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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
Allocation of land to diplomatic missions in the Australian Capital Territory
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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
Humphries, Sen Gary
Leigh, Andrew, MP
Brodtmann, Gai, MP
Assistant Commissioner Outram
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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
(Joint-Friday, 15 February 2013)
Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories - 15/02/2013 - Allocation of land to diplomatic missions in the Australian Capital Territory
COWAN, Dr Alan, Secretary, Save Stirling Park Group
FATSEAS, Ms Marea, President, Yarralumla Residents Association
HARVEY, Mr David, Vice President, Yarralumla Residents Association
JOHNSTONE, Ms Diane Katrina, Secretary, Deakin Residents' Association Inc.
LEWIS, Mr Michael Kenneth, Committee Member, Save Stirling Park Group
ODGERS, Mr Brett, Convenor, Walter Burley Griffin Society Inc.
WURFEL, Mr Peter, President, Deakin Residents' Association Inc.
CHAIR: Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is considered a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I would now like to ask in turn each organisation to give an opening statement to the committee.
Dr Cowan : Thanks, Madam Chair. The National Capital Authority is not an independent agency when it comes to new diplomatic areas. We consider that the NCA should not have sole responsibility for both planning and developing diplomatic estates and approving the development. That means there is no independent authority that protects the interests of the public. To ensure independent scrutiny and transparency there should be a separation of these two responsibilities, as happens in other normal property developments.
In our view, diplomatic property management should be the responsibility of either the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, because of their diplomatic relations aspects, or the Department of Finance and Administration, because of their property management expertise. Planning for diplomatic estates is not integrated with planning for the ACT as a whole. It is done in isolation, yet it still has externalities that impact on Canberra. There needs to be closer cooperation between the ACT government, on the one hand, and the Australian government NCA to coordinate the ACT urban development with the need for diplomatic accommodation.
The need for a new diplomatic estate is not urgent. It is interesting to note that some 40 per cent of the diplomatic estate is actually undeveloped. We believe the current demand for 15 blocks can be met from the six vacant and the 22 undeveloped blocks within the existing diplomatic estate. There is also the potential for another 12 blocks from subdividing existing blocks. Countries wishing to establish a new diplomatic mission in Canberra can also be located in commercial office space or in O'Malley, where there is ample accommodation available in the special residential area set aside for diplomatic use.
We do not object to diplomatic estates as such, but it needs to be recognised that chanceries are essentially office premises and should be subject to the sorts of constraints to which a commercial business park would be subject. In particular, they should not be located in residential areas where they will impact on the amenity of Canberra residents. Also, there are no agreed guidelines as to where a new diplomatic estate might be located. This means that planning for diplomatic estates is ad hoc and piecemeal. We can see there is a need for guidelines that balance the long-term need for embassies with the preservation of the inner green spaces which make Canberra the bush capital and the garden city that it is.
We have suggested the following criteria for selecting sites for diplomatic estates that meet long-term needs: appropriate price signals should apply; consistent with the ACT's urban development; does not alienate community use; does not harm the environment; has no impact on local residences; has local and broader community support; will not impact on local traffic; is protected from bushfire; protects Indigenous and European heritage; can provide acceptable security.
We do not consider that proximity to Parliament House, government departments and other diplomatic enclaves or a prestigious location are relevant criteria in Canberra in the 21st century with today's sophisticated electronic communications and with easy vehicular access around the city. Locations which meet some or all of these guidelines include the following: the North Curtin horse paddocks, the Molonglo Valley, the Yarralumla brickworks, the south side of Carruthers Street, Hughes, sites to the north of Lake Burley Griffin and commercial zones.
In conclusion, your terms of reference do not extend to Stirling Ridge but since the subject has been raised we would like to refute most strongly the NCA's bald assertion that the Stirling Ridge development will have no negative environmental impact. On the contrary, it is an extremely precious environmental area. We are happy to discuss that in the course of questions if we are asked to do so.
Mr Wurfel : By way of an opening statement, we would like to note that leases are granted under terms of the Leases (Special Purposes) Ordinance 1925, and we note that the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that Australia has an obligation to either:
… facilitate the acquisition on its territory, in accordance with its laws, by the sending State of premises necessary for its mission or assist the latter in obtaining accommodation in some other way.
So it is a requirement to 'facilitate the acquisition' on its territory by the sending state, or 'assist the latter' in obtaining accommodation. The DRA believes that the requirement to facilitate is interpretable, and it is possible that governments in Australia have been too flexible and generous when compared with those of other countries.
Deakin residents understand the importance of accommodating diplomatic missions in the national capital. There are a number of missions in Deakin, primarily in west Deakin. We welcome those current missions. However, in a rapidly growing city with increased densification, there are pressures on precious green open space and on residential areas. Areas close to the centre are under particular pressure. Urban open spaces are becoming more valuable—not less. Rather than an apparently ad hoc approach to allocating land for diplomatic missions, it is time for a long-term policy that is appropriate to Canberra's future, gives guidance to planners and diplomatic policy makers and gives certainty to residents of the inner areas of Canberra—particularly including those in Deakin—into the future.
Much of Deakin is subject to both the territory plan and the National Capital Plan, and this is true also for Yarralumla. These plans interrelate, and for this reason it is surprising and also disappointing that the ACT government, as far as I can see, is not at this public hearing. It is especially surprising, given the trend to high and medium development in Canberra and the need to protect streetscapes, maintain the character of inner South Canberra and manage the impact of traffic, parking and security with respect to any current and future diplomatic missions. We would have expected some leadership from the ACT government which would have been consistent with, and represented the needs of, ACT residents.
The DRA notes the status of reserved, leased, developed, undeveloped and potentially unviable leases in Deakin West. We consider that these leases should quickly be brought to finality as part of the current process. The DRA believes that, rather than identifying and allocating greenfield land, the key priority is to address the current stock of leases, including buyback of those already allocated, and to effectively manage development conditions for these leases in conjunction with the ACT government.
In looking at what should occur after this, the committee might consider policies that apply in other national capitals with limited available land. We consider that, as in many other capital cities, the need for overseas missions could be satisfied through the open commercial market. This would create certainty, openness and transparency for all parties—residents, developers and, indeed, foreign missions.
If there is to be any consideration of future sites for estates, the Curtin horse paddocks—recommended by a consultant to the NCA—and the Yarralumla brickworks site—preferred by inner-south residents in a recent consultation process—should be considered ahead of Stirling Ridge, which is a green area well used and increasingly valued by both Deakin and Yarralumla residents.
