Hidden Canberra

Canberra Times 27 March 1999

Sue Rodden found a two page spread in the Panorama section of the Times which she kindly passed on to me.  Because of the size of the article it had to be scanned in sections. Following are three of scanned areas of the article:

 

Canberra Times 27 March 1999

 The photographs show: Rejuvinated Westlake Cottage in Queanbeyan; Mrs Bellchambers with Evan and Bob [c1939]: Rememberance: Alan Gane and his young brother, Harold - Alan home on leave; Bob and Eva in their back yard 50 Westlake and 1958 backyard of Vlad Bondarenko's home 23 Westlake.

Panorama March 27 1999

Panorama March 27 1999

 BELOW:Top photo - view from walking track on Stirling Ridge - open area former Yarralumla property in background - site of Westlake horse paddock. Bottom photo -John noting site of scarred tree on Stirling Ridge

 

The Ampol Touring Atlas c1976 - detail of area of the park

Newspaper articles courtesy of Trish Frei - proposed road across Stirling Park & site of Pm's Lodge on Stirling Ridge or Attunga Point - final choice Attunga Point.

Trish during a search of her collection came across a number of important articles from the Canberra Times which refere to the proposed road - Coronation Drive, which fortunately for Stirling Park was not built.  Instead Alexandrina Drive was and this road is less intrusive on the natural landscape of the surviving area of Stirling Park.

Below is a circa 1927 map showing 'Stirling Park', site for Governor General's Residence, Westlake Cotages in 'The Gap' and in the larger version of this map, Howie's Cottages & Hostel Camp near Lotus Bay.  Below this is a contour map that shows Alexandrina Drive and the proposed road that cuts across Stirling Park - Coronation Drive.  Fitzgerald St is below the park. 

 

The Canberra Times 2 November 1974

The Mystery of holey hill by Bruce Wright, City Reporter

Small holes, possibly used for sub-soil testing have been blasted on the slopes of a hill, at least part of which is understood to have been reserved for construction of a new Lodge for the Prime Minister. [Attunga Point?]  The holes have been blasted on the slopes of the hill between Fitzgerald Street, Yarralumla and Lake Burley Griffin. The hill overlooks Blue Gum Point, Spinnaker Island, and Black Mountain Peninsula and Stirling Park is on its lower stopes.

Spokemen for the National Capital Development Commission, the Department of Housing and Construction, and the ACT Electricity Authority have said they do not know what the holes are for, and the Department of the Capital Territory has failed to answer questions on whether it was involved or knows the reason for the blasting.

The holes are near the site of an unmade road, named on many Canberra road maps as Coronation Drive, but a spokesman for the NCDC said this road was no longer planned.

In May 1972 an NCDC spokesman said the Stirling Park area was being held 'against possible future needs of a national kind,' and that it was being retained with the possibility of a special usage in mind.

At that time press reports indicated taht a new Prime Minister's Lodge was the likely 'special usage' and the reports were not denied.

Much of the hill is now virgin bush, but parts of the lower slopes have been cleared and grassed. [This is in the section of former Yarralumla property cleared felled by the then owner Fred Campbell in the late 1890s - This area was the Westlake Horse Paddock and site of the Navy servicemen's camp for  9 May 1927 ceremonies].

Some tracks crossing the hill have recently been ploughed, grassed and fenced off [area of Stirling Ridge - not in bushland area].

Any decision about the construction of a new Lodge would have to be made by the Government but it has been agreed for several years that the present Lodge is inadequate and its siting is no longer appropriate.

It would be logical, if the Government was about to make a decision on a site for a new Lodge, for likely sites to be tested for their suitability.

It has been suggested that when a new Lodge is built the existing one might be converted to a residence for visiting dignitaries.

