Locating new residential areas

Two major new areas for residential development are identified, in addition to the completion of Gungahlin and residential intensification within the existing urban area of Canberra.

Molonglo Valley, to the west of Central Canberra between Belconnen and Weston Creek, will complete the urban edge of Canberra to the west. The Molonglo Valley is framed by undulating hills, including Dairy Farmers Hill to the east and Mount Stromlo to the south west, and is bisected by the lower reaches of the Molonglo River, downstream of Scrivener Dam and Lake Burley Griffin. The valley is largely grazing country and also contained the Stromlo Forest softwood pine plantations prior to the 2003 bushfires.

Modification to the natural vegetation in much of the valley has been significant, although substantial areas of Yellow Box-Red Gum remain. The area has been identified as capable for urban development based on an analysis of the physical characteristics of the site. Due to its proximity to existing services and employment centres, the Molonglo Valley is considered highly suitable for urban development.

The Molonglo Valley presents a number of significant opportunities to undertake development in a more sustainable way:

  • Residents would be able to access good public transport links to the employment centres of Belconnen, Civic, Barton/Parkes, Woden and Tuggeranong. With the advantage of relatively short travel distances, time savings would be significant versus the alternative of this new development occurring in more remote areas such as in Gooromon–Jeir or Googong in NSW.
  • By locating new residential development where residents can access the major employment locations, pressure on the east-west road links would be reduced. If this development was located in Gooromon–Jeir, or Googong to the south of Queanbeyan for example, most pressure on the transport system would come from the north and north-west or the east and ultimately have greater impacts on the road system in Belconnen and the Central Area than would development in Molonglo Valley.
  • This development will effectively reduce the length of Canberra’s western urban edge which is the most exposed to fire. A well-designed Bushfire Abatement Zone can be built into the design of the development (for example, through the location of sports fields) and can help shield some of the more vulnerable parts of the city from the high risk of fire along the western path.
  • The existing areas of Yellow Box-Red Gum can be further protected and linked to provide wildlife corridors, connecting northern and southern endangered ecological communities.

Development within Molonglo Valley would enable the efficient use of treated effluent from the Lower Molonglo Water Treatment Plant, particularly for watering gardens and public areas, thereby reducing the demands from a growing population for potable water. This would also respond to the Territory’s water strategy to substantially increase the reuse of treated effluent and could allow for some irrigated sports fields to mitigate against fire. Development in the Molonglo Valley will also facilitate the introduction of necessary environmental safeguards for the water quality of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee River system, including water quality control measures that reduce the impact of existing urban runoff from Woden and Weston Creek.

The Kowen Plateau is located east of the metropolitan area of Canberra and north of the City of Queanbeyan. It is currently primarily used for softwood plantation and therefore has experienced significant modification to the original vegetation. Although not as well located as Molonglo Valley, Kowen Plateau is situated relatively close to major employment areas within the Territory and Queanbeyan.

The Kowen Plateau is included in the long-term residential settlement strategy but may be brought forward if more detailed analysis of Molonglo Valley shows that this area is constrained for development. Further investigations, undertaken with the National Capital Authority will establish in more detail the capacity of the Molonglo Valley, in particular, the implications of protecting areas of national capital significance. Should these investigations identify further constraints, additional greenfield areas will be needed to cater for population growth up to 500,000. Kowen Plateau is the next best location after Molonglo Valley for future urban development within the ACT and within a reasonable travel distance of major employment centres and services. Kowen Plateau has the capacity to accommodate growth well beyond a population of 500,000 in the ACT-Queanbeyan area.