In conclusion, we look forward to committee recommendations that are appropriate to a rapidly growing and quickly densifying city, that bring rationality to locating diplomatic missions, certainty to the residents of Canberra and future generations, and that are implemented quickly.
Ms Fatseas : The YRA believes that Canberra needs a long-term strategy for diplomatic missions in the 21st century. Time has moved on, and we need to have a new approach. This requires that we be informed by best practice in similar countries, that we ensure that the strategy can be implemented consistently, that we can be confident that there will be compliance with the policy—whatever that may be—and that we can ensure that valuable national land that is set aside for diplomatic missions is used efficiently.
In the short term, the YRA would like to see: the release of sites leased or reserved for diplomatic missions that have not been developed within time frames set out in DFAT's protocol guidelines; that the NCA continues canvassing diplomatic missions about disposal of land excess to their needs; that the NCA also looks at more use of commercial office space for diplomatic missions; that the NCA resumes work on its feasibility study of the Canberra brickworks surrounds as a diplomatic precinct; and that the NCA undertakes a feasibility study on developing a diplomatic precinct in areas such as the new Molonglo suburbs.
We consider the NCA's proposed development of an embassy precinct in Stirling Park to be inconsistent with Walter Burley Griffin's plan and the Griffin legacy amendments. It is also inconsistent with the Lake Burley Griffin and Adjacent Lands Heritage Management Plan. These envisage natural woodland and a naturalistic foreshore. Our membership has strongly endorsed criteria for evaluating future proposals to establish diplomatic precincts in Yarralumla wherever they may be in the suburb and for any development overall in the suburb. These are to minimise traffic congestion in the suburb, to ensure there is adequate parking, to maximise the visual buffer between developments and existing residential areas, to ensure that relevant government departments consult with the YRA on subdivision plans, to minimise the impact on existing trees, to ensure adherence to advice from the environmental experts on measures to minimise the impact of development, including firebreaks and pedestrian access, and to ensure continued easy pedestrian access to open green spaces and pedestrian safety. That is the position of the Yarralumla Residents Association.
Mr Odgers : I thank the committee for this opportunity. We believe the inquiry is very important and timely. When we questioned the NCA in 2007 over National Capital Plan draft amendment 66 regarding the allocation of two new diplomatic blocks adjacent to State Circle we raised the same issues as the present inquiry. Our concerns remain. The promised review of O'Malley announced shortly after that matter obviously has not happened. The NCA still lacks anywhere near an adequate database regarding landscape, ecological, heritage, open space and amenity values of Yarralumla, for example, particularly from city hill down to the lake foreshores. That is primarily public interest, which was spoken about by Ms Penn.
Moreover, the NCA demonstrably, particularly with respect to DA78, is inconsistent with their own National Capital Plan. It is their responsibility to be consistent at least and to fulfil the National Capital Plan. They have demonstrably failed with respect to DA78 and Stirling Ridge. The great concern of course is that we do not have an orderly and prospective land use policy with the allocation of zones and blocks. Naturally they need to cluster.
Historically, going back to the 1960s the United Kingdom had imperial blocks on Commonwealth Avenue. In the 1940s the United States of America estate was more or less on the site that Walter Burley Griffin marked for the Governor-General's residence. Decisions even since then have paid no heed to the National Capital Plan and alternative prospective demands on the national land bank. Land in the central national area of Canberra is now becoming scarce at the same time as numerous prospective demands for national land are emerging. Even the earlier DA66 directly impacted on the purposes of Casey House, once reserved as a residence for the federal Treasurer, and Darwin Avenue, the last of the state and territory radials symbolising Federation.
Griffin's plan envisaged for Capital Hill and environs national symbolism, the legible distribution of various government agencies both Commonwealth and state, residences for senior officials, ceremonial places, commemoratives structures, parks and open spaces, vistas, preservation of heritage and representations of international organisations, particularly as Australia's role expands in world affairs.
What has evolved, in fact, are encirclement and imbalances, by foreign embassies all around Parliament House and Capital Hill.
Washington DC, as Senator Humphries has pointed out in another context, has a comprehensive plan for zoning seven categories of federal elements—the sorts of things I have just been talking about. Of these seven elements, or functions, of the national capital and seat of government, foreign missions and international organisations is but one. The zones embrace all quadrants of the District of Columbia. The balance and development of all federal elements are planned with public participation and reviewed every 10 years or so. There is one being wound up just this year.
Our conclusions and recommendations call for clarification of responsibilities by the federal agencies, preparation of a database on the parameters of land supply and demand, and formulation of a strategy for diplomatic estates consistent with the National Capital Plan. An essential element is the proper appraisal of the O'Malley estate and, as a consequence, the NCA should withdraw DA78. Thank you.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Dr Cowan, you made the point that the environmental values of the area designated for diplomatic residences, or diplomatic structures, on Stirling Ridge have high environmental values, and the NCA has conceded that. Could you elaborate on that point and explain why you feel that they are sensitive?
Dr Cowan : Yes. If I may—we have to go back a little bit. The NCA commissioned two reports. The first one by Alison Rowell, which was published in March last year, addressed specifically the environmental values of Red Hill, the brickworks and the Stirling Ridge sites. Subsequently the larger report, the SGS report, which was published, I think, in September last year, took all of their environmental investigations straight out of the Rowell report, as far as we can see. They did not do any independent investigation of their own; they simply took Alison Rowell's results.
We have to look at the way in which Alison Rowell made her evaluation. Her terms of reference were to look at the environmental impacts of—forgetting the brickworks—the Red Hill site adjacent to The Federal Golf Club which would have involved a site in the existing bushland on the one hand, and on the other hand the Stirling Ridge site. Because the proposed site on Red Hill was in the middle of bushland and would inevitably involve the destruction of some native bush she went into considerable detail on the possible environmental values there. In particular, she investigated the possibility of the existence there of a number of endangered or threatened species, particularly a number of bird species.
She did a similar investigation at Stirling Ridge but she confined herself very strictly to her terms of reference which were to look at the proposed site for a development on Stirling Ridge. That proposed site, of course, is almost entirely within the grassland and does not, on the face of it, impinge on the woodland. As a result, she evaluated the environmental values of the grassland and, in effect, made a comparison with the environmental values of destroying native bush on Red Hill. Obviously, this was a completely false comparison and a travesty of environmental assessment. I am not blaming her so much as her self-imposed terms of reference.