[Letter page 2 - see below]

Canberra Times 2 November 1974

Blasting at Yarralumla - Sir,- I live at Yarralumla.  Opposite my house is the hill that overlooks Blue Gum Point and Spinnaker Island. I mention these so that the area may be identified by your readers.  The Mosque is another point of idenfication [in Empire Circuit].  At present the hill is empty and unspoiled. The original gum trees which crown the hill are still there and to them has been added a large number of young gum trees as part of the reaforestation program [On the end of Stirling Ridge overlooking Lake Burley Griffin]

The lower part of the hill, running down to the lake, has been left bare of trees. I wondered why, but my letter may well have the answer to this.  I have no doubt that the whole hill, which is a reserve area, is an asset not only to Yarralumla, but also to Canberra, but I recently heard blasting on the hill and found what seemed to be a series of test holes.

No inquiry of mine from a number of sources has been able to uncover the purpose of the holes or the tests except for a vague comment from the NCDC that 'perhaps' the holes were tests for a road planned to go up over the hill from the lakeside.

The road is shown as Langdon Street in some NCDC earlier reports and seems to be repeated without being named in the uninformative mini-map inside the title page of the 1973-74 report (which was recently tabled in Parliament). The raod in question appears to me to be the dotted road now called Coronation Drive on the current Canberra road map.

Assuming the road is planned, I wish to make public the following comments:

First, the road is unnecessary. There are at least three very different and convenient ways of going to and from Civic from the area. In any case, the Yarralumla sector generates negligible traffic for the proposed road to serve. I have observed this carefully even at peak hours.

Second, the hill should be left untouched as a valuable asset for people's relaxation. It is also an embelishment to the lake and a breathing space.  But if we do not watch out someone will perhaps think of twin TV tower to crown it, if only for sake of balance with other blue-capped monstrosity beginning to show on Black Mountain.

Third, the hill has become an unofficial bird sanctuary. Whereas once (ten years ago) the hill was silent, it now sounds out with the calls of hundreds of birds, large and small. We even have a visiting mopoke.

It the aim is to destroy this atmosphere by all means build a raod. I say this because after the invasion of bulldozers, the excavation for drainage, the movement, even if slight, of motor traffic, the inevitable swath of street lights, bisecting the hill, we can kiss the sanctuary idea goodbye.

Conservation is the in word or are we merely paying lip service to it?

I have written this letter in the knowledge that I can be accused of special pleading because I live in Fitzgerald Street, but the hill is not only for the delectation of the residents of the street. I have spoken to many Yarralumla people some as far away as Novar Street and they all wish to keep the hill intact as it is.

I do not believe that an idea conceived on paper many years ago should be implemented without taking congniscance of the facts of 1974, which, as I pointed out above, do not seem to me to  justify the need for the road and the scarring of the hill.

If I have in any way misrepresented the situation, because of the vagueness of the facts I was able to muster, I will be the first to apologise. I am frankly using your columns to air my fears, to alert the public and to get at the facts that have so far eluded me. Hopefully I might have a hand in saving the hill.  J McCLUSKER Yarralumla

 

The Canberra Times 5 November 1974

Hill blasts 'test for national buildings.'  By Bruce Wright, City Reporter

Holes blasted on the hill between Yarralumal and Blue Point were part of a series of seismic tests on sites in the national area to check their sutiability for national buildings. And although according to the National Capital Development Commission, no firm proposal exists, and NCDC spokeman said yesterday the site was considered suitable for a new Lodge for the Prime Minister and that the site had often been suggested for anew Lodge.

The spokesman said it was regretted that a commission spokeman had given wrong information last week on the blasting and the holes in the hill which overlooks much of Lake Burley Griffin, Spinnaker Island and Black Mountain Peninsular.

An NCDC spokesman said that week that the commission did not know why the holes had been blasted in the hillside.

But a spokesman said yesterday they were 'part of a series of seismic tests on sites in the national area designed to check their suitability for buildings of a national importance.

Tests at other sites

'Normally, a statement is made when such tests are to be made, and in fact a commission statement was made on several such tests (part of the same series) on August 15, 1974,' the spokesman said.

But the August 15 statement did not refer to tests on the hill which has been mooted as a site for a new Prime Minister's Lodge. It referred only to tests for sites for the proposed City Administration building in the city area and to sites near Constitution Avenue.

