The following letter was published in the Canberra Times on 29 March 2022.
Like Rebecca Vassarotti (“Why I’m backing Canberra for national heritage listing”, March 25), I love the vibe of our amazing city and the intangible elements that make Canberra a great place to live. However, I don’t believe that putting huge swathes of Canberra’s urban fabric under heritage protection is the best way forward.
The Minister claims that a listing won’t mean nit-picking and bureaucracy that prevents us from meeting the needs of our community, and will instead mean a boost to tourism. I hope she is right, but I am unconvinced.
The benefit to tourism will likely be marginal - visitors are attracted by the great qualities of our city, not the fact that those qualities might end up heritage-listed. On the other hand, a fast-growing, dynamic city needs urban planning that is adaptable, with infrastructure, housing and urban forms changing as required. Heritage constraints that restrict this too tightly could end up undermining the very community that they are supposed to benefit.
We already have the NCA guarding the nationally-significant elements of Canberra’s planning. We don’t need to invite another Commonwealth authority - one that is not democratically accountable to the citizens who live and work here - to take even more control over Canberra’s destiny.
Heritage laws make sense for protecting Canberra’s many individual sites of significance. Canberra’s vibe, on the other hand, is best protected through constant adaptation to the needs of our community, maintaining what we love while allowing the continued evolution of Griffin’s ideals for the city of tomorrow.
Secretary, Greater Canberra Inc
[Photo credit: Derived from Jason Tong, Canberra from Mount Ainslie, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0]