Skip navigation

Frequently Asked Questions

The ACT is the fastest-growing jurisdiction in Australia with a growth rate of 23% over the last decade. Population projections released by the ACT Government forecast the territory’s population to reach 784,000 in 2060, with the majority of growth seen in the city’s north. Roughly 57% of Canberrans currently live north of Lake Burley Griffin and that proportion is expected to increase to 65% by 2060. Canberra’s status as a regional hub servicing another half a million people from across the border must also be taken into consideration but is often forgotten given its unique geographical position as an enclave within NSW.

Our current infrastructure is not up to scratch and long-term planning and investment is needed urgently. We have the second-oldest convention centre in the country that has received the least amount of funding for upgrades, and our single stadium at Bruce is at the end of its useful life. With the concentration of population growth in the city’s north, and the increased centrality of the CBD courtesy of the further development of Canberra’s light rail network, we have every reason to invest heavily in the redevelopment of Civic as well as its transport links with the rest of the city and beyond. Now is the time for the ACT and Federal Governments to partner with each other and the private sector to build the entire city-to-lake corridor into a thriving social, cultural and economic hub from which spokes extend outward facilitating the free-flowing exchange of ideas, people, innovations and products throughout the Canberra Region.

The ACT has not received its fair share of infrastructure funding from the Commonwealth over the last decade. City Deals were an initiative launched in 2015 by then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with large-scale infrastructure projects, funded in part by substantial Commonwealth contributions, sitting at the heart of each city deal. The first deal was signed in 2016 and a total of nine City Deals and three Regional Deals have now been agreed, including almost $10 billion in Commonwealth investment.

The ACT has seen $0 of that funding as the only jurisdiction without a City or Regional Deal, while some states have multiple.

In the former Coalition Government’s last five years in power, the ACT received only $146 million for new transport infrastructure while the other states and territories shared in $35 billion. That’s just 0.42% of spending despite the ACT accounting for 1.76% of Australia’s total population — roughly 75% less than our fair share. The trend continues with latest Federal Budget papers showing the ACT receiving 40% less than the national per capita average for transport and communication infrastructure spending in 2023-24. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth has committed $2.5 billion to the Brisbane Arena and $240 million for a new stadium in Tasmania.

With Canberra continuing to grow faster than any other capital city in Australia, this inequity in funding needs to be addressed. A long-term infrastructure framework that has the support of our community — and is agreed on by the Federal Government, the ACT Government and the surrounding Local Councils — can help deliver us the funding we need to build and preserve our Canberra. And in uncertain economic times, this framework can create a major project pipeline that will help local industry to build capacity while giving business certainty to invest and grow.

The original City to the Lake vision, which formed part of the ACT Government’s 2014 City Plan, was first unveiled by then-Chief Minister Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher in March 2013. At the heart of the vision was the goal of linking the city to the lakefront for pedestrians, which would be achieved by sending Parkes Way partially underground. Doing so would free up 50,000 square metres of land in Civic for urban infill, bringing an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 new residents into the CBD, while creating space for a city stadium, a new convention centre and a relocated aquatic centre. The Canberra light rail network would play a vital role in providing access to these world-class amenities.

With Canberra’s acute housing shortage only worsening and our ageing event-hosting infrastructure precluding us from major event opportunities, now is the time to seek Commonwealth funding to help fulfil the visionary City to the Lake plan. Centralising urban infill in Civic with a minimum 10% social and affordable housing target will also help preserve the Bush Capital while providing students, professionals, artists, entrepreneurs and essential workers with the lifestyle they expect from a global city.

“1.2 million square metres of diverse mixed use development and in excess of 10,000 new residents can be accommodated in the most accessible locations in Canberra around West Basin, City Hill and along Constitution Avenue, thus delivering high rates of return on the public investment, significant benefits to existing businesses within the CBD and, importantly, a more compact and less car dependent city. This development is the equivalent of three new suburbs in a greenfield estate.”
– Andrew Barr (June 2013)

Canberra is one of the very few planned cities in the world. Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin’s plan for Australia’s National Capital emphasised the integration of natural landscapes, geometric patterns and community. The decisions made now about Canberra’s infrastructure will play a central role in determining its character as our National Capital for the next 100 years. These decisions should align with the Griffins’ original vision for Canberra as described by the National Capital Authority’s 2004 policy framework, The Griffin Legacy.

Lake Burley Griffin is the stunning centrepiece around which Canberra was designed. It has never made sense for Civic to have its back turned on the lake, and to be separated from it by a four-lane dual carriageway. Parkes Way should be tunnelled to make the lake easily accessible on foot all the way from Russell Offices in the west to ANU’s campus in the east.

Beautiful nationally significant structures including the National Museum, the National Library, Questacon, the National Gallery and Parliament House were always intended to be better connected with Civic for pedestrians. Lowering Parkes Way will help realise the internal logic of Griffin’s original vision for the Bush Capital and creating space for modern infrastructure befitting its status as the National Capital.