The spokesman said the other tests were a series 'were not mentioned because they were not going to be done immediately and publicity on them would serve no purpose.'

The area had not been reserved specifically for any national purpose, ' but it is in the national area and can be considered available for any national purpose.

The site was considered 'suitable subject to the results of the tests for such use as a new Lodge or for any other national purpose.'

The Canberra Times 7 March 1979

Yarralumla Development Plan Outlined.

The first clear indication of the future shape of Yarralumla as a tourist, residential and embassy suburb was outlined yesterday by the National Capital Development Commission.

 The NCDC issued draft policies and a 55 page report on environmental issues that shows the old 'mixed' suburb bounded by significant new transport routes, national buildings, embassies, recreation  sites and residential developments. Developments outlined in the plan (which is to be open for public and parliamentary discussion after the Yarralumla residents receive copies in their mail this week) include the confirmation  of the siting of the future Prime Minister's Lodge on Attunga Point headland off Alexandrina Drive; a contraction of the Department's nursery at Weston Park to allow a lake-front walking trail around the perimeter of the golf course; a major new tourist road through the eastern boundary of the golf course, connecting the Adelaide Aveneu vicinity with the old Brickworks tourist development and the CSIRO's complex, and running north into Weston Park; and east-west 'low speed' tourist road development which will take Alexandrina Drive inland to allow more room for lakeside recreational space; and developments around Yarralumla Bay.

The NCDC's first assitant commissioner in charge of town planning, Mr Geoff Campbell, said comments on the draft policy plan should be made in writing by April 6. Background papers would be made available at the NCDC's library and at a display which will be held on weekdays until March 23 at the Uniting Church Hall, Yarralumla.

Mr Campbell said the NCDC had to prepare an environmental impact on proposal to develop section100 - a medium density housing estate that will come within about 100 metres of Yarralumla Bay. It was decided that since several other community issues were creating contraversy in the suburb that a policy plan should be carried out.

At the moment Yarralumla's residential areas were suffering from 'through traffic pressures' because of the nearby recrational tourist and national sites, he said. This would be alleviated by the north-south toursit road linking Weston Park with the Adelaide Avenue vicinity (which had it precedents in the original plans by Walter Burley Griffin) and an east west realignment and upgrading of Alexandrina Drive.

Weston Park would be expanded slightly and the nursery would contract by about ten hectares. The area would be linked with Dunrossil Drive by a new lakefront walking trail.

Mr Campbell said the NCDC was investigating putting in a 200metre pontoon bridge across Warrina Inlet to ensure that activities along the walking trail did not lead to the disturbance of wildlife at the southern end of the inlet. No firm decisions had been made, but it was possible that a large areqa south-west of Dunrossil Drive could become an extension of the golf course.

 In the Yarralumla Bay vicinity a 'quayside' development with an urban character was being considered. This would complement 'the soft landscape character of the surrounding lakeshore.'

Nearby on Section 100 five hectares were available for medium density townnhouses 'in scale with adjacent existing development that would allow retention of existing important views.'

The ridge at Stirling Park would be preserved in its native woodland form.  At the lake shore, the Blue Gum Point area was to be selectively thinned and planed with Stirling Park eucalypt to establish 'an important visual link with Black Mountain Peninsula.'

A cycle path is to be provided along the Yarralumla foreshore to complete the trunk paths from Woden to the City.

Mr Campbell said the population of 3,250 at Yarralumla was 'reducing' at the moment and he believed its existing shcools and retail facilities could cope with the influx of a maximum of 212 townhouses in the brickworks development and 90 new residences at the Section 100 site.

Significant aspects of the draft plan include (see map):

A - Walking trail along the shores of Nursery Bay and across Warrina Inlet where a pontoon will carry foot traffic to avoid disturbance of wild life.

B - New tourist road. first stage to run only to the Old Brickworks tourist development from the Adelaide Avenue vicinity. Later stages to carry the road to Weston Park. This will lessen traffic pressures in residential Yarralumla.

c - Alexandrina Drive. Considerable portions will look inland to provide more lakeshore recreational space. this will be a low speed tourist road.

