I thank Minister Gentleman very much for his update. Like most of us in this building and who work in the immediate surrounds, I was very interested in the minister’s update on the Constitution Avenue upgrade. In this building we all have the unique daily experience of interaction with the road works, and it is reassuring to know that it is all in aid of what will be a fabulous addition to our city and an impressive entrance to our Assembly.
The minister outlined the background of the upgrade, its purpose and the temporary arrangements in place to facilitate the construction. I would like to take you through in greater detail the intended look and feel of the completed project.
The street furniture for Constitution Avenue has been designed to reflect the significance of the street in the local and national context by establishing a real character for the avenue. The materials used to create the street furniture will include jarrah, brass and powder-coated steel to create a suite of elements which demonstrate the high quality aims for the avenue.
In addition, along with other structural elements such as concrete tree surrounds, street lighting and traffic control devices have been coordinated to ensure that the overall appearance of the street is cohesive. The street furniture elements include bus shelters, bench seating, bin enclosures, drinking fountains, bike racks and vehicle restriction bollards.
In addition to the built environment, a great deal of attention has also been paid to the natural aspects of the upgrade. Approximately 300 English oak trees were located along Constitution Avenue within the project site area. The trees existed in four rows; one row on the northern edge and three parallel rows on the southern verge. The existing trees are in various physical conditions, with some very healthy mature trees alongside some trees in poor health. Due to the significance of the trees in the context of the avenue, a tree replacement program was developed to make sure that the avenue was able to retain this key feature throughout the project and into the future.
The key element of the program was to avoid the removal of a large number of trees at the same time. The second part of the tree replacement program was to procure mature stock so that the physical structure of the landscape was able to be maintained. To allow for the new southern carriageway of Constitution Avenue to be delivered, the most northern row on the southern verge was required to be removed in its entirety. Along with the unhealthy trees, approximately 120 existing English oaks will be removed in stage 1, which is being delivered by this project. Stage 1 includes the replacement of the 124 removed trees, with approximately 230 mature English oaks and pin oaks, some trees in excess of 10 metres high on arrival to the site.
Pin oaks have been selected as the replacement tree for the new centre median due to the structural nature which is suited to narrow alignments. English oaks will be located in the verges to replace the unhealthy trees and fill missing gaps such as outside No 2 Constitution Avenue. A row of crepe myrtles are also included in the planting scheme on the southern verge to add another layer to the plantings and enhance the amenity for people using this linear park.
The existing avenue reflects its traditional role as a transport corridor with access to education, employment and recreational facilities, particularly the car parks which service those facilities. The upgrade project will enhance the character of the avenue, providing a focus on active travel and public transport. Therefore, the amenity of the avenue is designed to support the changing role of this major thoroughfare, particularly as it relates to transportation.
The improved amenity provided by the street furniture will encourage a new range of people staying on the street to enjoy their lunch or to wander along the street and take in its natural beauty. As development continues into the future, the opportunity for this precinct to evolve and create a destination in itself will be supported through improved public facilities.
The relationship between Constitution Avenue and proposed developments such as Campbell 5 or Parkes section 3 is essential to ensure that the objective of providing a place for people to enjoy is realised. The Campbell 5 development is a great example of the type of investment we are trying to encourage. This parcel of land sold for more than $63 million to a consortium made up of local and new international investors – an investment in our city that will see up to 520 residential apartments, commercial offices, hotels and park land.
The Parkes 3 development, which is located at the south-east corner of Constitution Avenue and Coranderrk Street, is a key part of the city to the lake project. That development will involve a new stadium on the site, the prospective new convention centre, the Australia forum.
Canberra is evolving. We are moving beyond our established public service foundations and working hard to attract private investment. The Chief Minister has spoken repeatedly on behalf of the government about how our work to diversify the ACT economy has helped Canberra. Without this diversification, without a stronger and more vibrant private sector, the thousands of positions cut by the federal government would have had a far greater impact on our economy and our community.
In the mid-1990s when the Howard government started slashing jobs in Canberra, in the first year the number of unemployed people jumped by 3,000. The unemployment rate rose 1.7 percentage points, and within a 12-month period total employment dropped by 5,500 positions. But this time around the economy continues to perform well, despite the challenges—a clear indication that our economic development approach is paying dividends.
Canberra would be a very different place right now were it not for the increased economic diversification this government has been driving. Development in our town centres, and Civic in particular, acts an important stimulus to that investment. The high quality of the revitalised urban environment will attract people and businesses wanting to work and live in such beautiful and functional surrounds.
Constitution Avenue will be easy to move around and connected to the city and to the parliamentary precinct. It will be a wonderful place for us all to work and for Canberrans to enjoy, live and visit.