The need for a new convention centre in Canberra was identified as early as 2001, when the the 17th Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting was relocated from Canberra to Brisbane due to the insufficiency of our local facilities. Former ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope called for a new, federally funded convention centre in 2008, leading to extensive planning and design work from 2010 to 2015 on a proposed ‘Australia Forum’ to be constructed in Civic. But this project never came to fruition.

Canberra is an academic, political and cultural hub and was purpose-built as a meeting place. It should have world-class infrastructure for hosting major conferences, meetings and other corporate events. 

Australia wants to host the Conference of the Parties (COP) and we should be able to host it here in the National Capital. Instead, our convention centre is the second oldest in the country and has received the least amount of funding of any convention centre in Australia. It has been operating at capacity for the past decade, preventing growth of the local conference and event sector.

Of the 292 international business events secured for Australian cities from 2023 to 2029 according to the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux's forward calendar, only two are being hosted in Canberra. These events are forecast to be attended by 325,000 delegates for a total visitor spend of approximately $950 million. Canberra is expected to receive only 50 delegates at each of those events (0.03%) for a total spend of approximately $120,000 (0.01%). That is a tiny fraction of what we could be seeing in tourism and related economic activity courtesy of these events.

Many national peak organisations are headquartered in Canberra and would love to host their conferences here but are often forced to host them elsewhere. A larger convention centre would allow for bigger conferences to take place in the National Capital while also increasing our capacity to host multiple smaller events in the same week during peak periods. The spin-off economic activity generated by such events and enjoyed by local businesses is far-reaching, with an estimated $2.40 returned to the ACT economy over the first two decades for every $1 spent on construction.

A new National Convention Centre should be co-located with a new National Multi-Use Arena in Civic so they can maximise efficiency and the economic return on the investment in their construction, including by sharing back-of-house facilities, parking, staffing and even operators. It makes sense for both facilities to form a combined precinct that can be serviced by a new suite of hotels, restaurants and bars with substantial surge capacity for when major conferences, sporting events and music acts come to town.

Rebuilding Canberra Stadium has been flagged as a priority since 2009, when now-Chief Minister Andrew Barr first floated the idea of a new stadium in Civic, which he continued supporting for many years thereafter.

“Unlike the existing underutilised drive-in/drive-out facilities, a multipurpose venue in the CBD will enable concerts, exhibitions and other recreation and wellbeing activities to thrive. It is close to all of the other attractions in the city centre. It is accessible to all and it will be supported by enhanced public transport. A new stadium anchoring one end of City Walk will bring life to an area that is currently lifeless outside business hours.”
– Andrew Barr (June 2013)

Our local sporting teams and their fans have been left out in the cold at Canberra Stadium in Bruce for too long. The old stadium’s design and facilities are aged, it is disconnected from the rest of the city and it lacks the pre- and post-event amenities needed in the surrounding area to draw a crowd. The success of Canberra’s bid for an A-League men’s soccer team means we will soon be home to three major codes needing a rectangular field, each with both men’s and women’s teams, assuaging any concerns that a new stadium would be under-utilised. Recent analysis found that of 37 high-profile music acts touring Australia, only four played in Canberra compared to 36 in Sydney and Melbourne, eight in Wollongong, six in Fremantle and five in Newcastle. Larger acts will continue to be dissuaded from including Canberra as a stop when on tour due to the existing stadium’s insufficiency in terms of both design and location.

We can renovate the existing stadium or build a new one. The Raiders and Brumbies have made clear their opposition to renovating the existing stadium, saying the construction process will significantly undermine their financial viability. If we are to build a new one, we should choose a location that sets our city up for the future.

Cities all over the world are building new stadia in and around their CBDs. This makes them more attractive for major event organisers, reinvigorating the city centre as well as bringing huge economic benefits to nearby businesses. Canberra should follow this example and construct a National Multi-Use Arena in the city. The tunnelling of Parkes Way — another key element of our plan — will expand the footprint of this site, creating more than enough space for a state-of-the-art facility while better connecting the arena with the lakefront and key public transport links. Designed specifically to host anywhere from smaller concerts for 7,000 people up to major music and sporting events with 25,000 fans in attendance, the National Arena will become the centrepiece of an entertainment precinct in the new city-to-lake corridor, supporting high-quality hospitality, retail and housing developments that re-energise Civic and help realise Canberra’s potential as a global city of the future.

As part of a recent submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Fostering and Promoting the Significance of Australia’s National Capital, the NRL offered three examples showing the economic impact of the kinds of major events that Canberra would be likely to secure with a new venue in Civic:

  • 2023 Women’s State of Origin in Sydney: $2.3 million
  • 2023 Women’s State of Origin in Townsville: $1.9 million
  • 2022 All Stars Game in Sydney: $6.7 million

Bruce is a substandard location for a stadium but prime real estate for housing. When the existing stadium is decommissioned, the Commonwealth land at Bruce should be repurposed for housing to address the acute and accelerating shortage in Canberra, while ensuring the design of the new development supports a major renovation of the Australian Institute of Sport as the nation’s home for elite sport.

