South Canberra Residents Oppose Conversion of Parkland into Embassy Row

By @vitthernandez on

Residents of South Canberra are opposing the moves of the National Capital Authority (NCA) to create an embassy row at a parkland in the suburb of Yarralumla. The NCA is eyeing the land on Stirling Park near the Old Canberra Brickworks, which residents said should be preserved.

The NCA earlier decided against establishing a new diplomatic estate of the land beside the Federal Golf Club in Red Hill because of reports that it would cost $12 million to buy and develop the land.

In opposing the NCA plan, local residents said the move would deprive them of an open space running down to the lake which is used by pedestrians, school groups and orienteers, and could increase traffic in the vicinity.

The NCA is scouting for 40 more large blocks of land, including nine on Stirling Park. Peter McGhie, one of the oppositors, pointed out that the new embassies would be allocated to African nations run by dictators or countries that have minor trading ties with Australia. One lot would be the prime minister's new house.

NCA backed out of the Federal Golf Club site also because of objection by Red Hill residents despite willingness by the club to sell some of its lease as future embassy sites. NCA said the site lacked services.

South Canberra residents vowed to give the NCA a major battle.

"We'll keep going with this, we'll chain ourselves to bulldozers," Canberra Times quoted Mr McGhie.

Planning Minister Simon Corbell, who represents Molonglo which includes Yarralumla, said he will meet with local residents to listen to their concerns but added the issue is an NCA matter, not the federal government's.

NCA said the land is still undergoing assessment.

"Environmental, heritage and community values, tenure, servicing and preliminary bushfire assessment will all be considered when assessing the suitability of the area," an NCA spokeswoman said.

Yarralumla already hosts the embassies of major nations such as that of the United States, United Kingdom and China. Resident argued that Stirling Park in a designated open space and pointed to O'Malley, the Old Brickworks, new Molonglo suburbs and a horse paddock in Curtin as alternative embassy sites.

"Inevitable destruction of parts of the Stirling Park environment will impact particularly on the bird life, the close to pristine conditions of parts of the bush on the ridge, the grassland and threatened species of flora and fauna in the park," said Janet McGhie, another resident.