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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
17/07/2014
National Capital Authority

PENN, Ms Shelley, Chair, National Capital Authority

SNOW, Mr Malcolm, Chief Executive, National Capital Authority

SMITH, Mr Andrew, Chief Planner, National Capital Authority

Committee met at 10:18 .

CHAIR ( Mr Simpkins ): I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories. Today's hearing is with the National Capital Authority, with which the committee undertakes to meet biannually. This provides the NCA with the opportunity to bring the committee and members of the public up to date on the projects and issues it is working on. It also allows the committee to ask questions and raise matters of interest on the public record. The biannual hearing with the NCA is an important part of the committee's work because it allows the parliament to engage with the authority on matters of importance to the national capital. I thank the National Capital Authority for its ongoing cooperation with this process and the assistance it provides to the committee throughout the year with briefings and other material.

I welcome representatives of the National Capital Authority. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, you should understand these hearings are formal proceedings of the Commonwealth parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. I invite you to make an introductory statement before we go to questions.

Ms Penn : Thank you for the opportunity to make some opening remarks. The National Capital Authority is also very pleased to attend this hearing in order to respond to any questions the committee may have. We are grateful for the opportunity to communicate about our work in this public forum. We embrace these hearings as an important part of our commitment to community engagement and as part of our transparency and accountability to the Australian people.

Recently, the NCA was identified within recommendation 50 of the report of the National Commission of Audit as one of 26 Commonwealth agencies recommended for review through reassessing the operations and continuing need for the organisation. This recommendation was unexpected in the context that over the past 10 years the NCA has undergone four substantial reviews. I note that these have consistently resulted in endorsement of the role and functions of the NCA. The first of these reviews was the 2004 inquiry undertaken by this committee resulting in its report A national capital, a place to live. In 2008, this committee also conducted an inquiry into the role of the National Capital Authority, which produced a report entitled The way forward, which was followed by the establishment of the Taskforce on the Commonwealth's National Capital Responsibilities, in 2009. Most recently, the purpose and responsibilities of the NCA were independently and comprehensively reviewed by Dr Allan Hawke AC, whose report Canberra: a capital place was delivered in 2011, with a government response following. As I have mentioned, the role of the Commonwealth government in the national capital, as fulfilled through the NCA, was reaffirmed in each of these reviews.

Canberra, as the national capital, belongs to all Australians. It is an internationally recognised city not just as our capital but as a planned capital of exceptional qualities and character which is also home to major national institutions and cultural collections. In Canberra are policy agencies of the Australian government, the headquarters of the Australian Defence Force, leading educational and research institutions and the growing diplomatic community. In these senses, the city is a repository for and increasingly an expression of Australia's broad, rich and diverse culture, people and economy. As a growing city it is also currently on the cusp of major change, with a series of game-changing initiatives brewing: projects including major infrastructure, significant urban development and the establishment of new key precincts, each of which will contribute to the legacy that is Australia's capital.

Under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988, the NCA is responsible for preparing and administering the National Capital Plan, which provides the strategic planning framework for Canberra as the national capital and for the Australian Capital Territory. In this role the NCA ensures Canberra is planned, managed and promoted consistent with its enduring national significance to advance the national capital as a place that is valued and respected by Australians and visitors.

So we have a clear direction on our purpose and our statutory responsibilities and we remain committed to delivering on these. The recent reviews have served to sharpen that clarity. We have been active in moving forward on priorities and initiatives that have emerged as a result. I will give one example. Following the 2011 independent review and the government's response to it, the NCA is nearing completion of a comprehensive planning reform process to update the National Capital Plan, more than 20 years since its creation. The foremost aim of this reform is to clarify and simplify the shared planning responsibilities of the Australian and ACT governments, while protecting the national interests in the Australian Capital Territory. We see this as critical to ensure that the Commonwealth and ACT governments are enabled to collaborate effectively in fulfilling their respective roles in the ACT, both of which are important. We are proposing a series of changes to the National Capital Plan through a staged approach to maximise transparency and accountability and opportunities for public scrutiny and feedback. I will finish by letting you know that I can confirm that an exposure draft of the restructured plan will be available this year. We would like to take any questions you might have.

