Blandfordia 5 – The Rant

The Griffin Plan

The following rant was inspired by a speech given on 18 May 2011 at one of the Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) concerts. The concert was Amazing Space 3: Sounding the Axis: tracing Constitution Avenue and the Molonglo. It featured a bus trip from City Hill to Sir Thomas Blamey Square (between the Defence buildings, near the rabbit ears) and on to Mount Pleasant.

The Griffin Plan and the concert bus trip

Original urban plan by Walter Burley Griffin

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bus route:


The speaker was landscape architect Stuart Mackenzie and he spoke about the Constitution Avenue land axis. Passionately. The bureaucratic pennypinching that has for nearly a century diminished the Griffin plan was mentioned. A wonderful vision of the Griffin concept of Constitution Avenue as The People’s Axis was drawn – imagine if we had something like the ChampsÉlysées…

Walter Burley Griffin designed this town at a time when the private car wasn’t much in evidence, and so he included public transport facilities. Which never got built. Which should have. Which we could do a great deal worse than to look at again, now that the private car seems to be on the way out.

Riotous applause greeted Mr Mackenzie’s speech. I wasn’t the only audience member queuing up to ask him for the text. CIMF agreed to put it on the website, but it hasn’t appeared yet.

Whenever I think of our current Minister for Planning stating that Burley Griffin is dead, my blood boils. He also said:

We should not be casting back a century for answers to Canberra’s contemporary challenges.  Griffin could never have foreseen the changes in lifestyles that technology has delivered and that climate change will require.  It is time to move past the bickering over the “Griffin Legacy”.

We don’t need to reinterpret the Griffin plan. We have the wide median strips, the Reid railway embankment, the Griffin vision: we can use them. Marion and Walter didn’t need to foresee our changes in lifestyle: if we have any sense, we’re heading back to their simpler, less rapacious lifestyle. Climate change will require it of us sooner or later! And ‘bickering’ is a very dismissive word to describe the heartfelt concern of all those, including real experts, who would like to see the Griffin work of art preserved and enhanced.

Mr Barr also said:

Over the next twenty years Canberra’s population will grow by around 80,000 people.

What an appalling thought! We already have too many people for the available resources – look what happened with water during the drought we’re temporarily not suffering from. Traffic is already out of control. The wait at the Emergency Department is longer than anywhere else in Australia, apparently. Local government can’t even keep the grass mown so that we can find our way onto our famous roundabouts, let alone manage another 80,000 people!


Essentially it is about planning to improve livability, not planning for the sake of planning.

How rude! And how inaccurate, to describe what’s currently happening as being about livability. I commend to you the comments on the relevant RiotACT thread, particularly this one:

Open space & community facilities are forever lost to the goal of providing battery hen low quality flats that have a very limited lifespan.

– Comment #12, aussielyn, 1:40 pm, 08 Nov 10

Mr Barr carries on about his vision for a vibrant city to the point where the very word ‘vibrant’ has started to give me motion sickness. Vibrancy is overrated! I’d like a stable city functioning within its ecological means, and I’d like us to cherish the Griffin plan for its beauty and integrity.

I’m sure I’d agree with Mr Barr about all sorts of other matters, but it’s hard to bear that in mind when he has tarred me with all those brushes above. Being called outdated, old-fashioned, quarrelsome, inward-looking, and listless persuades me of nothing except that the name-caller is short on actual arguments.

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4 Responses to Blandfordia 5 – The Rant

  1. albertine says:

    Rant on, rant ever! And hooray for B-G.
    In the UK people talk about the ‘problems’ that arise from a falling birth rate. ie a smaller population of working age will have to fund an large elderly/sick/demanding/helpless population. Makes me spit chips.
    Tangentially, you might be interested in this newspaper article: (Hmmm – doesn’t seem to be appearing as a link – you may have to cut and paste.)

    • valkyrie1 says:

      I’ve become so ranty and frothy about ludicrous growth plans that I’ve joined Sustainable Population Australia (SPA). Not that I do anything, apart from subscribe, but I’ve been to some impressive talks.

      I wish you would spit chips about the alleged vast problem of the aging population – we hear about it every five minutes here, too. Grrr. This morning the news was full of worrisome items, and I was shamefully relieved not to have to listen to some artificial panic (aging population! obesity epidemic! boys’ education!) or opinion poll.

      Since Canberra went down to one full-time hospital, I haven’t heard of the waiting time at Emergency being less than 7 hours. It’s often more. Because I can’t sit for that long, I refused to go last time I needed to, and ended up having to be admitted a couple of days later.

  2. albertine says:

    and how do you make it so that different posts have different headline pictures? When I change mine, it changes throughout, which isn’t what I want. (I’ll email you – this is getting silly.)

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