Draft update to the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan

27 Sep

As you all know, Belconnen is my home and it has my heart. When I’m not blogging or working, I’m advocating for Belconnen as Chair of the Belconnen Community Council.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve worked hard a range of community consultations into the update of the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, like hosting a free barbecue at the Belconnen Arts Centre. Master Plans are important because they set out the future character of the area – what things might be developed, what it could or should look like, and what areas should be preserved.

Today the draft update to the Master Plan was released. It includes a whole lot of things that the BCC, I and the community have been advocating for to make the Belconnen Town Centre an even better play to live, work and play, including:

  • clarity about height limits in the Town Centre (proposing different heights for different sites, and providing for both high- and medium-density)
  • activating the previously abandoned Joynton Smith busway and turning it into a cycleway to better connect the Town Centre to Florey
  • increasing and widening paths in the Town Centre so it’s easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get around; joining the path around Lake Ginninderra behind the Belconnen Arts Centre so it’s completely connected
  • expanding the 40km/h zones so that it’s safer for pedestrians and cyclists to move around, and replacing plastic speed humps with build-outs and raised pedestrian crossings
  • providing a multi-storey car park in a place that’s central to encourage activity – ie park your car and then walk around the Town Centre, such as to Emu Bank. This could free up key areas which could be used for entertainment (like on Emu Bank) and also provides an alternative for commuters instead of activity like driving from the Belconnen Markets to Westfield to Emu Bank to John Knight Memorial Park – and may also free up existing car spaces elsewhere

  • preserving the Diddams Close peninsula and considering ways to activate these open spaces, such as community gardens or concerts
  • activating Margaret Timpson Park with play areas (including water play), a legal graffiti wall and barbecue facilities
  • proposing stricter rules around building design to ensure high quality
  • linking the Town Centre to the University of Canberra
  • providing a destination at Emu Bank with more outdoor dining, increased walking areas and – potentially – fewer car parks taking up important lake views

There are also sections in the Master Plan which will require careful community consideration. These include the proposal for different height limits in different parts of the Town Centre and high-rise buildings along Lathlain Street, as well as the eventual redevelopment of the bus depot as housing. There’s also a question about what might the Master Plan be missing? Are there any great ideas out there which haven’t been included and really should be?

The best part about it being a draft Master Plan is that we’ve now got time to answer these questions and provide feedback. Formal feedback opportunities will open later this week but in the meantime please do yourselves a favour and read the proposals so you are ready to comment. There are plenty of diagrams and detailed explanations, as well as overarching statements about the character. It all starts on page 57, but the preceding pages give really useful context (like a study into car park use) as well as a summary of the input the community provided.

Read the draft update to the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan here. The future of the Town Centre depends on your input!

The Confidence Man, The Street Theatre*

20 Sep

* I attended The Confidence Man as a guest of The Street Theatre.

We’re sitting in a row of chairs, level with the stage that we border, in the Street One Theatre. Among us are six audience members who are about to run the entire 45 minute The Confidence Man themselves. We know who they are because they’re wearing enormous masks: black mesh covered with wide facial features to allow them to see. The stage is dominated by a house setting, but at one end there’s another small house setting, as well as a set of plants which doubles as the main house’s backyard and a park.

We all have headphones and phones – even the players. Each of the players listens to their pre-recorded dialogue and thoughts for their character through the headphones, as well as instructions on what to act out. Their entire experience of the show is through what happens with their character – they have no idea what any of the other characters are thinking or being instructed to do, but they can hear their dialogue if they are in conversation with them.

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Muse, Kingston*

17 Sep

* I visited Muse as a guest

This humble little blog recently celebrated four years – four years of eating, drinking, reviewing and peeling back the layers of Canberra bit by bit. While still being hosted entirely by WordPress after all this time (yes, yes, there are moves afoot to discard wordpress from my URL!), I’ve also seen a lot in this time and the only thing that’s surprised me recently is that this city still tolerates bemusing degustations.

But then I experienced Muse, the definition of which might be ‘Food, Wine and Books’. (That’s what the wine glass tells me, anyway.)

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On Red, Red Hill

8 Sep

Mid-year, Living Social advertises that they’ve got a degustation deal at On Red. For $99, Boyfriend and I can enjoy a five course meal which is normally valued at $94 per person. I snatch it up because it seems almost too good to be true. It almost is: On Red is booked out for most of its weekends and we finally find a mid-week dinner when both the restaurant and we are free, just before the voucher expires.

On Red’s at the top of Red Hill – not just the suburb, but the hill. I always thought On Red was known for its good service, food and its views. The views are certainly on point, and when we name ourselves on arrival, our waiter already knows we’ve got a voucher – a good sign.