I have lived in the vicinity of Stirling Ridge for 25 years, I have walked there every day and I have compiled a list of 95 bird species, as well as a number of mammals and reptiles. The site is of great value and consists of not only grassland but also the woodland on the ridge, and at the eastern end the pin oaks, which line Fitzgerald Street, and the pine plantation at the western end of the reserve.
Once you start this proposed development, it would involve the destruction of many of those pin oak trees and all or most of the pine trees, a substantial fringe of the native woodland along the ridge with a fire zone of unspecified width and, of course, all sorts of other threats to the environment there such as would come with development—noise, lights, security, domestic animals, weed invasion, water run-off and so on. So we regard it as an extremely valuable area, and those trees are not just exotic trees, they are also feeding and shelter trees for birds and they provide corridors along which birds can move from one part of the area to another. Once you start destroying things around the edges, you are degrading, you are fragmenting and you are greatly diminishing the environmental value of this area. It is probably the last extensive area of native woodland within the inner city. If it goes, it would be an unmitigated tragedy.
Mr Lewis : The Commonwealth heritage database lists Stirling Ridge as an indicative place, one that has high environmental value, and it describes where the NCA is proposing to build embassies as a buffer zone. It actually states:
The lower slopes, here regarded as buffer zone, are, for the most part, open parkland with some plantings of exotic trees.
NCA's argument is: this is just grassland with some pine trees along it and it is not worth very much. But it is actually pretty valuable as a buffer zone, let alone in its own right. I just wanted to add that.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I take your point, but from our point of view we have the advice of an organisation which is commissioned to protect the values of the parliamentary zone and areas adjacent to it. It has a report which it has commissioned. You pointed out that this report by Alison Rowell is flawed. Where can we look for clear evidence of the values that you speak about? Obviously you people are there all the time, you have knowledge of the fauna and flora of the area and you are able to talk to us convincingly about the things that you see there. We have to act on the basis of evidence, and the evidence we have of a professional nature—I put it in those terms—from a person who has given us this report needs to be offset by something else. Is there anything that has been done, which you are aware of, that would provide an alternative assessment of the environmental values of that area that we could rely on, or is there value in commissioning some work of that kind from somebody who would be considered reliable but obviously is not the same source that the NCA has used?
Dr Cowan : I think it would be of great value, because as I have said, with respect, I think that the NCA's assertion that there is no environmental value there is based on these two reports. One report simply repeats the other. The first report, as I have tried to indicate, is flawed because of the self-imposed terms of reference. I would be delighted to see a proper expert environmental investigation carried out, of course. I have documented material on what I have seen there just as an individual.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I direct this question to the Yarralumla Residents Association. Having been around for a while, I had dealings with YRA before as planning minister in the ACT 15 years or so ago when the key issue was the redevelopment of the brickworks site. At that stage, with different personnel in place, there was a very strong concern from the YRA about the thought of development that involved a residential component on that site. Your submission suggests that a survey of the residents now is more amenable towards residential development there, but I would like to get a clear indication from you. Is your position that you would support some kind of development on that site that included a residential component, or is that still unresolved policy as far as the residents are concerned?
Ms Fatseas : If you are talking about the brickworks, I think it is not actually the high-density residential development that the residents have said that they would be more amenable to. It is really in relation to the comparison of having diplomatic missions near the brickworks as compared to high-density residential development. So it is that distinction.
The feedback we are getting is that the residents are more amenable to looking at the idea of diplomatic missions near the brickworks.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Near but not actually within the precinct of the—
Ms Fatseas : In the surrounds; obviously not in the actual brickworks.
Senator HUMPHRIES: You would prefer that was a sort of heritage area. I think that was the position that you have taken in the past.
Ms Fatseas : Yes, especially now that the railway tracks have been heritage listed; they run right through that whole area. The position of the YRA is that we would be more amenable to looking at the idea of diplomatic missions in the brickworks surrounds—certainly more so than Stirling Park—but of course we would want to see whatever proposals are put up. It is not a blank cheque, because we would want to make sure that whatever is proposed is in keeping with the character of the area and complies with the principles that we outlined before. We do not want to see, for example, that if we say we are amenable to having diplomatic missions we end up getting a huge density of diplomatic missions which may be just as out of character with the suburb as higher density residential.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I have one more question for the Walter Burley Griffin Society. The society has made a number of comments to a number of inquiries that this committee has conducted about the degradation of the Griffin vision for Canberra. It obviously feels very strongly that much has been lost from the original Griffin vision. In this context you obviously want to reinstate or reinforce part of that vision which might be lost, I assume, if this approach is taken. Can I get a sense from you about how realistic it is to rebuild that vision at this point in time? Has it been irrevocably lost or is there any point in putting bits of it back when the coherence of that vision, from the point of view that you have articulated repeatedly to the committee, might well have been impossibly degraded?
Mr Odgers : The NCA's Griffin Legacy 2004 and then on the statute book in 2007 with the Griffin Legacy Amendments set out to identify (1) what has been irrevocably lost, (2) what could be conserved and protected for the time being and (3) what is the potential in the future—what contingency planning could be made. Under the first heading, practically all of it is lost. What is left to be conserved and protected as being important to the original vision for the national capital and the award-winning plan are the land and water axes, the Parliamentary Triangle and the potential for enhancing the symbolism and legibility of the central national area for visitors and residents alike—and Australians generally—to recognise their national capital.
There are still main axes and boulevards, which many architects and town planners around Canberra recognise as having the potential to fulfil a denser, more compact Canberra, to build up different hierarchies of housing and support and infrastructure for a stronger public transport system, which was also part of the Griffin plan. There are a lot of principles and actual streets, avenues and boulevards, numbering 15 to 20—Adelaide Avenue is one that constantly comes up—and these are also under threat for different reasons. But the land and water axes are under threat—they come into category 2.
The potential for the long term is essentially to develop a national capital which is a great national capital, which symbolises Canberra and which is sustainable. A lot of aspects of the way Walter and Marion conducted their lives and the way they designed Canberra, in contemporary terms, exemplify what is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.
That feeds back in on the area we are talking about. I gestured about the area at the foot of Capital Hill and down to the lake foreshores: this particular area, and around Capital Hill generally, contains the radials. But it is scarce land. Already, I am arguing, there is an inordinate diplomatic presence at the foot of Capital Hill, and Stirling Ridge clearly comes into this context, because with DA66, the earlier one, we were arguing about the occupation of land by the new Chinese embassy and the forthcoming Russian embassy, and about that other land, which was set aside. The tree cover, the landscape amenities, the vistas and the continuity from the landscaping of Capital Hill down to the lake foreshores is steadily disappearing and eroding. We have both visited Washington in the last few years, and you can see the mix and the diversity and the great capital city having symbolism. There is so much room for protecting this distribution of federal elements in the environs of Parliament House.
