Saturday, 2 February 2013

Living in Canberra

Canberra is an expensive place to live.  There, I've said it.  It shouldn't be, but it is.
This is mainly because the local government can only earn revenue from land sales and taxing local services, so it is in its interest to keep a lid on land release.

The expensiveness of Canberra makes me sad, as it goes against what the capital of this country should be.  It should be an example in good local governance, but it isn't.

Instead, our local government seems to persistently excel in poor prioritising.  Some examples of this are the really horrible and expensive public artworks that have mushroomed in weird places recently, while things that would actually improve people's quality of life, like local parks,  continue to be neglected.  Another is the justification for spending $$millions on a arboretum (tree museum), while the government was crying poor and closing local public schools.  Don't get me wrong, I love trees, and don't mind art.  But these things should have been lower down the priority list, just as you or I would prioritise our kids' education and maintaining the bricks and mortar before buying a picture for the wall or an expensive ornamental tree.  These decisions have diminished us.

OK, I've got that out of the way.

Luckily, in spite of chronic poor governance, Canberra still has a lot going for it for locals.  Yes yes, there are lots of significant national treasures here.  But for those who live here, past decisions from the time of its establishment have left a genuine legacy that, whilst scruffy and neglected at the moment, is lasting (so long as future local governments do not mess it up too much!).

For starters, we have a lovely suburban landscape with lots of green space within each suburb (though they are foolishly trying to 'infill' this much-loved green space, allegedly in the name of increasing density and lowering the environmental footprint, but in reality, it's to make money for the govt).

 Canberra is also fortunate to be nestled in a rather lovely part of Australia - namely, below the Brindabella ranges.  Here is a photo of these hills, from my front step.

Past planning rules have meant that most parts of Canberra can see the horizon, and usually these hills, from almost everywhere.  It is wonderful to live in a city that feels so spacious, simply because you can see the horizon!  There has been some encroachment of this recently in some inner suburbs (eg, the travesty that is the Kingston Foreshore development, which removed swathes of the lake visually from passersby).  Hopefully they have now woken up to themselves.

Speaking of lakes, Canberra is located at the intersection of three rivers - the Molonglo, the Murumbidgee and the Cotter.  As such, we have inherited three man-made lakes in Canberra - Lake Burley Griffin (named after the esteemed designer of our city), Lake Gininderra to the north, and Lake Tuggeranong in the south.

Although generally suffering the same neglect as local parks (see above), these lakes are restful to the eye and well-utilised for recreation, as they have bike/pedestrian paths around them, places to fish, picnic facilities, rowing, etc.   There are also good places for swimming at various points on the rivers.


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