Ms BRODTMANN: I have a lot of questions. I want to start by asking a question about some reports that I saw on Twitter this morning about plans to sack all Parliamentary Triangle and national monuments maintenance crew and handing that to a private contractor.

Mr Snow : Thank you, Ms Brodtmann. I can respond to that. When I joined the agency, I looked at opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies. At the moment, the majority of our estate management is handled through an external contractor, Citywide, and that contract is ongoing, at least for another two years. One aspect of estate management is the quite specific task of maintaining more than 100 monuments through the national land. It is currently a team of four people. I asked my estate director to investigate initially the opportunities for cost savings in relation to that operation. I felt that, given we already had a quite significant maintenance contract for the balance of the estate, savings could be realised if that work were rolled into the existing contract.

The result of that analysis was that there were significant savings, sufficient for me to form the view that the work of the small team of four people could be wound into the existing contract. That is a difficult decision to make, but, given that the contractor was already doing exactly the same type of work for other clients around Australia, there were both operational and budget savings to be made, and I formed the view that those positions should be made redundant. Only three positions will be affected. For the fourth position within that team, we have offered a redeployment opportunity within the agency. That officer occupies that position on a temporary basis. We will offer it to other staff. So essentially three people will be affected by that decision.

Ms BRODTMANN: When will those three positions go?

Mr Snow : We are working through that at the moment with them. We have arranged with the current contractor, Citywide, to interview those individuals with a view to them being re-employed by Citywide. We have given the staff access to support mechanisms in terms of interviewing techniques and helping them review their CVs, and they will be interviewed by Citywide. We have never given a guarantee that they will be automatically re-employed, but, certainly with their knowledge of the estate and their skills, Citywide has certainly expressed interest in interviewing them to supplement their local staff.

Ms BRODTMANN: Will that staff be given packages?

Mr Snow : Yes, they will be.

Ms BRODTMANN: How long have those staff members been with the NCA?

Mr Snow : It varies. One staff member is approaching 10 years, one staff member has been there for less than a year and another staff member has been there for approximately two or three years. The person in the fourth position, to whom we have offered redeployment within the agency, has been there for a relatively short time as well—less than 12 months, I understand.

Ms BRODTMANN: When were they advertised?

Mr Snow : They were advised this week, on Monday.

Ms BRODTMANN: What is the cost saving?

Mr Snow : The saving is in the vicinity of $200,000 a year.

Ms BRODTMANN: Thank you.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Thank you for your presentation. As a non-Canberra resident, I noted your comments that Canberra belongs to all Australians. As a Queenslander, I think we are all proud of the national capital. I am. It is our national capital. In relation to future planning and the strategic that is going on, you say there will be some significant changes. What consideration is given in the planning, when you develop those strategies, to the tragic fires that occurred in Canberra that could possibly reoccur some time in the future? We would never want to see that happen again. What thought is given in the plan to the possibility of another tragedy like the firestorm, where 500 houses were lost and lives were lost as well?

Ms Penn : We have been very aware and concerned about those. I might ask Malcolm or Andrew to address that in more detail.

Mr Snow : I might ask Andrew.

Ms Penn : Andrew is our chief planner and has been very conscious of that and is actually running the planning reform process. He can probably give you a more detailed commentary.

Mr Smith : I will not say since the time of those bushfires, but as a result of those bushfires there has been an increased focus on land-use management practices in the space between urban development and open rural areas. In the work that the authority has done and certainly in the work that the ACT government planning agency has done there has been a very overt provision made for what are described as asset protection zones. There is a hierarchy of landscape treatments that are provided through those different asset protection zones. In effect, for those firestorms that sweep through the natural landscape, the idea is that they stop, as far as practical, the fire reaching the areas of urban development. That has been part of a number of studies that we have already undertaken and is part of the language of the revised National Capital Plan.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: You have oversight of anything that occurs on Anzac Parade. As a former Veterans' Affairs minister, I often referred to it as the high alter for recognition of Australians who have served our country in war, peacekeeping and conflicts. What sorts of protections are in the new plan or the plan that exists now to ensure that it remains as the place where memorials for Australians are placed? I know when I was minister I was under pressure to put a few others there. We said, 'No, we cannot.' But I am concerned that there is legislation or regulation, or someone in the future who might say, 'We want to put one there,' as multiculturalism changes Australia and it begins to represent other aspects of society in Australia today.