Dr LEIGH: I just want to raise a question with Dr Cowan. You said in your submission that you thought DFAT was overestimating the need for new embassies. My back-of-the-envelope calculations are: end of World War II, 74 countries; the United Nations now has 193 members. So that is roughly two new countries a year that the world has created since the end of World War II. The fundamentals of that are that, as trade barriers go down, the cost of splitting a country in half is lower than it once was, and I cannot see that changing. So I would have thought the trajectory of the world generating about two new countries a year is a reasonable one, and DFAT's projections of us needing a couple of new embassies a year therefore seems, intuitively, sensible. What is wrong with that?
Dr Cowan : Could I ask my colleague to answer that?
Mr Lewis : I think the point we were trying to make was that there has been an expansion of countries in recent years as a result of the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and so there has been a bit of a spurt lately. But also most of the countries that we have major trade and diplomatic and defence relationships with are already here. I guess we are getting into diminishing marginal returns in terms of countries that might want to come here. It is very difficult to predict the number of countries that will come here. Things change. Countries split, as you say. But we think that, say, 40 to 50 countries, which was one of the figures being bandied around, over the next 25 years is probably a bit excessive, but it is just difficult to forecast.
One of the other things we were concerned about is that all of the figures talk about the new countries that are coming here but seem to forget about those countries that actually leave—there are not many, I agree, but Syria has left, and North Korea left, though it might be coming back; who knows? You need to look at both countries that are coming here and those that are leaving.
Dr LEIGH: It seems less likely to me that the world will fail to create new countries at the same rate. I suppose the only possibility that occurs to me is if the new countries are so small that they do not want an embassy in Australia; that seems more plausible than the notion that suddenly the world will go off its trajectory of the past 70-odd years of generating a couple of new countries a year. This is not just the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is steady all the way from World War II.
Mr Lewis : Or if they do come here then they might want to rent. There is this enormous focus on new diplomatic estates. There are other options, as we know. There is commercial accommodation; there is rental accommodation. The area of O'Malley has been specifically set aside as a diplomatic enclave. It is secure. It only has one road in and one road out. It was specifically designed as a diplomatic enclave. The ACT territory zoning has designated it for diplomatic use.
Dr LEIGH: Do any of you have concerns that if there were inducements for countries to take parcels of land in O'Malley that they did not particularly want, that that might lead to the risk of those parcels remaining undeveloped for a number of years?
Mr Lewis : I do not quite follow you.
Dr LEIGH: One of the arguments that I understood the NCA to have been making was that there has been a reluctance to take on some of the rockier parcels of land in O'Malley. If you twist somebody's arm to take on a parcel of land, they might well say, 'Yes, we will take it,' but then take a wet week to build on it, with all the frustrations for residents that that generates.
Mr Lewis : I do not have a problem with not developing those 12 steep blocks. They are very steep. In fact, I understand that the NCDC at one stage said they were never intended to be developed. In our calculations, for example, we have looked at the number of blocks in O'Malley as part of the national land for the diplomatic estate and I think there are something like 11 blocks there that are quite flat and level, without any environmental problems, yet there is only one building on them. The rest are reserved. The UAE I think has got four or five blocks reserved. There is another block reserved for Laos. The Syrians have just given up two blocks, which are now back in the pool. Of the diplomatic estate in O'Malley, there are 12 steep blocks. I do not think they could be built—I do not know—although the NCA says they could perhaps sell them to the private sector. But of the remaining 11 blocks, there is only one building—the Croatian embassy, I think—and the rest of them are vacant.
Ms Fatseas : I would like to add to that. I think your question really strikes at the heart of one of the main problems that has not been addressed yet so far, but in a different way to what you just described. The risk is not only that people who get land that they do not want might delay building on it, but also that people who get land in areas where they do want to have a presence are not building within the timeframes. DFAT has protocol guidelines, which are not mentioned in their submission but are mentioned in the NCA's submission, that say that if land is allocated to a diplomatic mission, they should start building within 18 months and complete building within three years. Quite clearly, walking around Yarralumla, you can see a few vacant blocks that have been there for years and years. I guess that is a key problem with establishing a public policy when you cannot enforce it. Any policy that is developed should be able to be complied with. If you are going to establish a policy that you cannot enforce because of foreign policy considerations then what is the point of establishing policy of that kind?
Dr LEIGH: I though foreign policy was inherently unenforceable, because you cannot apply your rules automatically to other countries. So this becomes an issue of diplomacy rather than legality.
Ms Fatseas : I think really we should be developing a long-term strategy that is not as easily subject to those sorts of problems. Otherwise you could have an issue that you establish more blocks in Stirling Park because diplomatic missions say they want the missions there, but then find that you fence off that area so that it is no longer a community amenity but that it is still not built on 10 years later. If you are looking at a long-term strategy, it should be ideally something you know will not strike these sorts of problems because it leads to inefficient land use.
Dr LEIGH: I do not think you are ever going to be able to take the diplomacy out of the allocation of diplomatic estates, but are there clever inducements that could be used to encourage more rapid development?
Ms Fatseas : I think the idea of having specific precincts that are planned to meet the needs of larger numbers of embassies is a good one. For example, the idea of having an area within Molonglo is something that would be a longer-term strategy, together with a mix. I think it is about having a diversity of approaches that could meet the needs of different diplomatic missions. So you might have some commercial office space, you might have some land in existing areas, in existing diplomatic precincts, and you might perhaps have an existing mission surrendering some land so that another mission can also have some of that land. It could also mean having custom-built areas in new areas like Molonglo.
I think it is having that diversity of approaches so that they can actually have greater choice.
Dr LEIGH: I think that is an important point, but it is different to what I was arguing, which is that you might take a parcel you really like but then delay on developing it. One of the challenges for us is thinking about what the right public policy approach is to encourage rapid development on sites.
