Canberrans revolt as population ponzi hits the capital

By Leith van Onselen

Last month, ABC news published a report on the rapid unplanned population growth in Canberra’s Gungahlin region, to the city’s north, which is destroying livability:

Gungahlin is one of Australia’s fastest-growing regions, but a leading planning expert says a “disastrous” lack of suitable infrastructure has left the burgeoning town centre feeling the squeeze.

ANU professor Patrick Troy has studied urban planning for 50 years, and does not hold back with his thoughts on Canberra’s northernmost town centre.

“I try not to think of Gungahlin, because I think it’s a disaster,” he said.

“There’s a disconnect between the planning and the actual development.

“The original planning for Gungahlin was on the assumption that there’d be as many jobs in Gungahlin as were people wanting to work”.

…while housing in the region has boomed, Professor Troy said the need for Gungahlin residents to commute out of the centre for work had not been accounted for with proper infrastructure.

“People living in Gungahlin who still want a job have to travel out of there to find a place to get work, and that’s the tragedy,” he said…

Now, the local Gungahlin community is up in arms amid the proliferation of high-rise apartments. From RiotACT:

A proposal for yet another high-rise development in the western part of the Gungahlin Town Centre has exasperated the local Community Council, which says planning loopholes has already led to an intimidating skyline and an excessive number of apartments in the area.

The two-tower 18-storey AirTower mixed-use proposal from developer Empire Global on the corner of Gundaroo Drive and Gozzard Street will stand 58 metres tall, more than double the 23 metre height limit in the planning rules and contain 296 one to four-bedroom apartments.

…the proposal has been scaled back by about a third from its initial 26 storeys to 18 to 12 storeys, with a tapered, step-down design towards the adjacent one-storey homes.

However, the Gungahlin Community Council President Peter Elford said that even in its revised form it was still too big for the site.

…the building would overshadow and overlook the YMCA, Yerrabi Ponds, and Lavender Lane Early Learning Centres, as well as nearby residential areas.

…the skyline that had risen up in the western Town Centre was very intrusive, and particularly intimidating at ground level.

The council is also concerned about increased traffic impacts and infrastructure to support the rapidly growing population in the area.

The term “cry me a river” immediately came to mind when I think about these articles. While the Gungahlin region has indeed recorded strong population growth over the past five years (i.e. 23,839 people or a 50% increase):

This pales in comparison with the hyper-growth experienced in Australia’s major capitals, many of whom started with far worse infrastructure positions than Gungahlin:

Nor does Canberra’s overall population boom compare against Melbourne’s and Sydney’s:

While Canberra’s population expanded by 20.4%  in the decade to 2016, this was actually below the national capital city average (21.7%), well below Melbourne’s (25.6%) and only a little above Sydney’s (18.2%).

However, given that Melbourne and Sydney started from much higher population bases, much worse starting infrastructure deficits, and both experienced more than 10-times the actual population growth of Canberra, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Gungahlin residents who are merely getting a small taste of the population crush that has long sucked the livability out of both Sydney and Melbourne.

The one positive to come out of Canberrans experiencing some of the pains of rapid population growth is that they might actually start questioning the federal government’s mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ program and begin to argue for Australia’s permanent migrant intake to be slashed to sensible and sustainable levels:

But until then, talk to the hand. Because you won’t get any sympathy from long suffering residents of Sydney and Melbourne, who have suffered through the Lib/Lab/Greens’ unplanned crush-loading for more than a decade.

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  1. Instead of talking about getting immigrants to move to Adelaide (which basically does not have railways), it might be an idea to get immigrants to move to Geelong and Ballarat considering that a lot of railways were built in Victoria before the Model T was imported – including a railway from Geelong to Ballarat.

    The sad thing is Victoria has long been regarded as having the best transport planning in Australia but NSW has the bigger population and did not bother to reserve corridors for railways and thus the North West Rail Link is being built underground at enormous expense. While in Victoria, the land for regional rail link was reserved decades ago. We can still build another overground railway – from Southern Cross Station to Sunshine to Melrose Drive to the airport. And restore the railway from Geelong to Ballarat.

    But yes, immigration should have been slashed when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

  2. Well there wasn’t a One Nation candidate at the last federal election for the seat of Fenner held by the labor party.
    So get a One Nation (or Sustainable Australia if you’re squeamish) candidate for the next Federal election and everybody in Gungahlin should put them first on the election slip.

  3. at least they had the sense to start complaining right away rather than wait fifteen years to do so like people in sydney/melbourne.

  4. High Immigration levels are ONLY PART OF THE PROBLEM. The other part of the problem is that Canberra adopted a phase in to a UNIVERSAL LAND TAX (ULT) a few years back.