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Bluff Point Walk, Yeppoon

6 Sep

Some of you will have noticed that this blog has had a quieter year than normal, particularly the last few months. In May, we returned from a trip to Europe (including attending Gallipoli for Anzac Day) and just a few weeks later, we learned that my dad had significantly advanced, inoperable cancer. The doctors were reluctant to give us a timeframe for how long Dad would be with us. I remember struggling to comprehend that we might not get to have Christmas together, and maybe not even get to go to Fleetwood Mac in November with the tickets we’d purchased a month earlier.

Not sure what we are doing here, but Dad went along with most things!

I first went up to where my parents live in  Yeppoon on the central Queensland coast in mid-June. Mum and Dad picked me up from the airport. We had a really special, normal weekend together. We walked on the beach, watched RocKwiz, went out for breakfast, ate fresh hot donuts (Dad’s and my vice), and Dad superglued an earring back together for me. I wanted to continue to see my parents but also maintain some sense of normalcy so decided I would come up every fortnightly weekend for three nights at a time.

The next fortnight only Mum was at the airport to pick me up. Dad was feeling sick. He went into hospital the next day. I realised we would not have Christmas together, that Dad wouldn’t be going to Fleetwood Mac, and that he might not make his October birthday. He left hospital the day that I left, but was back in hospital for the third weekend. And the fourth weekend. And the fifth weekend.

There were only five weekends. Dad died on 12 August, 11 weeks after he was first diagnosed.

The grief is unlike anything I’ve experienced; both dull and acute. Mostly though, I am constantly experiencing surprise. Surprise that he’s not here. Surprise that there are no more memories to create.

My parents loved visiting Canberra and I loved having them here and showing it off. I also got frustrated if they weren’t in awe of simply everything (and on those occasions it really drove home how much Canberra means to me!). Dad bought a Like Canberra shirt in 2013 for the centenary celebrations and wore it regularly, right up until he passed away.

On that same trip, I took him up to Booroomba Rocks. Dad thought it was a fantastic walk, and driving back we had a deep conversation – making a special place even more special for me. At the time I updated the original Booroomba Rocks post with a photo of him and now, given it continues its reign as the most popular post on the blog, I get some strange comfort that so many friends and strangers have seen my dad.

When my parents visited in March last year, I had them do their own blog post, reviewing their experience in Canberra. A few weeks later, Dad sent me a strange USB in the mail, wrapped in a piece of paper on which he’d simply written Bluff Point Walk. I had no idea what it was and couldn’t get the USB to work. I put it out of my head.

When Dad was diagnosed, I remembered it and asked Mum if she knew what was on it. It turns out Dad had done a review of a walk in Yeppoon which he loved and he sent it to me on the USB – along with a whole heap of photos he took – with the intention that I might publish it on the blog.

I was so upset with myself for not inquiring about it earlier and publishing it. But Dad was never someone who’d be hurt or disappointed or wonder why something didn’t happen. There is some comfort in that.

It didn’t feel right to post it when Dad was dying. It still doesn’t feel like the right time – and I’ve been procrastinating for weeks. Maybe it’s because in some ways it feels like a door is closing.

I’m not posting it because I want support or empathy or comments about loss – I’m so lucky to have been wonderfully supported by such a caring raft of friends and family who’ve filled that role. Nor am I posting it because it’s especially insightful or revealing – it’s not.

I’m posting it because I love my dad. And because the walk is, in his words and my words, highly worthwhile. If you’re ever up Yeppoon way, maybe you’ll think about doing this walk.


Bluff Point at the southern end of Kemp Beach on the Capricorn Coast is one of many volcanic remnants in the area rising to a height of 85m. Although only 2.3km long this is probably the best walking track along this stretch of coastline with a 2m wide crushed gravel and tar walking surface, well laid stone steps and drains to deal with heavy rainfall.

It’s 6:30am and we, Lucy our cattle dog* and I, decide to tackle the steep side first so start from the well maintained picnic area and head along the northern end of the outcrop.

This part of the track is relatively level through low bush, or some may say coastal rainforest, and after a few hundred metres the track starts climbing with alternating stretches of pathway and steps.

It takes us about 10 minutes to reach the first viewing platform – we aren’t in a hurry. The weather is not that great so the view down to the now murky water where turtles and dolphins are usually seen is disappointing. But we can see most of the islands along the Keppel Coast through the wind swept haze and head upwards now across open grassland towards the top.

The views just get better and better as we wind our way up, passing a couple of informative signs about the geological formation of this part of the coast.

At the top there is a welcome bench to sit at and take in the extensive views across Keppel Bay, along the coast and the inland region.

The way down around the southern and western portion of the point is a more gentle gradient with a fairly quick transition to more lush forest type growth.

Our first encounter with any other life, apart from birds, is a scrub turkey sauntering along the track in front of us. Lucy takes a bit of interest as the turkey flies in to the nearest tree but she’s seen plenty before and we walk on.

This downward portion of the track doesn’t have as many open spaces for viewpoints as the native bush growth is quite prolific so we enjoy the variation in tree types and the quality of the track. About half-way down we are passed by the first of about 8 runners, mostly women in pairs out for some early morning exercise. The walking track ends at the park we started at and another sign to read before we head off home. A short walk with plenty of panoramic views and enough variation in height to significantly elevate the heart rate, well worth while!