Mr Odgers : Senator, may I comment about O'Malley, which was designed as an adequate and secure diplomatic estate. In our submission, at paragraph 15, I deal with this issue about topography. I know for a fact—I have some correspondence at home, though the result of the correspondence was a verbal—that there are about eight or nine blocks on the hillside below the Croatian embassy, alongside Yamba Drive, and they were scrubbed by the NCDC. They had already built Jindalee Crescent, but they scrubbed those on the hillside because it was foolish and it breached the rule that you do not build on prominent hillsides in Canberra. Now, excluding those particular blocks, and many of them have been mentioned today already—a figure of 11 is given there—my count is that there are 10 designated blocks between Culgoa and Jindalee streets which have, indeed, been mentioned as 11. Across the way, on the southern side of Jindalee, I would say there is ample scope for four or five blocks, particularly as they are being scaled down now.
In the last year, I have seen two new chancelleries established in Dunoon Street. Dunoon actually runs into Culgoa and Jindalee. We are getting, right now, a sort of clustering of embassies, maybe of like mind. The newer ones, of course, are leased, presumably under the ACT leasehold system, from the market or dealing with the ACT government. So by my count we have something like 23 readily available blocks—and this is in O'Malley that could be developed—not counting those that are taken from the private sector. Therefore, what we need, because my figures can be questioned, no doubt, is a proper review of the O'Malley estate. It has been neglected, in that sense, as being a supply and as being an amenable area. It is designed to be so, and it is a very agreeable place to be in, as it is not far from anywhere else in the national capital.
Mr Wurfel : Can I make an observation. It relates to two things, one of which is your comment about what incentives could be given to foreign missions. They already have a significant incentive in that these are very privileged positions to be in, to be able to have on offer—places in Yarralumla, Deakin and O'Malley. They enjoy privileges that residents of Canberra do not enjoy, in part, too, because, as the president of Yarralumla Residents Association has indicated, a number of them have not built, even though those sites were issued to them quite some years ago. So they are already enjoying significant incentives and benefits. The question arises, of course, as to the sorts of things that Gary Rake from the National Capital Authority was saying, which is that there are opportunities for the existing stock of sites to be better managed. We would welcome that, and, in fact, that is a clear thrust of what we are putting forward. We would welcome that happening, and buybacks, if that could be facilitated. So we need some firm and clear and timely action on the part of the National Capital Authority and the government to enable that to happen.
The incentive, if you like, is for foreign missions to fulfil the responsibilities that have been negotiated related to the sites that are already allocated with the realisation that we are moving forward with certainty, openness and transparency to a new way of operating which requires those diplomatic estates, when they are offered, to actually be implemented in terms of their built missions, particularly if you follow the logic through to the stage that Gary Rake was talking about, as to a process that involves a raft of different solutions which could be medium density, high density or operating in the commercial world that would be negotiated by them but facilitated by the government. So the incentives are already there but they have not taken advantage of them. If we produce certainty for them and certainty for the Canberra community and certainty for government, then there is no need for incentives apart from what we are required to deliver under international obligations, which is to facilitate the process.
Ms Fatseas : If I could add to my colleague's comments on that score about another incentive, if you look at what other countries are doing, and I think that is a very valid thing to do also, there is not only the Washington example. Take Canada. I understand, from an internet search, that a country seeking to establish a diplomatic mission in Canada can buy or lease real estate in the private market for that purpose subject to the approval of the Canadian government. So then in that case presumably there is not a problem because it is already being done in the open market.
Ms BRODTMANN: I want to thank you and congratulate you for being here today and also for the incredibly comprehensive and well-researched submissions that you have all made. They are very impressive, so thank you. I want to come to the Washington experience later. In terms of the subdivision, would your organisations support the subdivision of the Yarralumla estate? Should we loosen that up and allow that to happen in the future?
Mr Lewis : We certainly would. Gary Rake said that there might be some six possible blocks in Yarralumla but some of their own figures also talk about 12, so there is quite a lot of scope there. But certainly we would be very supportive of subdividing some of those blocks to meet demand.
Ms Fatseas : From the point of view of the Yarralumla Residents Association, as long as the principles that we have identified are met then we would also be supportive of that.
Mr Wurfel : You are talking about Yarralumla and I defer to the Yarralumla people, so in principle then if the subdivision is appropriate.
Ms BRODTMANN: With those areas there are some missions that have identified the fact that they have got too much land and they do not want that much land. They tend to be in Yarralumla. I do not know of any others, although there are some in Forrest, I think. There is a suggestion from some missions that subdivision would be helpful and so I am just wanting to get a sense from you as to whether you would support it.
Mr Wurfel : Of course, in implementing that then any other resident in Canberra would hopefully have regard to streetscape, privacy, overbearing and those sorts of things. We already have issues with respect to how all that is being applied within the ACT government, but we would expect that those sorts of things would be paramount and that you would not envisage subdividing and having a dual or triple or quadruple occupancy in an embassy location that would be out of character with a street and would bring with it a whole range of other problems. So on the face of it: no problems with subdivision but it has to be done sensibly.
CHAIR: Can I ask this in that context. Clearly we have got embassies alongside residential areas already and there is some buffer between them but if you start to bring those blocks of land down to a more residential scale—and I appreciate the points that were made in saying that we need to keep these districts separate but you are already living alongside embassies and there is the suggestion that clearly we know we have got heads of missions that live in these areas—what is to stop some of that housing stock becoming available to be redeveloped in a way that sees both the residence and an office being there?
Mr Lewis : Part of the problem is that chancelleries are essentially office blocks—that is what they are, with all the associated traffic and that sort of stuff. We do not have commercial office blocks in residential areas and so I do not think we should have chancelleries in residential areas. O'Malley is a special case. It was originally, as I understand, designated as a diplomatic enclave. Everybody understands what is there and what the risks are of living there as a residence. What we do not want is commercial office buildings in residential areas.
CHAIR: I suppose I am assuming that if, for example, the Kingdom of the Netherlands wanted to subdivide what looks like a rather large block, it appears that there are residences on the other side of that; and the scale of what you would be doing would be bringing commercial lots down to the same size. What is to stop you having a strategy that could see some of that use change over time? I appreciate that these things are controversial but essentially, if you are arguing for consolidation, it would strike me as logical that you would have some of that adjoining residential land start to consolidate into it in such a strategy.
Dr Cowan : You could only subdivide provided the resulting blocks were all individually sufficiently large to accommodate the traffic that comes with people coming for visas and so on, surely. It has got to be carefully regulated and examined, but some of those blocks are very large and we think could easily accommodate at least two buildings.
Ms BRODTMANN: Going back to the chancelleries, we do actually have in Yarralumla chancelleries next to residential property. You have the German embassy and over the road from them there is a house on the corner; and one over the road from the Japanese. So there is, in Yarralumla, already a mix of chancellery and Canberra residential—it is not diplomatic residential.