Mr Snow : I might comment on that initially and then ask Andy from the plan point of view. Certainly, the significance of Anzac Parade continues to be recognised as one of the most important components of national land. The National Capital Plan review, I am sure, and Andy will confirm this, continues to reinforce the protection of that as a significant ceremonial access. It does form part of the land axis of Canberra. So at a number of levels, the significance of Anzac Parade does have, in my view, strong planning protection. As for whether or not the review adds to that strengthening, I might get Andy to comment.

The other component of this, of course, is that it is the location and site for some very significant national monuments. The recent inquiry 'Etched in stone' also addressed in part the question of the way in which Anzac Parade continues to be managed as that location for those national monuments. That report is still a government for consideration. There are two aspects: both the planning aspect and the management aspect—both not only in a state sense so that it looks and presents as a place that all Australians can be proud of in terms of its look and feel; more importantly, if any other monuments are to be added, and there are not too many sites left, that the process by which that occurs is very carefully managed by the authority.

CHAIR: How many sites are left on Anzac Parade? And is that exclusively for conflicts?

Mr Snow : Correct.

Mr Smith : To answer your question directly, there are four sites on Anzac Parade that have not got memorials on them. Two of those four sites have proposals at some level of advancement. They are the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial and the Boer War Memorial. They are at the southern end of Anzac Parade. There are no proposals under are active consideration for the top two sites.

In regard to the broader strategy around who gets what site on Anzac Parade, because there are not many opportunities left, Anzac Parade and the War Memorial are covered by national heritage listing so anything that goes on there is subject to significant scrutiny. At a day-to-day management level, the authority has in place guidelines for commemorative works in the national capital that put a spatial curatorial framework across the landscape. I have not looked at them for a while but, paraphrasing them, Anzac Parade is set aside for Australian sacrifice in service.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Is that in a regulation?

Mr Smith : It is in the guideline at the moment. As the chief executive said, there has been a review of the way memorials are managed in the national capital so once the government's response is finalised, we will be able to act on that. It is a guideline that we have established. Under current arrangements, the Canberra National Memorials Committee agrees or does not agree to memorial proposals in Canberra. We would report to the Canberra National Memorials Committee. The chair of that committee is the Prime Minister. We would make a commentary about any proposal that came forward against our guidelines. So if there was a circumstance where a memorial came forward that did reach the Canberra National Memorials Committee but did not focus on Australian achievement or sacrifice, our advice to that committee would be that this is not consistent with the guidelines and most likely recommend that it does not proceed. These are the current arrangements.

Ms Penn : At the higher level in the planning reform, one of the primary objectives is to clarify roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth as opposed to the ACT government. A critical aspect is just what you pointed to, which is that there are certain areas that are regarded as of greater significance for the Commonwealth. We think the whole of the territory is of national significance but there are varying degrees. So areas like Anzac Parade are considered to be of the highest significance and that is one of the key things we want to articulate in the reformed plan.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: I know there was a controversy about a toilet being constructed a number of years ago.

Mr Smith : I took you on a site visit to that.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: If this was in Washington DC, there would be outrage if there was any compromise of their sites or of their national memorials, whether it was in Arlington or whether it was at the site of their memorial for Korea or Vietnam or others. You know what I am talking about. I just need to be confident that, as you make these suggested changes, our Anzac Parade, owned by all Australians is for recognising the service of Australians in wars and conflicts. It got close, I think, to being slightly compromised when we put the Hellenic and the Turkish at the top on Limestone Avenue, not on Anzac Parade. Am I correct?

