Molonglo 3 East: worth the wait

Sunset over the Brindabella Ranges and Denman Prospect from the National Arboretum, Canberra.

The Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) will be developed last, likely to be built from west to east. This will mean that the last suburb in the Molonglo Valley will be built within a kilometre from Molonglo Stage 1, where it all started. The irony of this is not lost on those who wish to cycle to Civic, as the most direct route would be through both these suburbs. Still, Molonglo 3 East is shaping up nicely and will be worth the wait.


Update: 2041 in doubt and 2050 more likely

The available information for Molonglo 3 and the history of the Whitlam development would suggest that the 2041 date we have been given for the completion of the Molonglo Valley is very unlikely and 2050 seems more realistic. The exact date is not so important as to accept that it will take much longer than 2041. Read Molonglo 3 East: timeline uncertainty.


Related

The challenges of the topography in Molonglo 3 East and the staging of the Future Urban Area (FUA) is discussed here.

The importance of the intersection connecting Molonglo 3 East with William Hovell Drive and Bindubi Street is discussed here.

The East West Arterial / bridge and the C10 City to Molonglo Cycleway is discussed here.

The Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study and the reports written by the consultant RobertsDay is discussed here.

The Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study and the reports written by the consultant WSP is discussed here.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Molonglo 3 East
  3. The ponds concept
  4. Staging of Molonglo 3 East

Introduction

To build a suburb, we first need to start with building the utility services that are hidden underground. This involves a great deal of civil works and moving lots and lots of dirt. As all the infrastructure is buried out of sight, does not receive a great deal of attention, and therefore often goes unnoticed.

Daniel Kahnemann coined the phrase “what we see is all there is” to capture the way our brain works. The fast thinking part of the brain, which is the brain’s default system, does not consider that which is hidden. These aspects of our lives are silent. They are not considered unless somebody reminds us to which we respond, “yes, we need that”.

This article captures the story of how Molonglo 3 East is shaping up, told in pictures. The story book format, shows enlargements of the drawings found in the WSP report, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study (March 2021). The story is told in the captions.

Overview of Molonglo 3 East

TOPOGRAPHY

Southwest of the Molonglo River the site is characterised by mainly undulating land with isolated moderately inclined rolling hills. To the northeast of the river the topography is mainly gently undulating and also has areas of isolated moderately inclined rolling hills. In the north western portion of the site, the Molonglo River is sinuous and deeply incised with the lowest elevation in the study area of 470m. The steepest slopes in the study area are found along the northern reaches of the river with large rocky bluffs up to 60m high and slopes of about 40°.

RobertsDay, Background Report Review, Molonglo 3 East, May 2020, 131.
Figure 11.1 Molonglo 3 East design concept plan, Outcomes Report, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 88
Figure 11.1 Molonglo 3 East design concept plan, Outcomes Report, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 88
Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) with Mount Paint left (north), John Gorton Drive in the bottom left (west), the National Arboretum in the middle and the east section opposite Coombs in the bottom right. The local centres are left and right with the group centre in the middle.
Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) with Mount Painter left (north), John Gorton Drive in the bottom left (west), the National Arboretum in the middle (east) and the southern suburb opposite Coombs in the bottom right (south). The local centres are left and right with the group centre in the middle. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270
Ground elevation for Molonglo 3 East with the very deep river corridor (red) and the hills (blue) of the National Arboretum in the middle and Mount Painter left. Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) takes up the central flatter areas. Particularly the central valley along Coppins Creek is very attractive.
Ground elevation for Molonglo 3 East with the very deep river corridor (red) and the hills (blue) of the National Arboretum (middle) and Mount Painter (left). Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) takes up the central flatter areas. Particularly the central valley along Coppins Creek is very attractive. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270
The far east of the Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) opposite Coombs. The proximity of the suburb to Coombs make a pedestrian bridge connection between the two communities in the north and south very attractive. Due to the staging - Coombs was the first and the suburb will be the last, it is very likely that such a development will follow in the 2040s.
The far south of the Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) opposite Coombs. The proximity of the suburb to Coombs make a pedestrian bridge connection between the two communities in the north and south very attractive. Due to the staging, the last suburb of Molonglo 3 is less than 1 kilometre from one of the first, but the completion dates are 20 years apart. A pedestrian bridge has been discussed in 2020-2021 but could be built last. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270

The many ponds concept

Molonglo 3 East will become known for its many ponds. For environmental reasons, many ponds are preferred over one big dam. TCCS prefers big dams, as we will see in Whitlam, as they are easier to maintain, however, for the local community ponds are likely to be the preferred solution.

The purpose of the many ponds is to capture the pollution from suburbia and to clean the water before it is released into the Molonglo River. Designing the suburb for this purpose has a name: WSUD.

Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) – Water sensitive urban design is the planning, design or construction of the built environment to minimise water runoff and ensure any runoff causes the least amount of damage. It is also about the wise use of that water to improve our urban environment, such as the Dickson Wetlands.

City And Gateway Urban Design Framework, December 2018, 77.

The Molonglo Valley development has been challenged by the environmental protection of the Molonglo Valley River Reserve, which has both a federal (NES) and territory management plan (Molonglo Valley River Reserve Plan). Further, the Molonglo development is boxed in by Kama, in the west, the National Arboretum, in the east, and large water catchment areas to the north, which are part of the Canberra Nature Park.

