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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE NATIONAL CAPITAL AND EXTERNAL TERRITORIES
National Capital Authority
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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE NATIONAL CAPITAL AND EXTERNAL TERRITORIES
CHAIR (Senator Lundy)
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS
National Capital Authority
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Content WindowJOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE NATIONAL CAPITAL AND EXTERNAL TERRITORIES - 16/06/2010 - National Capital Authority
CHAIR (Senator Lundy) —I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories. In July 2008 the committee released its report entitled The way forward: inquiry into the role of the National Capital Authority. As part of that report, the committee made a series of recommendations which sought to enhance the governance and accountability of the National Capital Authority. In particular, recommendation 3 proposed that representatives of the NCA appear regularly at public hearings before the committee to account for its performance. This is the third public hearing arising from that recommendation. I note also that it was at the NCA’s own initiative that this process was begun.
The chairperson of the NCA will have an opportunity to make a statement outlining key achievements and performance against objectives. The evidence today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts a parliamentary privilege. Before introducing the witnesses, I will refer members of the media who may be monitoring this hearing to the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee.
I welcome representatives of the National Capital Authority to today’s hearing. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence on oath, I need to advise you that these hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament and therefore have the same standing as the respective houses. I now invite you to make an opening statement.
Prof. Aitkin —Thank you. I am glad you recorded that we meet here at our initiative. It seemed to me when I became chairman that the first thing to do was engage more widely and more seriously with every part of the nation, because the nation is essentially our stakeholder. You are part of it; the people we contact in the community forums are; and the correspondence, emails and everything is all part of it. We have tried to improve that.
There are three things I would like to say and then I will hand to my colleague. The first is that we have two new members. You have met them, Chair. They are both exceptionally useful people. We are effectively a new body, a new board.
CHAIR —Can you tell the committee that the names of the new council members.
Prof. Aitkin —Certainly. Christine Storry from Queensland is a new member. She has a background in environmental law, and architecture and design. The other one is Shelley Penn. She is also an architect. In fact, she was the associate government architect for Victoria. She is now back in private practice. They both bring useful skills and they have both fitted in very well. It is worth saying that since Gary and I were appointed substantively last year, along with Peter Core also last year and the two new members early this year, we are effectively a new body and we are approaching some of our work in a new way and with a long-term vision. Let me talk about that first of all.
We are planning to present to parliament in 10 years time a 50-year-forward look for the national capital. The Prime Minister has estimated that Australia will have a population of 35 million by 2050. If he is correct—and he will not be far off, either undershooting or overshooting—then the national capital’s population will be over half a million by then, because the population of the national capital increases more or less as the nation’s does. As I probably do not have to tell you, if it rose faster than the Australian average then there would be three seats in the House of Representatives in the ACT; if it falls just below, as it does, then we stay at two.
Canada has decided to do this. In fact, the National Capital Commission in Canada has taken the view that it should actually look forward 50 years. It has taken some of what we do as a model, and I would think we would pay the compliment back and say, ‘We’ll do what you do’—that is, we ought to look forward, because there is an assumption within the community that the national capital is finished: it has been done, the lake is in, the new Parliament House is done and when that was done everything was done. But, of course, the whole of the ACT is a Commonwealth possession, and I cannot see any reason why the national capital will not continue to grow at roughly the Australian rate. If it does, we have a responsibility and the Commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure that the national capital in 2050 is just as good, just as beautiful and just as unique as it currently is. We can see around the world what happens when you lose the sense that the national capital has a particular place in the minds of the nation. Very briefly, Washington DC has a beautiful central area—the Mall—but outside that you can see some of the worst slums in the US, because Washington is not a whole at all.
We propose that it will take us 10 years to do this—to review the National Capital Plan, which is now 22 years old—and to present to parliament in 10 years time a vision of the national capital that would extend 50 years and then every 10 years renew that vision so that parliament has a sense of the way in which the national capital will grow. We can start doing that. I hope parliament accepts that challenge from us and in the fullness of time makes it possible for us to be funded in a way that would support that.
The second thing we have done is to review our consultation protocol. That is very much part of the new approach for the board of the NCA. We have had two public forums now. The first was, I think, somewhat aggressive. We sat there and accepted a lot of criticism, and at the end everyone said, ‘That was good; let’s do it again.’ We did it again, and the second time there was much less aggression, much more interest in what we are for and what we are not for and a sense that we should not be concentrating on small things but should be concentrating on the big ones. We have taken note of a lot of suggestions that were made and we will be pursuing most of them.
We have also revised our formal consultation requirements. I will read these out carefully; in fact, I am perfectly happy to leave these notes if that would help. We have reduced the number of consultation processes and standardised the time frames. We will consult on many more works approvals than we used to. We will report all works approvals on our website. We will establish and maintain a transparent register of key stakeholders and use those key stakeholders as a source of early views on key projects and proposals—in other words, let people know what is likely to happen and get them involved so that things are not dropped on the community as absolutely new proposals.
