The rest of Australia thinks too much money is spent on Canberra and that it should be livened up, according to research commissioned by the National Capital Planning Authority.
“”On Saturday, Sunday, it was dead; it was like a morgue,” female, Perth, white collar, 20-34. Canberrans were seen as snobs.
“”The people are very uppity and hard. Not friendly. Very status conscious,” Mudgee white collar males 30-55. And they have it easy. “”They have got security of employment.”
“”They speak better English there. It’s the wealthiest city in Australia,” Darwin white collar. There was also concern about the disparity between Canberra and elsewhere. “”I felt I was entering another country to be honest. . . .I was quite shocked to see everything bigger and better than most places I’ve been to in Australia.” Female 35-55. Townsville.
The research was done in all state capitals and Darwin and in a country town (Mudgee), a regional centre (Townsville) and a remote town (Port Hedland). It was done with detailed questioning and seeking of opinions from small focus groups rather than opinion-poll style research.
Details of the research were published yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister, Brian Howe, at the National Press Club.
The research showed that people want open spaces and the bush capital preserved.
“”Canberra’s really a beautiful city, but nothing’s ever said about it except politics.” Female, 35-55, Adelaide
They see the livening up taking place by activities more than development.
“”Events would help to build a national pride in Canberra. You think of the Melbourne Cup _ the whole of Australia stops to listen to it . . . . Canberra needs something like that.” Female 20-24. Adelaide.
The research revealed a widespread ignorance about Canberra and that young people did not give it high priority as a place to visit for a holiday. “”I think of the Gold Coast as a holiday. Canberra is never a holiday. It’s only for tourists to visit memories of all the wars.” Female 20-30 Sydney.
On the other hand there was this: “”It has great museums and galleries and bush and parkland nearby.”
There was a consensus that Canberra was a worthy capital for a young nation, but it needed time to evolve naturally.
Parliament House was seen as a worthy departure from the “”she’ll be right mentality”. People thought buildings in Canberra should be constructed for the long term _ 100 to 200 years. Then they did not mind bearing the cost.
Mr Howe said, “”The results of the NCPA research suggests that people do see Canberra as a symbol, but not necessarily of our Civic institutions. They are more likely to say that the national capital symbolises our love of the bush and our capacity for excellence.”
The details report on the research showed that as Australia was a place of wide open spaces, there was nothing wrong in the capital reflecting it.
“”Australia is a land of vast open spaces, so let’s scrub high-rises, too.” Male. 20-34 Darwin. “”It’s better to leave it wide open and accessible to people. They should retain the green space.” People, Darwin 35-55. Respondents were against development for development’s sake.
“”I don’t think they should build anything unless there’s an absolute necessity for it,” Brisbane, female, 20-34, white collar.
People were against a railway bridge across the wetlands or other development that would detract from the environment. None the less they liked the idea of shops and other commercial development along Constitution Avenue and a few more eateries in the Triangle (but they were opposed to a major take-away food outlet in the Triangle). Despite the widespread ignorance of Canberra as a planned city, the Griffins, the Triangle as a symbol and other aspects of Canberra, when told about it, people were interested and concerned that planning standards and excellence be maintained. In particular they were keen on the Triangle being completed.
The research report said, “”There was a strong belief that the National Capital does and should reflect the best our country can do.”
Canberra showed itself to be a city that endears itself to its visitors. Those that had been here were much more enthusiastic about it and saw it less as a just place of politicians than as a national focal point.
On the other hand, many of those who had visited complained of it being difficult to navigate in because of the circles.
“”Plenty of roundabouts there. You get lost and lose your sense of direction.” Female Townsville, 35-55.
Canberra needed to be promoted.
“”We should make much more effort to identify it as Australia’s capital. We need to think beyond the states as one nation” People, Adelaide, 60-75. Canberra was seen by some as created by Anglo-Saxons for Anglo-Saxons.
“”It seems an Anglo-Saxon set-up. There’s no Aboriginal influence.” Female Townsville. 20-24.
The research revealed wide ranging opinions on costs. While some thought it good Canberra was setting standards for the nation, others thought the money could be better spent on schools and hospitals in their neighbourhoods.
Mr Howe said the research showed that people thought a republic was a foregone conclusion. As there were more national approaches on laws and standards he thought that Canberra’s role would naturally blossom.
He tended to agree with some of the research conclusions about livening Canberra up. He said his family would be more keen on coming here if it had lively streets like some in his home suburb in Melbourne.