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.”
According to the most recent census data, Gungahlin is the second-fastest-growing region in Australia, and medium-to-high-density living is becoming increasingly common.
But 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.
“That was predicted in the planning but the government of the day refused to accept that, and we’re still living with that.”
The construction of light rail from Gungahlin to Civic was a poor attempt to compensate for transport issues, he said.
“It’s not a consolation prize, it’s a stupid decision and it’s a disaster,” Professor Troy said.
“Where does it go? It doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t connect logically with anything else.”
Government moving to address ‘growing pains’
Concerns over transport in the town centre has been a long source of annoyance for residents.
“As Canberra’s success has lead to growth, people have simply moved here because that’s where land was available,” Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford said.
“The ACT Government are moving very quickly to duplicate a lot of the road infrastructure, but I think you’ll find most residents would suggest that they’re not moving anything like fast enough.
“The roads really are a frustration for every resident that we have to deal with every day, and I think the overwhelming feeling is that why weren’t the roads built with enough capacity to cope with demand upfront?”
But the ACT Government touts Gungahlin as a success story, putting resident concerns down to “growing pains”.
“It’s developing in a way that really fits an aspirational community … we’re really proud of the way it’s coming together,” spokesman Gary Rake said.
“Any area that grows so fast is going to have some growing pains.
“Each of the main roads leading in and out of Gungahlin is being duplicated, and of course Gungahlin is one end of the territory’s biggest investment in public transport with the development of light rail.”
Mr Rake said early planning errors could be traced back to before the existence of the ACT Government.
“Gungahlin was conceptualised before self-government, it was done by the national capital development commission through the 1980s,” he said.
“In hindsight, perhaps the Commonwealth when it had originally laid out Gungahlin before self-government could have looked at these things.”