A revamped 5,000-seat AIS arena, the University of Canberra’s upgraded 4,000-seat indoor facility Sports Hub 2, ongoing improvements to Manuka Oval and a National Multi-Use Arena can combine to give Canberra world-leading facilities ready to host major events for all key sporting codes at all scales, from domestic competitions to international matches.

Canberra’s live music scene took a beating during the pandemic and has struggled with both unfavourable sound laws and the current lack of a range of venues catering to key gig sizes from 2,000 people all the way up to 25,000 people. Our plan includes converting the old Canberra Theatre into a flat-floor venue with standing room for 2,000 people, including a live-music venue in the new convention centre with a maximum capacity of 5,000 people, upgrading Stage 88 into an outdoor venue modelled on Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl with capacity for 10,000 people, and a purpose-built multi-use arena that has a roofed southern bowl with capacity for 7,000 to 14,000 people under shelter and a maximum capacity of 25,000 if the entire venue is utilised in stadium format. This combination of facilities will give Canberra the ability to host the full range of live music acts and more music festivals by the lake, including multi-day events, while providing the infrastructure needed to support a Civic entertainment precinct with appropriate sound laws to transform our night-time economy.

Civic Pool is ageing and repair works would extend its life only briefly. A new aquatic facility in the City was identified as a high priority of need by the ACT Government in 2013.

The ACT Aquatic Alliance is calling for a new home for lap swimmers and aquatic sports in the inner north. Our plan answers these calls with a new indoor-outdoor pool in the beautiful Commonwealth Park, featuring the iconic 10m diving board and stunning views across to the Brindabellas. The National Capital Authority has stated its support for this plan.

According to a Royal Life Saving report, the ACT received $0 of the combined $316.5 million in Federal Government funding delivered and committed for aquatic facilities across Australia from 2017 to 2022. It is time for us to receive our fair share and use it to lock in a long-awaited plan for the future of Civic Pool.

We have a growing airport situated just eight kilometres from Civic. It should be easily and quickly accessible via public transport. Calls for a light rail line connecting Civic to the airport date back to the year 2000, with the city-to-airport route included on a shortlist of potential Stage Two options released by the ACT Government in 2016.

With the number of passengers using Canberra Airport expected to almost double in the next five years, the airport should be added to our growing light rail network as soon as possible. A light rail line extending from the CBD along Constitution Avenue would connect Civic with residents of Reid and Campbell and the working populations at ASIO Headquarters, Russell Defence Precinct, ADFA, Duntroon, Campbell Office Precinct, the new UNSW Canberra Campus and the Canberra Airport commercial and aviation precinct, equating to a total working population of up to 40,000 along the route.

The line from Civic to the airport could then be extended at the earliest opportunity to form a longer Eastern Loop passing through Fyshwick, Manuka, Kingston, Barton and Parkes before connecting with the planned Stage 2B line. This would improve the connectivity of Fyshwick’s 15,5000-strong working population while also drawing CIT Fyshwick into the innovation district emerging from the city. The Fyshwick Business Association’s November 2022 proposal offers a sensible plan for completing this project in a cost-neutral way by establishing a light rail corridor along the old heavy rail line and redeveloping either side of it to cater for approximately 8,000 to 9,000 new residential dwellings.

All new light rail lines should be accompanied by separated active travel links.

The Federal Government's new requirement that nationally significant infrastructure projects be funded through a 50:50 shared investment with states/territories combines with the ACT Government's relatively limited revenue base to create a new fiscal constraint around large and costly infrastructure projects in Canberra. Given this context, if the new light rail lines cannot be constructed within a realistic timeframe and budget – both to meet the ACT's growing needs and to realise our decarbonisation commitments – alternative public transport solutions could be explored both along and supporting the proposed routes. This could include bus rapid transit (BRT) and smaller electric on-demand buses.

High-speed rail between Canberra and Sydney has been discussed since the early 1980s and in 2022 the Albanese Government fulfilled an election promise by establishing a High Speed Rail Authority tasked with the construction of a high-speed rail network connecting Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

The Canberra Region Joint Organisation (CRJO) advocates for the 11 local Councils surrounding the ACT. In lending its support to the call for a long-term infrastructure plan for the Canberra Region, the CRJO stated its top priority was improving the speed of rail travel between Canberra and Sydney.

An almost four-and-a-half hour train ride from Sydney to Canberra is not conducive to our vision of the National Capital as a global city. Fastrack Australia’s 2023 plan lays out a staged approach to upgrading the existing line, rather than replacing it with a new one. Their proposal offers gradual improvements in speed culminating in a 90-minute Canberra-to-Sydney trip after the fifth stage of works is complete. Fastrack’s assessment of the importance of this project for the Canberra Region contends that reduced travel times will accelerate the growth of regional centres surrounding the ACT, like Yass and Goulburn, by increasing their felt proximity to the city, thereby making faster trains a key enabler of regional economic growth.

Canberra’s light rail network would be connected directly to an upgraded heavy rail line via a rail terminal located at the airport. Canberra Airport included such a terminal in its latest Master Plan — which requires approval from the Federal Department of Infrastructure prior to publication — and has offered to fund the works for this terminal in full.