D - National capital uses to provide for emabassies, other buildings, a Hospitality House and ministerial houses.

E - Prime Minister's Lodge. Alexandrina Drive will move inland to make room for this. A site has been reserved on Attunga Point headland for the Lodye by the Committee on Official Establishments.

F - Section 100. Five hectares here is reserved for medium density housing, some of which may be built within 100 metres of the lake. A quayside development will follow.

G - This is described as open space of agistment, equestrian and other uses. It may provide space for an additional nine-holes for the golf course.

Stirling Park 1978 showing proposed site fora new  Prime Minister's Lodge

 

 

Canberra Times 17 August 1980

DCT drops Yarralumla tourist road. The Department of the Capital Territory has dropped plans to build the West Yarralumla tourist road.  Planning for the road was confirmed as late as March in the National Capital Development Commission's Yarralumla policy plan.

The policy reversal coincides with the decision by the department to negotiate with the Royal Canberra Golf club about the club leasing additional land to extend the course. The department says that it may be willing to make land occupied by the Yarralumla Nursery availabe for two or three additional holes. The department has agreed to make the land south of Dunrossil Drive available to the golf club on the condition that the club assist in the development of the course to international standard.

Spokesman for the club said that it was hoped sufficient land would be available for an additional nine holes to provide a total of 27 holes.

A layout plan proposed by the club is being considered by the department. It indicates how the club intends to use the two parcels of land, described at B2 and D2 in the recently published Yarralumla policy plan.

Opposition to the club's proposed development is likly to come from the National Parks Association of the ACT. The association's president, Mr John Banks, said it was against the expansion of the golf club in the area of the Yarralumla Nursery because it contained a number of Canberra's oldest trees, which were of considerable historic and scientific importance.

The proposal to build the West Yarralumla Tourist Road on the eatern bounday of the golf club has long been a contentious issue between the department and the club. In March the NCDC said the route had been included in the plan to facilitate recreation access to the Old Canberra Brickworks, the Royal Canberra Golf Club, Weston Park and the lakeshore, to avoid the need for access via internal residential streets.

The policy plan had proposed to allow the early redevelopment of the brickworks site, the tourist road would initially be built only from the Cotter Road to a point south of Bentham Street.  A spokesman for the department said when announcing that the road plan had been dropped that no decision had been made about construction of a proposed cul-de-sac giving access to the brickworks.

 

The proposed road c2000 to date

Around 1999 or a little earlier the area of Stirling Park was subdivided from one section - 22 - into on the eastern side - Section 128, Blocks 1, 2, 3, 4 and on the western side in the Gap and Stirling Ridge - Section 22. More recently Block 1 was further subdivided and the portion marked as Block 5 is in the process of being developed. Recently, Block 3, which is the largest portion of the eastern section has also been further sub-divided.

Block 4 is a long narrow undulating shaped block which has recently been acknowledged as an undeveloped road.

Below is a NCA map of the Eastern side of Stirling Park. Marked on it are R-L Blocks, 1, 2 & 3. Block 4 is to the right of the road marked in black on the far left. It is a narrow block which follows the creek line and joins with Marina Place. This map marks a number of sites of remains of human habitation in the park. The sites are marked with yellow concrete posts.

 

The line of the proposed road through Stirling Park Yarralumla Block 4, Section 128

The photograph showing the line of the proposed road through Stirling Park to join Empire Circuit to Marina Place was taken in 2011.  The posts were erected by ACTEWAGL to mark the pipe line they have put in underground. The pipe line just missed the septic tank which is near the second marker and the gum tree to the left. The creek is marked on early maps as a deep watercourse, but has been filled with the rubbish of years.  Its final choking occurred after a lining of hessian was laid down a few years ago. If this road is put in it will require the moving of the Westlake Plaque and tree planted by our oldest living men who lived at Westlake.  The creek is to the left of the gum on the left and on its right is another channel dug in the 1920s to drain water into it from the hill off to the right.  Stirling Ridge is the hill in the background.