Now that the Labor government has signed contracts with Canberra Metro to deliver Stage 1 of Light Rail in Canberra, Gungahlin can look forward to being the first leg of a city-wide infrastructure project that is touted to bring urban renewal and economic development across the city. The eventual link to the airport, combined with international flights leaving directly from Canberra is an exciting proposition.
I have been in a Capital Metro Community Reference group since the project launched, representing the concerns, interests and other considerations of the community. To date, the flow of information has been a little lacking, though that isn’t entirely surprising given the stage of the project. Transparency would have been welcome during negotiations, though they were considered commercial-in-confidence.
I like the idea of light rail for Canberra. I have my questions and concerns for the project, but overall I think it is an important investment for the future. Given that the contract has now been signed, and we would throw away hundreds of millions of dollars to cancel the contract, I believe we should aim to get the most out of our investment.
Someone is going to make a lot of money after Light Rail is built. That someone could be local home/land owners, or small Canberra businesses, or community groups. Historically, it will likely include large property developers, some with foreign ownership.
I want to ensure that long-term benefits stay in the community whenever possible. Developers will not develop if there is no profit for them, so we can’t rule that out completely, but we can put it under closer scrutiny. Benefits to property developers from this, and any government project, should be incidental to community benefit.
Long term vision
The Light Rail debate has been centred around Gungahlin for so long now, which is only natural given that we are the only leg of the network that has been announced. While I like that we are first, if the network isn’t developed for all of Canberra, the investment will not return the benefits promised. I’d like to see the development of infrastructure projects – not just Light Rail – decoupled from the election cycle so that we can see real long term results. We should be able to plan further in to the future than 4 years at a time, but this will only happen with bipartisan agreement – clearly not possible at this stage for Light Rail.