Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin may shrink a little under plan to reclaim land for development

A slice of Canberra’s central, artificial lake will be filled in to make way for more parkland and development, under an ambitious plan to bring more people to the area.

But some residents fear the proposal will transform the ACT’s “best real estate” into a “canyon” of apartments.

The ACT’s City Renewal Authority has revealed more details of the changes to Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin precinct in the suburb of Acton.

Scope of works using computer aided design for West Basin, Lake Burley Griffin.
The ACT Government wants to redesign the area to get more people using it.(Supplied)

The proposal would extend the relatively new Henry Rolland Park a further 500 metres north-west along the shore towards the National Museum, reclaiming land that is currently under water.

A wide boardwalk would be built as well as two public jetties, from which people could launch sailboats and kayaks, and board ferries.

The authority’s chief executive, Malcolm Snow, told ABC Radio Canberra he wanted the area “to be a lively place”, with cafes and other facilities.

“We see it being a fabulous new destination not only for locals but of course visitors, because waterfronts are very attractive places for tourists and visitors as well.”

Mr Snow pointed out that the proposed new shoreline reflected the original plan for the lake by its namesake — American architect Walter Burley Griffin.

Scope of works using computer aided design for West Basin, Lake Burley Griffin.
A slice of the lake would be reclaimed, with a boardwalk, jetties and more parkland taking its place.(Supplied)

The West Basin precinct has fallen into disrepair in recent years and the ACT Government has bought out the only businesses in the area — bicycle and paddleboat hire shops.

Mr Snow said any future development would prioritise public access, and private buildings would be “set substantially back from the waterfront”.

“I don’t think it’s going to be contentious,” he said.

“There are, of course, people in Canberra who have argued that they just want to leave that part of Acton the way it is.

“What we’re doing through this project … is creating a place for all Canberrans.”

Under the proposed design, about 120 trees would need be removed during construction, which would take two years.

However, Mr Snow said the area would remain off limits for a further two years to allow the reclaimed land to settle.

‘This is about real estate’: opponents

Mr Snow said the City Renewal Authority was “overwhelmingly … seeing strong support”, though a “fairly small group” of Canberrans opposed the project.

One of those residents is Mike Lawson, a member of the non-profit group Lake Burley Griffin Guardians.

Mr Lawson lives in the nearby Nishi complex but said his group’s opposition was “not about nimbyism”.

“Lake Burley Griffin Guardians are really, really passionate about this area,” he said.

A lake with parkland.
The Government and local residents say the area proposed for redevelopment has been neglected.(ABC News: Toby Hunt)

Mr Lawson said be believed the Government had neglected the area deliberately to pave the way for at least 6,000 apartments.

“This is really seriously about the real estate development,” he said.

“They’re going to turn it into a canyon with apartments in front of it.

“And the problem is the access requirements … are going to turn this into an enclave. It will actually deny people access to the lake because they won’t be able to get parks there.”

A lake with parkland.
The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians say the precinct is Canberra’s “best real estate”.(ABC News: Toby Hunt)

Mr Snow said the lakeside was subject to National Capital Authority (NCA) oversight, which imposed tight controls on any development.

“That’s why the maximum height of development will be no more than approximately six to seven storeys, and it’ll step down to the lake edge, but be substantially setback from the water’s edge,” he said.

“We have to comply with those national capital plan provisions. And right through this project, there will be close scrutiny by the NCA and of course, the committee through the consultation process.”

Mr Snow invited Canberrans to consider the proposal in detail and submit their thoughts via the NCA’s website before the consultation deadline, May 22.

‘They paved paradise’: Liberal politician

Liberal MLA Giulia Jones also urged residents to ensure their voice was heard — and put her own thoughts to music.

She wrote on Facebook last week she had “been pondering the distress being caused” by the West Basin plan and a concurrent proposal to rezone horse paddocks in Curtin as embassy land.

“If you don’t want paradise paved again under this Government’s watch, sign the petition put together by some locals — have you say!” she wrote alongside a video of her singing a revamped version of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Yaxi.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Local Canberra politician joins chorus of anti-development protesters

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