Mr Smith : That is correct.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: I used that as an example. I take confidence in what you said. You talk about strategic planning and that there are going to be significant changes. I have talked to the member for Canberra about this. There is a proposition out there now for the brickworks at Yarralumla, across Adelaide Parade and through there for some 1,600 residences including eight-storey buildings. You talk about the culture and the features of Canberra having significance; I would not have thought eight storeys in Yarralumla was in keeping with the ambience of Yarralumla because it is in a suburb that is considered the diplomatic zone as well.

The other thing I have noticed, quite outside of Yarralumla but including in Yarralumla, is that where old homes are sold two or three units are put on there with capacity for more than three or four bedrooms and you end up with eight or 10 or 12 bedrooms and eight or 10 or 12 cars. Particularly in Kingston and around there, cars are no longer able to be accommodated on-site. Not only are they on the street, which is planned for a certain capacity—and cars on both sides of the street now make it difficult for the traffic to come through—but they are now parking also on the footpaths. I do not whether you are going to continue to allow that, but regulation seems to be allowing for that sort of development to occur, and that is the end result. So, I hope that is being considered.

Mr Snow : In relation to the Yarralumla brickworks, the NCA has made a submission of the master plan. In that submission, inter alia, we have indicated some concern about the issue of building heights, particularly the encroachment of taller buildings onto things like Adelaide Avenue, which are specifically within the remit of the agency for protection in terms of amenity, as well as the approach to Government House—Dunrossil Drive—and about buildings that are above the tree line, which really then start to have an impact upon the broader landscape setting particularly. Yarralumla is identified because of its particular tree coverage, and I think we are concerned that some of the heights that are being discussed might well be excessive. But we have made the submission in relation to that particular proposal.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: And parking more generally, and footpaths around Canberra?

Mr Snow : Yes, parking more generally. In relation to those proposals within designated land, certainly the NCA's view would be that we would need to be satisfied that there was adequate on-site provision for private parking. I have noted the same thing that you have—that in inner-city areas, particularly where there is a high proportion of group houses, there is simply inadequate parking, and that is having a major impact on the amenity of certain parts of Canberra. The NCA would be vigilant, I would think, in terms of our approval role in relation to developments that we have to be satisfied that the parking rates for those new proposals meet the demand generated by those developments.

Ms BRODTMANN: You mentioned you were concerned about the approach to Dunrossil Drive. Could you elaborate on that? What are your concerns about that?

Mr Snow : I will get Andy to expand too, but I think principally the approach to Dunrossil Drive must not be compromised by development that encroaches too close to that corridor. The master plan as we have viewed it proposes development that comes very close to that approach, and I think the sense of arrival, if I can put it that way, in terms of the landscape amenity and environmental amenity, does need to be protected. When suburban development is pushed up hard against what should be a place that conveys the sense of significance about what is a major national asset, I think that needs to be protected. So, we have pointed out to the ACT government and to the LDA that they need to be mindful of that and that we believe that an early indication of our strong views about that is something that they should address now and not wait until the last minute.

Ms BRODTMANN: And you expressed concern about the height of the building—eight storeys. Did you express any views on the density? There was a plan—it has moved from 900 to 1,600, the new proposal.

Mr Smith : We did not get to that level of detail, but commentary about the height of course indicates that any reduction in that would reduce density. And just to follow on from what the chief executive said, I think we have to remember that when we talk about Dunrossil Drive we are talking about the front door of our head of state, and putting dense commercial development cheek by jowl with that is something that we think needs a little bit more consideration than what we are seeing at the moment.

Ms BRODTMANN: Just so we are clear on the NCA footprint there: it is Adelaide Avenue and then Dunrossil Drive. Do you have any further—

Mr Smith : If the proposal goes ahead as it is currently described, that will require an adjustment to the land use boundaries as you move along Adelaide Avenue up onto Cotter Road and at the arrival into Dunrossil Drive. That particular part of Canberra just happens to be at the junction of three different land use zones in the maps that were drawn 25 years ago. If the amendment goes through, and those boundaries need to be adjusted, that will focus on the southern portion of the site, closest to Cotter Road. We have had no discussion about whether it is simply a change of land use boundaries or whether there are some other provisions that we may want to overlay there to make sure we are satisfied with the quality of the precinct.