* Dogs aren’t actually allowed on this walk (!) – Dad realised this after he completed it.

Cafe 2617, Belconnen

2 Aug

Belconnen Town Centre’s Urban Roast has undergone a revamp: the ownership hasn’t changed and the cafe is still bright and roomy, but there’s a new, streamlined menu and the shouting to the kitchen and back has thankfully stopped. The outfit seems calmer and more organised. The lunch menu has completely gone – replaced with blackboard menus which change every three or four days to allow the kitchen to take advantage of what’s fresh and seasonal and be more creative. And, of course, the name has changed.

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Grease, The Q

31 Jul

Grease – the classic 70s broadway hit and film – arrived in Queanbeyan on Wednesday night, bringing clever costume designs, the well-known songs and the blatant sexism.

Say what?

I’ve had a long, fraught relationship with the musical as I’ve revisited it over the years. On the one hand, I love it. The songs are (mostly) fantastic. The music is great. The cast and costumes are great. The choreography is great. And, from a young age, the message was apparent that Sandy was actually pretty annoying and just was too hard on Danny; she was so much more likeable when she just relaxed, took up smoking, and made her voice a breathy one (and I couldn’t wait for that end of school party once I finished year 12, either). In my pre-teens it occurred to me that a whole lot of the behaviour between the characters in the movie was actually incredibly cringeworthy, or – more accurately – cruel. In my early teens (okay I’ve seen it heaps of times) a whole lot more sexual references finally clicked for me and, in the middle of singing along to songs, I found myself largely horrified about the messages being promoted.

The horror and the discomfort hasn’t changed. And Grease hasn’t changed, either – it’s still hugely popular and a theatrical feast which is exactly why I was drawn back to it. So, while I could write weeks of blog posts analysing the politically incorrect, sexist and otherwise questionable messages, this is a review blog and thus: here’s the review.

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Grease Monkey, Braddon

20 Jul

Grease Monkey opened a little while back and my interest was piqued when people started declaring them the best burgers ever. Better than Brodburger? Well, maybe not. But equally as good.

That still makes them more than worth the trip to Braddon to try them out!

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Frugii Dessert Laboratory

7 Jul

This is not a paid post but this is a post with an inherent bias. It’s because I simply love Frugii. I’ve been a Frugii fanatic for a long while – enjoying a breakfast ice cream cone on Saturday mornings at the EPIC Farmers Markets or an afternoon ice cream cup at the Old Bus Depot Markets. There’s nothing that Mr Frugii aka John can do wrong. Tomato sorbet? You got it. Pavlova ice cream? Yep. Wheat beer ice cream? Easy done.

Gingerbread? Sour cream? Licorice? Musk? Christmas pudding? Gin and tonic? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and YES. (I’ve tried them all.) And John was doing all of these flavours well before he opened the Frugii Dessert Laboratory in the Ori building on Lonsdale Street earlier this year.

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Swan Valley and surrounds: endless experiences*

6 Jul

* I attended this experience as a guest.

It’s a Tuesday night during a sitting week and we’re at Parliament House. But not for work – Swan Valley has come all the way from WA to Canberra to showcase what their region has to offer.

Swan Valley was named by the RSPCA as Australia’s first humane food region: this means throughout the cafes and restaurants you can expect meats to be free-range and eggs to be cage-free. Animal welfare is paramount. Swan Valley is also home to around 150 wineries in the region, so there’s plenty to like!

I find it quite novel that so many producers in a region as far away as Western Australia find the time and effort to come all the way to freezing Canberra – it’s really quite wonderful to have Swan Valley come to us! The whole point, of course, is to convince us of the value of the region so much so that we give them a visit in return. I’m happy to report that there are enough stand-outs for me to genuinely consider a visit – something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

The highlights:

Wild Swan Distilling Company is a microbrewery doing gin and vodka. And not just any vodka, but cold brew coffee vodka and pavlova vodka. I don’t even like coffee and I find the cold brew absolutely genius.

Ti produce tell me their strawberries aren’t quite at their peak yet, but of course they wanted to bring a batch. I’m not sure what their peak looks like: these are among the brightest, sweetest and juiciest I’ve tasted. Within an hour they’ve handed out every single strawberry they’ve brought.

Feral Brewing is a big player in the small brewers scene. I’ve long enjoyed their beers at some of Canberra’s beer festivals and Plonk stocks a great range. It turns out they’re from Swan Valley!

Mike Price of Sittella Winery and Restaurant is one of the key ambassadors for Swan Valley. Having trained in Michelin star restaurants throughout France, his food philosophy involves the least amount of human interference possible. On this cold winter night his roasted carrot shots hit the spot.

Have you been to Swan Valley? Would you go?

Date: Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Want more? http://www.swanvalley.com.au