straight talk and greater federal parliamentary action on key matters of voter concern and national need. 

Times have changed. Raised voter expectations at the last election are being met in new, more active, progressive and transparent ways by our hard-working independent senator. 

Sue Dyer, Downer 

Right and wrong about Synroc

KEN Murtagh (Letters, CN August 31) wrote: “(coal) ash disposal could be managed the way nuclear (waste) can be stored in Synroc, as developed by the CSIRO”.

This may be a minor point, but Synroc was first developed by famous scientists David Green and Ted Ringwood at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences in the late ’60s.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Yes to tick but a cross is a no-no

MEDIA reports imply that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will allow on ballot papers, ticks instead of the word “yes” but will invalidate crosses used instead of the word “no”. How sinister and deceitful, if not unlawful, is that?

The official AEC booklet provides only for the words “yes” or “no” to be used by voters and does not mention anywhere therein the use of ticks or crosses. I understand that that is consistent with the law governing referendums.

So, if this misleading information about ticks and crosses is true, there should be an immediate legal challenge to what the AEC and Labor government the intending. 

It would be a very sad day if the required, absolute impartiality of such a body as the AEC is compromised in favour of a government policy. The AEC should immediately clarify its position on this matter or, thus, remain tainted and compromised, not to be trusted ever again.

Max Flint, Erindale 

Misinformation from ‘No’ camp is divisive

THAT the Uluru Statement is 26 pages of land rights, reparations, rent etcetera is absolutely false. 

There were thousands of pages of notes taken at numerous meetings that have occurred across the country over the last six years. During these meetings individuals were asked to voice their experiences and family histories, both good and bad. 

This venting process was encouraged so that others could witness how the pain of racism and the frustration of never being heard has affected many of our indigenous people. 

These discussions allowed indigenous leaders to establish a starting point so that the laws of our democracy could be refined to enable positive change to begin. 

The meetings were minuted and what the other 25 pages contain are excerpts taken from some of those minutes. The process took a long time and many opinions shared were angry and bitter. 

Misinformation being generated by the “No” camp is divisive, spreads erroneous rumours and negative attitudes. The Voice (one page only) summarises the best way to affect some changes that can address the most important issues, which are keeping the gap between non-indigenous and indigenous communities from closing.

Carole Ford, via email

Murdoch media have completely nailed it

LIKE Douglas Mackenzie, I also feel compelled to respond to his description (Letters, CN August 24) of my letter in CN on August 10 as “bizarre”. 

Any logically thinking person can see the folly of Energy Minister Bowen’s policy in wanting to cover the landscape with renewables. I would describe this as bizarre! It is a recipe for disaster. 

Witness the widespread demonstrations by farmers resisting the desecration of their lands with solar panels and wind turbines. I reckon the Murdoch media have completely nailed it.

Bob McDonald, Weetangera

Disgusted with deterioration of our wonderful city

AFTER reading Messrs Stanhope and Khalid’s opinion piece on the ACT Budget (CN August 24) and their accurate and worrying assessment over our current debt, I am prompted to offer my own opinion.

It’s time pollies’ salaries were tied to economic and other verifiable outcomes. Our rejection and fear of self government when put to us at referendum all those years ago seems to be well founded. 

The Legislative Assembly needs to be reclassified as a centre of excellence with entry only being approved to persons demonstrating exceptional ability. 

Dribblers need to stay away and stop thinking of it as a soft entry. I am disgusted with the deterioration of our wonderful city and feel a state of emergency exists demanding an immediate return to the polls.

John Lawrence via email

Nuclear money better spent on solar and wind

KEN Murtagh (Letters, CN August 24) links the “AUKUS pledge to develop a nuclear industry” with our domestic energy policy. 

This was not part of Labor’s pledge to the Australian people when the government was voted into office. Minister for Energy and Climate Chris Bowen recently stated that he was “not interested in more years of distraction by a debate on an energy source that clearly doesn’t stack up for our country”. In any case, the storage of nuclear waste remains problematic. The investment in renewable energy projects seems daunting, but the impact of a heating planet is already costing Australia billions. 

The CSIRO and AEMO’s Gencost Report has confirmed that large-scale wind and solar projects are our most economic and practical option. Nuclear reactors are more expensive than renewables and they need huge amounts of water to operate long-term. Not only that, they take the best part of a decade to build. 

Our Australian geography and weather are ideal for wind and solar power. The $368 billion allocated for the AUKUS deal, would be better spent on developing renewables projects.

Anne O’Hara, via email

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