Artificial turf at Hawker Football Centre

The Hawker Football Centre’s website states that “it was converted from grass fields to synthetic fields thanks to help from the ACT Government in 2009. Nine years later, Hawker was refurbished with nearly five tons of new rubber to provide a more stable and even surface for users. The refurbishment also involved cleaning the turf and ‘standing-up’ of the turf fibres.”

According to Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, urban heat expert at Western Sydney University, “artificial turf is made of microplastics thought to break down and end up in waterways. It smothers and probably destroys the composition of the soil it is laid on, it conducts heat which is thought to change the microclimate of suburbs and, ultimately, it ends up in landfill.

“Of course, artificial turf itself is made from crude oil, so you need to extract fossil fuels to then produce the plastic that you need for making artificial turf.” “Where natural lawn would transpire when wet and have a cooling effect, artificial turf was usually lined with black webbing, meaning it can reach a surface temperature of up to 100 degrees in summer.”


Densification and climate change

The completion of a public housing complex of 14 dwellings on two large, original single-housing blocks on a bend in Smith Street, Weetangera is disappointing because it fails the climate change test. The image shows how most of the land area is covered by the buildings and driveways, leaving little room for greenery, especially trees. Another eight public housing dwellings are planned on the adjoining three blocks on Belconnen Way, shown here as cleared but now under construction.

More to planning than counting heads

City News, 20 April 2023

POPULATION projections have been indispensable in informing the planning and provision of social infrastructure (schools, shops, aged care, public transport etcetera) and physical infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, stormwater, power) and services. The 2022 Projections, without analysis, assume the higher projected population can simply be accommodated by increasing densities in inner areas and higher densities in the major centres (eg, the population of Molonglo is said to increase to 86,000 in 2060 – is it desirable, feasible, at what cost?).

All the district and suburb estimates of population suffer from the inadequacies of the 2018 Planning Strategy which assumed 70 per cent infill best achieved compact city objectives.  The strategy did not evaluate the merits of higher greenfield share scenarios where such areas are well connected and have substantial employment, services and facilities. 

Clearly there is a need to review the strategy to comprehensively consider housing preferences, infrastructure requirements, transport, environmental impacts and housing affordability. Such a review will need an increase in the strategic planning capability within the bureaucracy including the appointment of a demographer. 

There has not been an in-house demographer since 2015. Such capacity may increase the community’s confidence in the competency of the government in exploring alternative urban futures and avoid the muddle of the 2018 Planning Strategy, District Plans and 2022 Projections.

Mike Quirk is a retired NCDC and ACT government planner.

Urban infill cheaper than creating new suburbs

New suburb of Whitlam in the Molonglo Valley, despoiling the view from The Pinnacle

The study warned there was a practical limit to increasing density, with extra costs if too many dwellings require more infrastructure or reduce how attractive the location is to live. In the latter respect, the ACT Government has refused to consider the drop in house value or the distress caused to local residents in Weetangera, associated with the redevelopment of 7-9 Smith Street for fourteen townhouses and another eight on three adjoining blocks at 67-71 Belconnen Way, creating a large united village for Housing ACT, in contradiction of their supposed “salt and pepper” approach.

Why do we need planning rules?

Our governments seem, on the one hand, to behave like control freaks when it comes to excluding the populace from decision-making but, on the other, when it comes to controlling developers, they lapse into near-total permissiveness.

What can planning rules actually achieve? If they can’t mandate beauty and should avoid flexibility, if they should eschew government self-interest and strive for broad-scale long-term impartiality, how should they be made? What principles should they enshrine? We know from experience that it’s easy to make rules that foster the exploitative, profiteering CBD-view of the city centre; city as cash machine. That’s simple but can we also make rules that encourage the softer, more empathetic and life-enhancing kind of city for which we yearn? How can we use democracy to create the city as habitat?

Really, there’s only one question that the designers of city-shaping rules should ask themselves. It’s this: where does the public interest lie? Money-making washes its own face. It needs no government protection. The public interest, by contrast, is weak and amorphous and needs all the definition and protection it can get. Indeed, this is what we have government for.

The first step in determining the public interest is genuinely to seek it. Again, this is obvious. Yet few politicians seem to give a damn, despite a surprising degree of consensus.

Most rules work by exclusion. They constrain freedom by setting boundaries but, within those bounds, facilitate it. A height limit, density limit or floor-plate limit (establishing a maximum area for each floor) says, ‘Within these constraints, do whatever you like.’ In fact, rules are only necessary to protect the weak. If people were reliably good, we wouldn’t need codes, rules, disciplines, religions or laws. Rules exist to protect the weak and vulnerable against depredation by the strong and powerful.

From Killing Sydney, The Fight for a City’s Soul by Elizabeth Farrelly (2021)

Development Application: 202138722


Block: 1368 Section: 0

Proposal: AMENDMENT TO DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION PROPOSAL FOR PUBLIC WORKS. Amendment to DA202138722 for the proposed upgrade and duplication of 4.5km of William Hovell Drive, between John Gorton Drive and Drake-Brockman Drive, in the districts of Molonglo Valley and Belconnen, ACT. The amendments include changes to the proposed shared path alignment, changes to proposed acoustic mitigation measures to align with the updated acoustic assessment report, and associated works. Please note: DA202138722 is a concurrent development application with Environmental Impact Statement 202000014, which is still under consideration by the planning and land authority. A copy of Revised EIS202000014 is included in the amendment application documentation to support the concurrent DA.

Period for representations closes: 01/08/2022

Bigger is not better

A majority want our governments to do more to combat climate change but energy-use is only part of the answer. We need to address a growing disconnect between climate objectives and planning.

Consultancy reports such as that on the growth potential along the Civic to Woden tram corridor are examples of the type of thinking causing the problem. The extension of the tram to Woden will be used to justify higher densities that allow no imagination and no vision; just a plethora of apartments and treeless suburbs.

Will we be content to accept this as long as the new dwellings don’t have gas connections and there are two enormous electric (rather than petrol-driven) SUVs in the driveway? I cannot believe that Canberrans want to see the amenity of our beautiful city destroyed in this way.

If we must have more population then increase housing supply by taxing investment properties that are empty for more than six months of the year; reduce plot ratios in new developments to enable trees and gardens to flourish; re-invigorate (for both social and private purposes) models of tree-friendly cooperative housing such as Swinger Hill, Urambi Hills and Wybalena Grove and take full advantage of the potential of buses for flexible public transport use.

There is so much we could and should be doing to ensure that the Canberra of the 21st century is a genuinely green city.

Dr Jenny Stewart, Torrens

Canberra Times, 11 May 2022

A very wet week

Following the hailstorm on the evening of 3 January, many households in this area lost electricity supply and damage from tree falls. A community hub was set up at Molonglo ACT Rural Fire Service Brigade on Drake Brockman Drive near Higgins to service the worst-impacted surrounding region. The hub is open from 11am to 7pm until Sunday, and offers three showers, three washers and dryers for use, as well as charging stations for devices, ice, food waste disposal and ongoing incident information and advice. An additional green bin collection has been implemented for Saturday 8 January for Charnwood, Dunlop, Florey, Hawker, Holt, Latham and Macgregor.

ACT Planning Review

Self-styled progressives fail on social housing

Paul Costigan in City News discusses the issues around public housing – relevant to 67-71 Belconnen Way, Weetangera, 6-9 Smith Street, Weetangera and 34-36 Alexandria Street Hawker.

ACT Housing signs in Aranda… the government has built walls of secrecy around when and what it is doing. Photo: Paul Costigan