Mr Lewis : They have been there for many years, so when people bought houses they knew what they were buying. What is being proposed now is a commercial subdivision in an area that most people thought was open space and that is valued by the community. As I said earlier, NCA states it is of lower environmental value but it is a pretty important buffer zone.
Ms BRODTMANN: No, we are not talking about that. We are talking about existing areas with a bit of a diplomatic footprint, the subdivision issue and the possible interspersing of chancelleries with residential—say Forrest or Deakin.
CHAIR: A good example to my mind might be if someone on Schlich Street, who was living adjacent to the Embassy of Japan, wanted to sell their house to a another country for them to establish a diplomatic mission—it would be consolidating the existing values that are there, particularly if you argue that such embassies adjoining might ultimately be on smaller plots of land.
Ms Fatseas : I guess there could be instances where there may be security issues and at the moment if you are talking about subdivision, there is that whole area where most of the embassies are in Yarralumla at the moment. If you have subdivision there then it is all within a diplomatic precinct. When you start to have more of that spotting occurring in other areas that are mainly residential, then you may start to get other issues arising.
CHAIR: I suppose I am trying to look to the solutions. We have the solutions of office blocks and clearly there is some development happening there. We have some in terms of subdivision. If you are trying to avoid developing places like Stirling Ridge we are going to continue to need to think creatively of how to find the solutions, consistent with the Burley Griffin plan.
Dr Cowan : As we indicated we feel that sure, embassies should not really come into residential areas but in the long run we would like to see a diplomatic estate developed from the ground up in some such area—perhaps Molonglo Valley—where it could be planned from the beginning as a diplomatic estate and any adjacent suburban residential areas can be properly distanced and protected and the impact avoided and so on. So provided it is done as a long-term planning project, that would be our preferred long-term plan.
Ms BRODTMANN: Mr Odgers, going back to your Washington experience, could you just explain in a bit more detail what actually happens there? I am interested because, as you know, we drew quite heavily on the Washington experience in the Etched in stone? inquiry, and we found it incredibly useful to see what they do in terms of the management of memorials there. I would be interested to hear how they go about managing this issue—and I am talking here about chancelleries as well as residences, so I would be grateful if you could discuss both.
Mr Odgers : The comprehensive plan, so called, is somewhat equivalent to the National Capital Plan. It is regularly updated. Under the auspices of the general plan you have a whole series of plans and strategies and policies. The first point I would make is that all of this is not just conducted with public participation but also is integrated with the local government of Washington. It is integrated with authorities—and we do not have them here; well, we do in a sense but they are not the same—that are responsible for parks, for commemorative installations, and for museums and monuments. And of course there is the architect of the Capitol, himself a very influential character. So there is a multitude of authorities, but they all seem to be effectively integrated in an ongoing planning process. The particular—and I have a copy of them in my bag—federal elements, of which there are seven, seem to be under review on a continuous basis. The last time it was done for embassies and international organisations was in 2004. It is ongoing at the moment, and they expect to conclude it this year. And then there is this very participatory, integrated process.
The second point I can make, not with a great deal of authority, is that the chancelleries and residences are scattered throughout Washington DC, in all four quadrants. But, again, although you might get the clustering of embassies and a hierarchy of foreign missions in particular areas, they are areas which, at least in recent planning times—that is, in the last 20 years, are in turn integrated with precinct and local development plans which take into account all of these sorts of competing cultural, artistic, symbolic and other federal elements, so much of which overlaps anyway because you can't separate the local from the national in many respects when it comes to art and sport and culture and so on.
In Washington—not unlike in Canberra where we have had layers of plans—they have had two big layers, maybe three; we have had something like that. But there are parts of Washington DC that are very poorly planned and neglected. They have got two waterways that bound Washington and there seem to be continuing problems with trying to reconcile bad planning decisions of the past. And because they have a really good organisation now which is focusing on proper development and precinct planning as part of a whole, comprehensive plan, the sorts of things we are talking about are readily policed and identified. I think it might be true to say that this planning identifies areas for the future location of embassies and international organisations. So there are sites to pick from, in the same way as for someone who wants to put a commemorative monument somewhere; there are clear guidelines on the process to be followed and also on the locations that they can look at and are available to them.
CHAIR: Thank you. .We now invite the AFP, the NCA and DFAT back to the table. I am hoping you might, in the first instance, respond to some of the issues that been raised in the previous evidence. I invite you all to respond as you see fit to some of the issues raised. By no means are you obliged to respond to all of them, or else I think we will be here for a long time. Who would like to start?
Mr Rake : I will start, if I may, and I will try to bring it into a couple of subsets. At the start, we heard an assertion that the NCA is not independent in this work. For avoidance of all doubt, I would like to point out that we have no beneficial interest in the administration of leases. Revenue raised from diplomatic leases goes directly to Commonwealth consolidated revenue; it does not in any way fatten our budget. So I do believe the NCA is well placed to fill these two closely related roles. Some of the views we heard really bring together and typify the complexities of this issue. There are a number of competing demands. At least one of the submissions says we should hold on to Stirling Ridge and make it available for National Capital use. At the other end, there is a fair bit of support for the idea that we should put a fair bit of it into open space and protect the conservation issues. There is a tough issue for us to analyse there.
I will make a general comment on the environmental issues. I think it would be appropriate and we would be quite happy to have another look at the environmental issues. We will wait for the committee to complete this inquiry. If DA78 is to proceed, the NCA could make a formal referral to the Commonwealth environment department under the EPBC Act. That puts the highest test in the land on it. We believe that our work is robust. With that confidence, there is no reason for us not to submit to that process.
In another subset, we heard about some alternative sites. There was talk again about the Curtin horse paddock land south of Carruthers Street in Hughes. We deal a lot with the Canberra community, and I note that Ms Penn, as chair, set out the framework. We are very careful to look at local interests. We do not have representatives of the ACT Equestrian Association here at the table to talk about their views, nor the Hughes or Woden community councils. I think wherever we go, if it is an undeveloped site we are going to have a lot of community opposition. We need to focus on issues rather than pushing it from neighbour to neighbour. Even within the process that looked at the Federal Golf Club versus Stirling Ridge, the people who were interested in the land adjacent to the golf club said 'Stirling Ridge is ideal, go there' and the people who were interested in Stirling Ridge said 'The golf club is ideal, go there.' We do not want to get into a divisive thing. Let's look at the issues and try and resolve them.
