904,000 people will live in Canberra by 2061 says academic

November 27, 2013

David Ellery

Reporter for The Canberra Times.

The foreshores of Lake Ginninderra will need to be redeveloped for Canberra to hold over 900,000 people.

The foreshores of Lake Ginninderra will need to be redeveloped for Canberra to hold over 900,000 people. Photo: Elesa Lee

Fitting 904,000 people into the Australian Capital Territory by 2061 is not a scary prospect as long as it done properly, University of Canberra academic Andrew Mackenzie says.

Mr Mackenzie, a specialist in landscape planning and urban social studies, said the key would be to increase the density of existing urban development to ensure people were close to services and public transport worked efficiently.

This would, of necessity, involve opening up current green belt space, such as the foreshores of Lake Ginninderra at Belconnen, for residential development.

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According to Australian Bureau of Statistics population projections released on Tuesday, Australia’s population will likely double to 46 million people by 2058.

Under the ABS’ highest-growth model, Canberra’s population would almost triple from 375,000 to 904,100 by 2061.

Mr Mackenzie said population growth was inevitable and it was essential government and the development community work together to manage it in the most effective way.

”There are two potential trajectories,” he said. ”By far the worst would be to jump the Murrumbidgee and to continue the push into the south-west with greenfields developments. This would be a very bad outcome; it would perpetuate existing problems with [access to] infrastructure and transport.”

The good trajectory is one that is based on concentrating more people close to services and creating infill around existing urban hubs, such as the Belconnen town centre, to create the critical population mass needed to make public transport work.

Existing underdeveloped open space, which has cows grazing within a few hundred metres of the centre of Belconnen, is not viable in the longer term. Mr Mackenzie said there needed to be an increase in the development of space in and around the centres of the satellite communities.

Residual landscapes can be used to create targeted accommodation options, such as the retirement complex on the corner of Ginninderra and Haydon drives, or as a ”community backyard”.

He said the desire for ”endless acres of unoccupied landscape” was a 20th-century idea. If these areas were not utilised more effectively then the only alternative would be to push further and further out.

That said, any push into underdeveloped areas along the foreshore of Lake Ginninderra and other sensitive landscapes has to be thought through and would involve extensive community consultation.

”Whatever we do has to be from a ‘whole of city’ perspective. We have to introduce good design; a good connection with the landscape.”

Ross Taylor, a building expert with 30 years’ experience in the ACT, has previously said that 100 years from now the quarter-acre block model of urban living would be as dead as the dodo. ”Life in the suburbs was originally the aspiration of all middle-class Canberrans,” he said.

”You had the block, you built the house and you spent your weekends and holidays cleaning gutters, mowing lawns and painting. That has already changed.”

The Canberra Times