Ms Penn : Through our planning reform and through other means we are trying to have a very clear statement at the head of the new National Capital Plan that makes clear what the values of Canberra are, and they are around the landscape qualities as well as the significance of certain places and the whole area. Part of that is making that very clear, which will in fact guide both our plan and the Territory plan, and also augmenting that by having such things as a Design Review Panel, which we have established to assist us with West Basin. We hope to deploy that sort of independent design and quality expertise around urban outcomes for other significant projects. It may be that they can start to provide advice to both us and the Territory government on significant developments such as these. The Design Review Panel does not just look at paint colours; it looks at urban scale, responsiveness to landscape and all of those sorts of qualities that you are talking about. So we are trying to establish a process that will accompany the plan to help give greater consistency for both the National Capital and the Territory plans while allowing both governments to do what they need to do under their legislation.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Some of the landscape of Canberra has a blot on it—people parking on the footpath because there is insufficient parking. There are tradies with ladders on the top, and that is fine, but I just think that the landscape in some areas of Canberra has been compromised, unless it is a deliberate strategy, and I really think that you as the authority ought to be prepared to do something more about oversight in this area. The road was planned for two-way traffic, and you get two lanes of parking, and there is all sorts of parking in the street, as well as on the footpath. And if you look at some of the plans for the brickworks at Yarralumla, if you just get a whole row of units—as would be the intention of many developers—rather than some nice housing, which might add something, you end up with a landscape like in that song from years ago about all these little boxes made out of ticky-tacky, all in a row, I do not think it adds anything at all.

Mr Snow : It is even worse than that. Soil compaction is killing trees. I live in O'Connor, and I am seeing evidence of trees having to be cut down; they are dying as a result of soil compaction caused by this strange thing that happens in Canberra where people seem to not want to park their cars on roads. I think it is a cultural thing. I think the NCA should be more aggressively, if I could use that word, encouraging the ACT government to bring in policies that make it possible to book people who park like that. We in the NCA have the power now, under our parking ordinance, to book people who park cars in landscape spaces.

Ms Penn : And that is a new power. We have not been able to do that, so we have been very frustrated, in fact, by our inability to stop people parking on verges—often newly planted verges, against newly established walls. Also the paid parking, as I am sure you are aware, is really about rebalancing and helping to prevent people from all piling into certain suburbs where they can park for free inappropriately, where they ought not park, by having a more balanced spread. There are other issues—

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: And I must say that with these new buildings across the road, on State Circle—The Senator, or whatever it is called—the cars are parking outside on the street, and the next thing will be that they are on the footpath, because there are multiple bedrooms, and it is obviously leased out per bedroom, and everyone has a car. It was just badly planned. I would suggest that close to our Parliament House is not a good look if we are wanting to portray ourselves to the rest of the world as the national capital, the federal-state—

Mr Snow : Upgrade quality and upgrade—

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: These things creep up over time. I have always been proud of Canberra and our landscape, but even in my own home town of Windorah, Queensland, we have a problem with the gas industry. They bring these massive trucks into town now. Sorry, I've got right off track, chair. I did want to complete my little comments.

Ms BRODTMANN: I have a number of questions. What we do not cover today I will put on notice. I just wanted to let you know that. Going back to your new powers of being able to book people, I am assuming that is within the Parliamentary Triangle. You have this new power as result of paid parking—

Mr Snow : On national land only.

Ms BRODTMANN: in terms of being able to book people. How big is the footprint?

Ms Penn : Acton, Russell, Parliamentary—

Mr Smith : National and, in fact, it is State Circle. We could book them, potentially, in the very near future. It is on land owned by the Commonwealth, in short, that we have that power. The focus is really the Parliamentary Zone, Russell and Acton Peninsula.

Ms BRODTMANN: On the pay-parking issue, you saw the reports in The Canberra Times today about the introduction in October. Is that the original time line?