There was a statement that it is inconsistent with the plan. Plans, by their nature, are subject to change. They are constantly developing to embrace the new world, the new environment. The planning system established in the fifties did not think about medium and high density, but we now know that we must think about that. So I think we have to allow for changing use over time.
Ms BRODTMANN: Or the need for more bushland.
Mr Rake : Yes, we did not understand all those environmental values as well. The purpose of putting forward DA78 is to have that discussion about a potential change. We have lost the original and intended use of places like Casey House and I am not sure it is helpful to try to drag them back. I do not think it helps move us forward.
To be site specific, down at Stirling Ridge, some things, such as the Pinus radiata, are probably going to be gone within five years regardless of this proposal. They are dying. They are full of, in some cases, sirex wasp infestations. They will fall over of their own accord and cause a public safety risk. In working with the ACT government, we probably would not replant Pinus radiata there. It is a species the ACT is trying to control the use of. As a general comment, there is a lot of complexity in these statements. I think it shows the challenge at hand.
Ms Mansfield : Certainly I agree that the overarching obligation we have as the Australian government to facilitate accommodation can be interpreted in many different ways. I think the discussions we have had today and the discussions we have on a regular basis with the NCA go a long way towards making it clear that we do need to adapt. It is a dynamic process. I think that is a point which is well made.
On the question about 'build within three years' being in our protocol guidelines—yes, it is there. It is a way to try and apply some kind of moral pressure or something which is enforceable—although it was pointed out that it is very difficult to enforce. Those conditions are in the contract which each individual country signs with the Australian government. Our guidelines pick those up, but they are there. We certainly do go quite some lengths to try and put that sort of pressure on the countries to commit to that. Those blocks which have been allocated—they are not sitting there for free. The countries which have signed onto them are either paying rent for them or have made an up-front payment. So it is not as though there is no conditionality. There is a sense of there being an ongoing payment.
The other general point I would make is about the security discussion. Within Canberra we are incredibly fortunate in that the security conditions are relatively good. That is not to say that the debate worldwide on conditions for chanceries has not changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The sorts of discussions we have now when looking at our missions include word like 'setback' which were not in the vocabulary of someone like me 20 years ago. They are certainly very much in the minds of missions who come here—even if, once they get here, they realise that the conditions are not the same as in other countries. There is a mindset that there is a set of conditions they are required to abide by. So, again, there will always be differences—whether someone wants, very specifically, to have their own block or whether they are happy to go into a mixed environment. There are a lot of areas to explore and I think the sort of work the NCA has done will open up those opportunities. I think you will find that missions take those up.
Assistant Commissioner Outram : There is not much I wish to add other than to say that the more geographically dispersed the diplomatic missions are, the harder it becomes from the security point of view—the AFP's resources being stretched. My opening comments probably covered that well enough.
CHAIR: There has been some suggestion that missions should be able to contract to go wherever they want in the same way any other commercial tenant might. That is the case in some other countries, but it might also be the case that such embassies are armed and have armed security and all that. Could you please comment on some of those issues?
Ms Mansfield : A number of missions will always want to be on their own site so they can very much control the perimeter. It might be a small site; it might be multistorey. But there are a number of countries who will not want to share their premises. If we consider those—and do not worry about the size aspect for the moment—and they have a security concern, certainly fences and the exterior perimeter would be something they would want to put up. Obviously that needs to be done in discussion with Canberra authorities about what is and is not acceptable.
The difficulty is that it is a very different set of demands to what you are going to have from someone who buys the same block for a house or even for a business. So that security element is just something that is not going to go away. It will not apply equally, but you have to understand that, if the diplomatic estate idea goes away and the Australian government agrees that there can be houses here, there and wherever that are sold privately or rented for the long term by missions, there may well be quite complex security arrangements that that country will want to put in place. So it is certainly a factor. There are extremes. If you have a look at the American embassy and the Israeli embassy, clearly for them security is a huge priority. There are others that take a much more relaxed approach, and we can expect those two extremes to continue. But increasingly the trend will be that governments will not want to leave properties unfenced, for example. So that is the most obvious first step that many governments are taking.
CHAIR: What about the fact that we do not allow embassies here to be armed? We therefore have a responsibility to provide them with protection.
Ms Mansfield : Yes, we do.
CHAIR: That means that therefore they are in consolidated areas.
Ms Mansfield : Yes, they are, and we often have to have discussions with embassies about our refusal to allow them to have weapons on premises. It is an obligation of the Australian government, and we work really closely with the missions, with the AFP and with Attorney-General's to make sure that we meet those. Any lapse in that is regarded very seriously by us. But, as you say, the quid pro quo is that they say, 'If you can't protect us then we'll have to protect ourselves.' So there is constantly a discussion taking place about what is an absolute minimum necessity.
CHAIR: So an ever-expanding footprint is clearly not an option in that sense.
Mr Outram : Just on that, I might just say that from an ACT Policing perspective—I have been approaching this from a national protection perspective—ACT Policing are pretty much allowed to get on with their core community policing business. If you start to disperse the diplomatic missions across Canberra then it will have an impact on ACT Policing as well.
Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, but that is assuming that we are working with existing resources too.
Mr Outram : Sorry?
Ms BRODTMANN: With the existing resources that you have at the moment, should it expand, it will have an impact on local policing. But you are talking about the use of existing resources.
Mr Outram : That is right. There is an element of existing resources, really. It is also about the fact that, if you have it geographically dispersed or scattered, it is going to be pretty difficult to provide a patrolling and response capability that does not impact on ACT Policing, because at the moment the Diplomatic Protection Unit are in the same proximity as the missions and they can respond really quickly to any incident or issue, but the further scattered it gets the more likely it is that ACT Policing will have to respond. So, even if you had more responses, it is still going to have an impact on ACT Policing, I would suggest. Also, from a traffic management and public order management perspective, there are other issues there as well. It is easier for the ACT in a command, control and communications sense to have all those things co-located, as they currently are.
Ms Penn : Could I add a point to that too: the impact on the community. Generally, in good urban design terms, you try to encourage good passive surveillance which supports public safety as well as community connection and engagement. If you have scattered, closed places that put up walls and are inward looking, that has negative impacts. So I think that is another argument for caution, I suppose, on the idea of scattering as opposed to condensing those elements.
Ms BRODTMANN: But we can look at condensing and another enclave.
Ms Penn : Sure. There is bigger scale—
Ms BRODTMANN: I do not think anyone is in any way suggesting that we scatter everyone right throughout Canberra. We are looking at the idea that, if there is going to be another enclave, it will be a co-located enclave.
