Friday Reflection: Rod Taylor's bulging city

In my archive I have a photo of the house that grandad built just after the war. The modest brick building sits on the edge of a sheep paddock where you could see clear across to what is now Canberra airport.

Around the suburbs a few shops were emerging to serve the rapidly growing numbers of people as they built the nation’s capital.

When my grandparents arrived in 1927, they lived in a worker’s shack on the side of Mount Ainslie. They went to the opening of the new Parliament House where grandad marched in the honour guard.

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The inspired design of Marion and Walter Burley Griffin has given us a wonderful, liveable city.

After living in cities like Singapore, Bangkok and Sydney, the contrast was striking when we moved to Canberra in the early ’70s. Mum used to say Canberra was like a big country town.

The completion of Scrivener Dam in the 1960s provided us with a beautiful lake; even then it was slightly muddy. Dad and I would drift around in our dinghy, vainly waiting for a puff of wind. I called it Lake Burley Carp Water.

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You could drive from one side to the other in 20 minutes and there were maybe a dozen traffic lights.

You could park nearly anywhere, and I can scarcely recall any parking meters. Canberra was big enough to be interesting yet small enough to be manageable.

Since then, our city has burst its seams, spilling across the landscape. Streams have been converted into concrete and rivers dammed.

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The Ngunnawal lands have been overtaken by housing, office blocks and shopping centres.

We now have traffic jams which, while Melbourne or Sydney would scoff, were never here before.

Property prices have shot up and they’re filling in the edge of our lake to build apartments.

The community is divided over the need to build more roads. The new tramway has people upset, not least because of the stupendous cost.

To pay for all this, the government keeps putting up rates and, in the ultimate, self-perpetuating irony, resorted to selling real estate.

This is not the town we knew. Canberra is still a wonderful place and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but I wonder what it will look like in 10, 20 or 50 years from now.

Read more about how Canberra became a bulging city here.

How has your hometown changed over the years? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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