Flashback Friday: Shining a light on Canberra’s heart

As of 1 January 2018, the management of the City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy transferred from In The City Canberra to the City Renewal Authority. Views expressed in these articles may not reflect the views of the Authority.


Lighting our city centre to make pedestrians feel safe, keep crime rates down and provide interest and focal points can shape urban life after dark. The programmed lanterns in Lonsdale Street trees, the glorious fairy lights in Ainslie Place linking the theatre to the Canberra Centre and the coral-like lights on London Circuit nearby the Melbourne building are examples. All paid for by the 608 commercial property owners in the City and Braddon District (CBD).

Their intention is to create a strong east-west link from the ANU student residences to the Convention Centre, and a north-south link from Haig Park to the government owned and maintained space, Garema Place. The recently installed sensational lighting in four trees in Garema adds to the feeling of safety, belonging, orientation and interest. Placed in trees, these lights change the character of the spaces – in winter on bare limbs and in summer glistening through the leaves.

Lights aloft in Canberra’s CBD – a brief history

  • December 2008 – large snowflake fairy lights create a Christmas glow in two trees nearby the fountain on City Walk and entrance of the Canberra centre
  • 2009 – coral-like lights in five trees on London Circuit, near Mezzalira and West Row Park
  • 2012 – lights along Akuna and Allara Streets, Ainslie Place, Petrie Plaza, Alinga Street, Garema Place and on London Circuit. 15 trees were also decorated in West Row, totalling 70 trees
  • 2012 – programmable lights were installed in the Canberra Times fountain, and handed back to government
  • 2013 and 2014 – a maintenance/renewal program of existing lights. Crystal rain lights in select trees in Bunda Street and new lights in the bus interchange and Alinga Street near the GPO. Rescue lights out of trees removed for the Mayfair Apartments, placed in the nearby laneway of the Melbourne Building; bringing the number of lights in trees up to 120.
  • 2016 and 2017 – the programmable lantern lighting on Lonsdale street median were installed with Government partnering on the power source. This added another 30 trees. This was a significant program that intensified lights in Ainslie Place and nearby trees outside the Legislative Assembly, and Canberra Museum and Gallery
  • 2017 – Garema Place is refreshed with crystal rain lighting, while existing Petrie Plaza tree lighting is refreshed and the trees trimmed.

At one time, there can be about 30 street and pedestrian lights not working in the CBD, which In The City Canberra currently reports via Fix My Street. When we cease trading in about four months, it is hoped others will take over being the eyes and ears to issues in the CBD, and will love and care for our lights legacy as we have done.

We are thrilled the government is ramping up collaborative investment in Canberra’s CBD, because it doesn’t matter what city it is, tourists head for the CBD to feel the social and economic vibe. At present, there are dark parts of our city that are not worthy of a selfie at any time of the day or night.

End Note: A recent article in Her Canberra took this comment about selfie taking out of context.