Ms Penn : Yes, I think that is—
Ms BRODTMANN: I am fully aware of the resource implications of that in terms of protection, but the reality is that at some stage we are going to run out of land in the inner south. That is the reality.
Ms Penn : I just wanted to add, in terms of the general response—and in addition to the points that Mr Rake made, which I ticked off as you responded to the ones I wanted to respond to—that we absolutely support a forward plan. We absolutely are looking at a range of types, as we have said, just so that we can accommodate missions into the future.
Our current issue is a backlog that we do need to house and address, and we are just caught. That is our current challenge because some of those other ones, which we are looking at and will continue to pursue, have longer lead times. That is just something to keep in mind as a pressure that we are dealing with that is quite real.
Ms BRODTMANN: I have a question in terms of the diplomatic corps. You would get it, and I get it when I go to functions: there is a lot of chatter about all sorts of issues around this. Has there been any consultation with the diplomatic community on this issue in terms of their expectations of the future? Let us acknowledge that there is the Canberra of today, and there will be the Canberra of tomorrow. Canberra is a different beast to what it was in the fifties. The four-acre block is no longer what everyone would want. The impression I get, just from talking to those in the diplomatic community, is that they do want flexibility and options, and at the moment they are just not getting that. So has there been consultation? Is that something we should think about?
Ms Mansfield : The diplomatic corps certainly talks about these issues. A lot of the earlier discussion when I started in this job 12 months ago was about the lease issue, and again that was a sort of legacy issue and I think we have come a long way towards trying to resolve that and put it on a more modern footing. Certainly the diplomatic corps feels that there should be flexibility, that there should be options; I think someone mentioned a smorgasbord of possibilities. I do not think there is a consolidated diplomatic corps view. In my discussions with them they very much have different expectations depending on the size of their missions. Some feel that, since they have had to get smaller for certain reasons, they are not looking to get a different block of land. Others feel quite constrained; there are four or five of them in one office now where there were only two or three before. So there is this constant change. It is a very fluid situation. And a good year for one country is perhaps a bad year for another, and you do feel that. On the whole, that change is of only one or two people a year, but then there is a point they get to where they are absolutely looking for a different opportunity, and often going somewhere else is better. We talked quite a lot about projecting into the future. But one of the real issues that the NCA has been wrestling with is the backlog, and trying to meet the needs of people who are here but may wish to change. So there is not one view within the diplomatic corps, but I think generically you would find that they are interested in having choices.
Ms BRODTMANN: Yes. That is the impression I am getting.
CHAIR: I note that Canberra, in these areas we are talking about, has very large residential blocks as well as large embassy blocks. My question is: once you start reducing the size of the embassy blocks, might there be some scope for some adjoining residential blocks to be brought into that kind of development or for those residences to be used for those more diplomatic purposes?
Ms Penn : I will make a brief response. I absolutely support an increase in density. I think there are obvious challenges around community expectations, and people know what they know and like what they have, usually. So that is a cultural shift. There are sensitivities around that, obviously. There are other, more logistical, matters as well.
Mr Rake : I think if we were going to go down the path of preparing for the long term—and let us talk of a several-generational-term plan of where the diplomatic community would go—the discussion we are having is very parallel to the discussion about low density residential areas becoming medium and high density residential areas, where townhouses are replacing quarter-acre blocks. It would be a very uncomfortable discussion for some, but I think it would be a very mature discussion for us to have if we could set the horizon far enough.
Ms BRODTMANN: We need to outline where we are going and what we want to achieve and then work back from there. We do not have that at the moment.
Ms Penn : It is worth adding—and just looking at Melbourne as a large-scale example of the same pressures—that studies have been done that look at accommodating the population growth that is envisaged to 2030 and beyond, and it does not mean that every single block has to convert to a multistorey; it is actually a small percentage of land. Really the same thing applies at a smaller scale here.
Again, it is a matter of the mix of types and a lot of that is not the NCA's business—it is in the ACT; however the principle is still applicable.
Ms BRODTMANN: We also need greater transparency. That is what this inquiry has really highlighted—the fact that we need that. I know that it is not a complete science, in terms of working out what the demand will be in the future, but we are working on surges and then troughs and that sort of thing. But I think that just getting some realistic transparency about what could be and also on the supply at the moment and where the supply could be had. That is important.
CHAIR: In terms of honing in on Stirling Ridge as a viable place, to what extent have all of the current precincts have been intensively worked over? I know there are current diplomatic lots that are undeveloped and there are the subdivisions, but if I look at Google maps there are quite a few vacant lots in the area. I am not sure if every one of those sites has been considered or who owns them, but eventually we are going to run out of free Commonwealth land. That is a given, which means that even aside from subdivision we are going to have to have a process for acquiring new sites for these purposes.
Ms BRODTMANN: That is why we need a plan.
Mr Rake : To a certain extent, yes, that analysis has occurred but we started with an overlay; where the dominant existing planning purpose of the site was open space we did not go to it. In our earliest version of Stirling Park there was a corner of the proposal that would have moved into open space. We have removed that from the final proposal but, as a general rule, where the predominant purpose was open space we did not press into it further. I guess it offends our planning notion that people need open space—that those areas had been flagged as long-term open space; and it was quite distinct that while Stirling Park is used as open space it still has a very long-term planning provision and that is for national capital use, so I do draw a distinction there. The more productive territory for future investigation of sites is actually those big questions about changing the use of existing developed areas.
Ms BRODTMANN: Subdivision—filling up space.
CHAIR: For example, I am not sure if the site near the Malaysia High Commission is one of the current sites that is undeveloped.
Ms BRODTMANN: That is the Iranian lot.
CHAIR: That is the Iranian lot. Next to that, again, is site 125.
Ms BRODTMANN: That is extra land for the Spanish is not it?
Mr Rake : I think so.
CHAIR: I assume that Pakistan there, and then we have lots on Forster Crescent and Flynn Drive near State Circle. There are some lots there.
Mr Rake : Down towards the bottom end is the Russian site. The next one up the hill is Casey House, into the Commonwealth Club—we could shut that one and take it for diplomatic use.
CHAIR: Thank you. That does give me some insight into how these issues can be worked through. We will close the proceedings now and thank everybody for their interest and attendance. I might note that the ACT government was written to as part of these inquiries and we are still working through whether they will respond.
Resolved (on motion by Ms Brodtmann):
That this committee authorises publication of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.
Committee adjourned at 11:48