The image below shows the many ponds that will be scattered across the Molonglo 3 East development.

many ponds concept - the Bindubi Street extension
The design favours a many ponds concept for the management of stormwater rather than a big dam such as it Whitlam. Here the Bindubi Street extension. William Hovell Drive runs along the top of the development. The local centre is planned (foreground).
many ponds concept - past the group centre
The many ponds concept, showing the green corridor along Coppins Creek past the group centre. The design provides both ecological value and amenity for residents. The corridor will likely be also used for the light rail that is decouple from the collector road network.
many ponds concept - bioswale and east corner
The many ponds concept in the area of Molonglo 3 East opposite the suburb of Molonglo. Each area of this suburb has its own retention pond. The bioswale in the centre is a type of intermittent creek that captures the stormwater and pollutants.
bioretention pond in bottom corner opposite Coombs
The bioretention pond in bottom, far east corner, opposite Coombs. This suburb is ideally connected to Coombs, but at this stage no bridge is planned.

Staging of Molonglo 3 East

The ACT Government has already published an indicative release program for new blocks Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area (FUA) (discussed in the RobertsDay Proof of Concept 2019). The suburb opposite Whitlam on John Gorton Drive is planned for the first development. The staging will see the Suburban Land Agency then work east and south, until they arrive back at Coombs, where it all began 40 years earlier (2010-2050).

DEVELOPMENT PHASING

9.1.1 INITIAL PHASING

Stage One should be located along John Gorton Drive to take advantage of the establishment of Whitlam and create a cluster of new residential development. The key collector roads through Molonglo 3 East align with the new intersections along John Gorton Drive into Whitlam.

Stage One will take advantage of the proposed Primary School and Local Centre within Whitlam as part of this stage is located within a 10-minute walk of these amenities.

There is an opportunity for small convenience retail and/or cafes along Coppins Creek to establish a community hub within Molonglo that will eventually continue along the eastern side of the creek with the future Group Centre.

Housing diversity should be considered in Stage One to set a precedence for the remaining stages within Molonglo. Given the extent of steep topography throughout the region, a demonstration precinct that includes slope responsive built form should be established.

Any works on the Coppins Creek corridor, including ponds, the road corridor and proposed IPT should be excluded as part of the initial phase of works. It is suggested that these are included as part of Phase Two.

9.1.2 OTHER STAGES

Limiting major infrastructure upgrades such as the new Bindubi Street intersection and the East-West arterial will dictate the subsequent stages. The second stage should be on the eastern side of Coppins Creek using the collector roads from stage one for access. This will establish the heart of Molonglo with the Group Centre and schools and create a permanent water body between the first two phases using the new embankment as the road crossing between stages.

The quantity of dwellings within these stages will likely trigger the requirement for the Bindubi Street intersection to provide an alternative access/egress into the precinct, which will establish the third stage. The fourth and fifth stages will be developed towards the south in anticipation of the East-West arterial being completed.

WSP, Outcomes Report, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 84.
The north east corner of the Molonglo 3 East is currently planned for the first release (sale) of blocks. This area is opposite Whitlam. Interestingly, the sewer line extends the whole length of the Bindubi Street Extension. If the Northern Corridor is finished early and priority is given to the Bindubi / William Hovell Drive Interchange, we may see an off-road, bike only route between Whitlam and the CBR Cycle Route C5 to Belconnen and the Glenloch Interchange.
The north-west corner of the Molonglo 3 East is currently planned for the first release (sale) of blocks. This area is opposite Whitlam. Interestingly, the sewer line extends to the whole length of the Bindubi Street Extension. If the Northern Corridor is finished early and priority is given to the Bindubi / William Hovell Drive Interchange, we may see an off-road, bike only route between Whitlam and the CBR Cycle Route C5 to Belconnen and the Glenloch Interchange. The local centre would be part of this development. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270
Sewerage catchment areas will influence the staging of the suburbs. Here the town centre and the central trunk sewer along the Coppins Creek.
Sewerage catchment areas will influence the staging of the suburbs. Here the town centre and the central trunk sewer along the Coppins Creek. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270
Overview of the trunk sewer routes in Molonglo 3 East and how the Future Urban Area (FUA) is broken up into three sections - west, middle, east. The Group Centre is the middle and the east and west sections have their own local centres. The local centre in the west is important as it will be finished years before the group centre.
Overview of the trunk sewer routes in Molonglo 3 East and how the Future Urban Area (FUA) is broken up into three sections – west, middle, south. The Group Centre is the middle and the south and north sections have their own local centres. The local centre in the west is important as it will be finished years before the group centre. WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270
Sewerage catchment areas will influence the staging of the suburbs. Here the eastern corner of the Molonglo 3 East development opposite Coombs.
Sewerage catchment areas will influence the staging of the suburbs. Here is the southern corner of the Molonglo 3 East development opposite Coombs. The final stage and unfortunately includes the East West Arterial which is essential for the CBR Cycle Route C10 Civic to Coombs and dates the completion in the mid to late 2030s.WSP, Drawings, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study, March 2021, 270

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