Mr Snow : No, it was originally stated that it would be a 1 July commencement. I formed the view prior to that that our back-of-house systems, in particular—the administration of the parking scheme—was not sufficiently developed to be able to meet that time frame. So I made the decision and informed the minister that we would like to delay the introduction until such time as we were ready and confident of those systems. You can imagine with credit card transactions, with funds transfers and with the procedures related particularly to enforcement and cash collection there are a whole series of components of introducing a scheme from a standing start. It is something that we were asked to do by government, which we are happy to do.

Yesterday we announced that we will now commence pay parking on 1 October. I am satisfied that those administrative aspects of the scheme are now fully in place. There is certainly more to do, but we are confident that on 1 October the scheme will commence and that those people who use the scheme—I think we need to take a consumer-user view here. If things do not work on day one that is risky and is embarrassing for government. It is certainly risky for us. I therefore needed to be confident that everything was going to work well. We are going to be at pains to point out exactly how the scheme works, so there is a quite extensive communication strategy planned to roll out at the beginning of August. This is something new. The primary reason we are doing this is to provide short-term parking for visitors of our national institutions. That was a chronic problem in the Parliamentary Triangle.

Ms BRODTMANN: You know my views on that so I will not pursue it. In terms of the machines themselves, I noticed today that you are looking at introducing a system where people can pay in advance and for multiple weeks. The system that is set up for 1 October, will that be $12 a day with coins or will it accept notes? Could you explain how it works?

Mr Snow : I just want to correct a statement you made a second ago. At this stage, the first stage of implementation of the scheme, you can pay for five consecutive days of parking. At this stage, if you work in the area you can buy in advance, using a MasterCard or VISA card, a five-day permit and you can display that each day that you park. Alternatively, you can just pay the $12 per day and display that ticket or, if you are a visitor, $2.50 per hour in a designated area. We have clearly signposted short-term and long-term parking. At least one machine in every car park will accept coins as well as credit cards, so we are giving people the opportunity to use cards or cash. We would look, in second or future stages, to do what the ACT government is doing, which is to offer longer permit times that would potentially introduce a higher saving for regular users.

Ms BRODTMANN: So can you buy a week at the machine?

Mr Snow : Yes, you can.

Ms Penn : Also the permits are transferrable, so you can arrive in the morning and park in one spot, go somewhere for lunch and then park in—

Ms BRODTMANN: That is the whole idea.

Ms Penn : Yes, exactly.

Ms BRODTMANN: That is one of the purposes, so you can get a park again when you come back after lunch. I want to go to the report and the government's response to both the amenity report and the diplomatic state report. Just on the amenity report: they have accepted the recommendation that you will provide regular reports and updates on the amenity, so have you got any timelines on when you will be making the first report?

Ms Penn : The reporting? I was going to say I think we are planning to have the auditing done this year and hopefully gap analysis will have commenced.

Mr Snow : That is correct. Andy's team, the plan team, will now undertake a full audit of what is the spectrum of amenities. We are taking a broad view of amenities: it is not just toilets; it is access to coffee shops, hairdressers—

Ms BRODTMANN: I think the report was clear.

Mr Snow : It is very clear. That audit will hopefully identify gaps, omissions, shortfalls or aspects of what, reasonably, workers and visitors to the area would expect to find in an inner city area of Canberra. Our ability then to influence landowners' decisions about including those things is limited. We have already been proactive in approaching landowners, and particularly those who are already contemplating development. Andy's team has been active in trying to advocate and influence the mix so that at ground floor, for example, in at least two buildings that are emerging now in Barton there will be ground floor activities that incorporate personal services, small supermarkets for example. We would like to continue with that type of effort. There is no reason why we need to wait for the audit; we are vigilant now in doing those things.

Ms BRODTMANN: Exactly.

CHAIR: But the point is that at the next of our biannual hearings, you will be able to inform us—

Mr Snow : I will be able to report exactly what that gap is and what we are proactively doing to fill that gap.

Ms Penn : And any changes from now on the ground as to what is happening.

Ms BRODTMANN: And if you can try to integrate parking into that too because as you know this is a big issue. These buildings go up, there is no parking or there is only limited parking and it is for senior executives.