    In Vancouver Canada the historic China Town was replaced by high rise ‘dog boxes’ as a result of higher prices creating a tax so high that only by putting as many people as possible in high rise apartments could people afford the tax that is based on land area.

    That is what is happening in Canberra.

    Universal Land Tax is affecting planning by developers and purchasing by cautious buyers.

    The smaller the amount of land beneath the building the lower the ULT.

    It is goodbye to single standing houses with back and front yards in Canberra due to Universal Land Tax. Population (immigration) increases drive demand while Universal Land Tax drives the size of apartments and blocks of land down and drives the density of living up.

    Look on page 6 of Cameron Murray’s Canberra Universal Land Tax report which states:

    QUOTE (My capitalization):

    “Many specific objectives were nested within
    the overarching ones. For example, one objective
    lower infrastructure costs for new dwellings
    and commercial uses and meet equity objectives
    by charging rates based on the value of
    the consumption of land.”

    Incredibly Cameron Murray then goes on to support Universal Land Tax because HE LIKES THE HIGH DENSITY “Efficiency”.

      • That’s right, Peachy, “It is not even phased in yet.” and watch as it gets worse. In California, before the people forced Proposition 13 on the resistant Californian State Government the politicians pushed Land Tax up to almost 3%. Imagine taking an $21,000 a year hit off the unfortunate pensioner who owns their own home that just happens to rise to $700,000 in inflated useless (to them) value. Further, there is no safety net Proposition 13 that allows people to stop such government exploitation in Australia.

        “PROPOSITION 13

        On June 6th, 1978, nearly two-thirds of California’s voters passed Proposition 13, reducing property taxes by about 57%.

        Prior to Proposition 13, property taxes were out of control. People were losing their homes because they could not pay their property taxes, yet government did nothing to help them.

        In the finest tradition of the Boston Tea Party, California taxpayers stood up and said “No more!” to excessive taxes.

        The Proposition 13 Revolution swept the country and made headlines around the world. It began a change in thinking about the tax burden property owners had to bear. Proposition 13 also started a revolution in the people turning to the initiative process to gain greater control over their lives. (Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association)”

        AND, Prop 13 also made it so that only the original purchase price is taxed…not some pie in the sky immigration fed and/or investor frenzy fed so-called ‘valuation’ in later years.

      • Because Leith does not want naturaltrust to publish his correct views on subjects where Leith wants to monopolize presentation of his own views he blocked naturaltrust from commenting. I am helping naturaltrust to present accurate and honest views which are otherwise censored to prevent Macrobusiness readers from seeing outside the blinkers Leith is placing on them.

    • Interesting table. It looks a bit suspicious that Singapore and China are at the top of the list, but Hong Kong is at the bottom. Maybe someone moves from Western China to find a job in Shanghai, but when they fill in the survey they assume that their “home” is still the farm in Western China that their parents own(?)

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Dirty frign nimbys in Canberra! That hole needs a major boost to its vibrancy and should 10 fold its importation of fresh overseas human capital. Idiot sleepy redneck country hicks!

      • reusa is always up.. 🙂

        FWIW the way town planning works in the ACT much of the newly available housing stock in the territory is concentrated in Gungahlin so a disproportionate percentage of newcomers to the ACT are moving to Gungahlin. These days the town centre there is probably the most “ethnic” area in the ACT: a number of south asian and east asian restaurants and supermarkets.

  6. Isn’t curbing immigration the current number one policy priority for MB??

    If so, one might suggest it would be better for MB to herald and support the actions and uproar mentioned in the article (rather than finishing them). They’re on your side and pushing for the same changes you want. Why not get behind them??

  7. The problem with Gungahlin isn’t so much the lack of infrastructure in the place, it’s the lack of infrastructure that enables one to get in and out of it. There’s a hundred thousand people living there and they all work somewhere else. Meanwhile, the cheap arse developers and the idiotic ACT gummint make maximum profit by only putting two two-lane goat tracks to access the area.

    It’s the usual Australian development story…cram as many people as possible into the smallest area, and minimise the roads and green spaces and other infrastructure that make the place livable because they reduce the profits of the bloodsuckers.

    I pity my friends and colleagues who live there.

  8. Hard to compare Gungahlin to Sydney or Melbourne. These cities were already well established and retro fitting or developing new infrastructure was always going to be problematic where as Gungahlin was largely a greenfield site. The common denominator between the two are pathetic state governments. The Barr Government in the ACT is fkn woeful choosing to spend $1b on light fail instead of developing infrastructure throughout North Canberra. A recent Auditor General’s report showed that road maintenance in the ACT is four years behind schedule and has also not kept up with population growth. Population growth is not the problem per se but the ACT Governments inability to manage the growth. In a purpose built green field site, this should not be a problem.