How do you plan a Canberra of a million people? | Canberra time

news, political-act, peter cain

When Ginninderra Drive opened in 1976, Canberra had a population of 208,000. Over the next 45 years, our population more than doubled to approximately 450,000 people. Although growth has slowed in the age of COVID, our population could conceivably hit the one million mark within 50 years. So it’s important to start thinking: what will a Canberra of a million people look like? Will we still have our beautiful bush capital? Will travel times be manageable? Will we have a two-speed society of landlords and apartment dwellers? Will the civil service become so decentralized and working from home so commonplace that Canberra may never even reach 1 million people? With bold vision and thoughtful planning, Canberra of a million people could see us remaining the capital of the bush. I hope we will have vast green spaces, efficient transport infrastructure and much greater opportunities for home ownership and employment. Canberra must be a destination of choice for talented and capable people who will contribute to Australia’s professional service delivery and smart industries of the future. I am not convinced that the forthcoming Labour-Green ACT Government planning legislation will be fit for purpose. Their tunnel vision sees light rail serving limited corridors across Canberra, with poorly designed and delivered bus connections. The dichotomy of options for homeownership is a million-dollar house with a backyard or a high-rise apartment. These choices certainly suit some Canberrans at different stages of their lives, but for young people hoping to enter the market or families trying to buy a first home, the lack of choice is unfair. This also concerns the question of the quality of the building. I’ve heard from many voters that the only way to get into the market is to buy a multi-unit building, but they have no assurance as to the quality of construction. The Labor-Greens government’s blind pursuit of high-density living seems to ignore that backyards and green spaces chill cities. We don’t have the land constraints of Hong Kong or Manhattan, yet Canberra is turning into a concrete jungle with more and more urban heat banks. The only real beneficiaries of progress in Canberra appear to be developers of high-rise towers, even though the government’s Winton Report in 2015 showed that less than 5% of Canberra residents want to see apartment buildings over six storeys . Add to that the Labour-Green government’s disregard for the day-to-day delivery of services to the people of Canberra, with their long queues at Access Canberra, unmowed suburban grass, poor road maintenance and delayed projects such as Canberra Hospital and Canberra Theatre. Canberra also needs a plan to close the budget shortfall, not to mention the unknown price to be paid by future generations of billions in public debt. I want a livable Canberra, but under this government there is no vision. They’ve held the reins for over 20 years now, and the current state of our city is theirs alone: ​​Canberra is getting less and less beautiful. We shouldn’t have two-hour queues for basic government services, or ever-increasing travel times on infrastructure built for a city of 200,000 people. Young people and families should be free to choose to live in an apartment, not be forced to. Future generations should not have to pay the growing economic bill of this government’s legacy. We cannot become a failed state. I propose a grand planning vision for a Canberra of one million. A vision where our beautiful green spaces, which make life here so attractive, are forever secure. A vision where there is a real choice of housing. A vision where light rail is complemented by world-class road infrastructure and other modes of public transport that won’t leave us stuck in daily commutes for hours on end, or on rutted roads.



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