Mr Snow : In fact the two buildings I spoke of are structured car parks, which are incorporating 600 spaces and 400 spaces.

Ms Penn : One of the benefits of paid parking—

Unidentified speaker: This is at the Ottoman side.

Ms Penn : It is an economic equation.

Mr Snow : We are going to need private sector interest, competition.

Mr Smith : One of them is across the road from the DFAT building—in fact you can see it under construction now—and the other one we have just closed public consultation. That has got space for retail activity at the base.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: Where is that—in Barton, is it?

Ms BRODTMANN: Which one? DFAT?

CHAIR: On which road, Andy?

Mr Snow : Sorry?

CHAIR: You mentioned across the road from DFAT.

Ms BRODTMANN: This is the Hindmarsh building?

Mr Smith : It is in fact across Windsor walk—it is the pathway—

Ms BRODTMANN: Windsor Walk, through to One Canberra?

Mr Smith : The site is under construction; it is behind the ANAO building, Centenary House. Between Centenary House and the DFAT building there is a site that is under construction.

Ms BRODTMANN: Up the road from the Press Club.

Mr Smith : Yes, that is right.

Ms BRODTMANN: Remember that dirt patch that was there?

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: It could have been a park area.

Mr Snow : Part of that site is protected.

Mr Smith : They have golden sun moths nearby. In fact the developer of that site is the owner of the Realm and the Burbury Hotel; there is a suite of them.

Ms BRODTMANN: Doma, yes. I want to discuss Tuggeranong and I also want to discuss the response on the diplomatic estate. There were three major elements that were brought up there: the three-year rule, the subdivision issue and also medium density. If you could very quickly touch on how you are going with implementing particularly the three-year rule, which you know I get very exercised about. And I am very pleased to see the Pakistan embassy, after 50 years, is finally nearly at the end of its mission.

Mr Snow : The good news is that the new administrative leasing arrangements, if I could call them that, have started to have the desired effect. We are seeing embassies realise that the Commonwealth is now serious about encouraging embassies that literally have sat on sites and within their own time frames decided when they would be developing—and we appreciate the support the government has been able to give us in taking what I call a 'tough line'.

Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, absolutely.

Mr Snow : Already I can report that two reserved diplomatic blocks have now been released and made available. We are in negotiations with other diplomatic missions regarding their future development. We are also in negotiation in relation to a diplomatic mission regarding the possible development of at least two or three further blocks in O'Malley. These are blocks that have sat vacant with nothing happening on them since forever. We are proactively following up with virtually all of those other diplomatic missions that have diplomatic blocks reserved for them to ask the question, 'What are your intentions? They could, for example, turn around and say, 'We will decide when we do it.' But we are clearly indicating that the new administrative arrangements give us the ability to, in a sense, force the issue.

Ms BRODTMANN: Good. I encourage you to do that. I was wondering around Yarralumla just the other day and I saw that Pakistan has two missions already. Iran has a block of land there and they have the mission out at O'Malley. Russia has a block of land there and they have a mission on Canberra Avenue that has been there forever. There are empty blocks all over that need filling now.

Mr Snow : That is right. In the short term, those changed arrangements are going to free up some sites. We are already seeing evidence of that. To your second question around the other aspect of the planning associated with diplomatic land, a working party will be formed under the aegis of the department and we will have the ACT government, the AFP and DFAT working through an interdepartmental committee to go to the recommendation by the government that we start to identify those additional choices, opportunities and options to ensure that we do not continue to put pressure on other sites.

Ms BRODTMANN: Exactly. Is it possible to get a list of those countries that have released land? Can we get an update on the land that is currently available now?

Mr Snow : Yes, where we are able to do so. A number of those are subject to government-to-government negotiations and we are not in a position to offer those.

Ms BRODTMANN: I understand the sensitivity. But if we could get an update on where we are at with the latest round of activity that would be terrific.

Mr Snow : Certainly.

CHAIR: Thank you for attending and giving evidence to the committee at today's hearing. If the committee has further questions for you, we will send them to you in writing through the secretariat.

Resolved that these proceedings be published.

Committee adjourned at 11:02 .