We have received community feedback on the draft document, and much of that is positive. We have received about a dozen suggestions for improvement in it, and I will be recommending to my colleagues that we incorporate most of those. We have a section which incorporates our service charter for planning matters and a formal process for dealing with feedback and complaints. I think that, once those are all set up, we will find that people know what is in the pipeline. So they will have some sense of it and, if they want to engage, they can. Canberra is a very well-connected city and people ring each other and email within hours, so the faster you get stuff out the better. The faster and more fully we can say to people, ‘This is what is being proposed; what do you think?’ and the earlier we do it so that we ourselves have time to deal with a range of community positions that we will discover, the better. We are committed to our role as trustee of the national capital and we are committed to fulfilling that role in a transparent and accountable manner.
CHAIR —Thank you, Professor Aitken. Mr Rake, do you wish to add anything?
Mr Rake —May say a couple of words about our operations?
CHAIR —You can.
Mr Rake —I would like to touch briefly on some key work that the authority is doing in each of our three primary functions: planning the national capital, promoting the national capital and managing the estate. Within the planning sphere, the biggest project on our agenda is still working on the intergovernmental committee with the ACT to try to put in place some actions that will fulfil the ambitions of the ‘Way Forward’ report prepared by this committee. There is still a long way to go to resolve those issues, and I have to say that progress is slow and hard at the moment.
We participated recently in the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which has a strong impact on the management of heritage in the national capital. One of the things the authority recommended was that we close a gap in heritage protection for significant sites on designated territory land—that is, land where the ACT government manages the land and we manage the planning arrangements. Dr Alan Hawke, now Dr Alan Hawke AC, conducted that review and has adopted our suggestion into his recommendations. In the near future, we hope to see a response from government and we hope that that gap in the heritage protection will be closed.
In promoting the national capital we are continuing to attract strong visitor numbers to the National Capital exhibition at Regatta Point. Over the next three months, even allowing for the midyear school break, we have an average of 41 school groups per week already booked to come through. As far ahead as September, we have bookings for somewhere around 2½ thousand school students from around Australia every week to come through the exhibition. That has been booked four or five months in advance.
We have started work on a major renewal of the exhibition, and we will have that ready in time for the centenary. We invited the ACT government to nominate some of their officers to work with us in steering that project and are pleased that they have accepted the invitation and nominated Dr David Headon and Mr Jeremy Lasek. They are both senior officers and advisers to the ACT government who have previously worked for the authority, so they are well placed to contribute to that project.
CHAIR —Just on that point, I think is probably appropriate at this time that I declare that David Headon is also on my staff for two days a week.
Mr Rake —He has been appointed in his capacity as an ACT adviser.
CHAIR —I appreciate that, but I do need to be clear to the committee members.
Mr Rake —In the national capital estate there are some of the key projects we are working on. The first one, which did get me into trouble at Senate estimates a week or two ago, is the Kings Avenue overpass, which will make your trips to the airport faster by the middle of next year, and that is on track and on budget. Another is the troublesome pedestrian crossing alongside the National Gallery, in Bowen Place. We will be going out to the community within the next month with a range of eight theoretical options to improve that crossing but, really, there are only two or three that are genuinely viable. We will brief you shortly on a proposed new entry road for the National Archives. We have been involved in some early discussions about the creation of a National Workers Memorial. Finally, if any of you have been in the area around Questacon recently, you will have noticed some safety fencing. We recently built a bus parking area and turning circle and, unfortunately, we are having to pursue a fairly major defects claim against the contractor who built that road.
CHAIR —Thank you very much, Mr Rake.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Thank you for being here, gentlemen. Are the briefings you mentioned on the National Archives and the National Workers Memorial happening today?
Mr Rake —The archives briefing is happening today. The workers memorial briefing was really just a notice for the committee that we have had some early discussions. I understand there is a cross-party committee that is investigating the potential.
CHAIR —For the record, both Senator Humphries and I are on that.
Mr Rake —Good. I was not aware of the membership.
CHAIR —Is it a working group—
Mr Rake —I think so, yes.
CHAIR —of the parliament progressing that?
Mr Rake —A steering committee.
CHAIR —There is a bit of cross-referencing that we can do, but I am pleased to hear that you are bringing it to that committee’s attention.
Mr Rake —It is one of the core roles of the National Capital Authority—to help guide the placement of memorials. In these cases it is good to be involved early.
Senator HUMPHRIES —There are just a few things I want to quickly go over. First of all is the ongoing 50-year plan—I commend you on that initiative. You said, Professor Aitkin, that you would need to persuade the parliament to support this with funding. This would be a major exercise, I assume, that would involve bringing in consultant planners, designers and people like that together for a high quality outcome. Do you have any idea of what kind of level of work is going to be required to produce the first of these 50-year plans?
Prof. Aitkin —I said we were planning a 10-year period to do that and then renewing it every 10 years thereafter. We can start doing that now within our own resources and indeed we must, because that is all the resources we have. But if this is seen as a good thing to do then I would be asking government to support it with some senior staff for us, especially in the urban design and planning area. We have said this before—it is not new—but that is an area where this proposal will be done best if we have the right quality of people to help us do it. Some of it we can do ourselves.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I would agree. I think this has to be done with the highest level of technical and expert contribution. I am not sure the NCA has the resources at its disposal at the moment to make a major review of the National Capital Plan to foresee a vision that would last 50 years.
Prof. Aitkin —We would agree, but we can start it. If we keep waiting until there is money, we may wait much longer than we should.
Senator HUMPHRIES —You touched, Mr Rake, on the ongoing work between the ACT and the NCA about the interface between the two planning systems. What form is that consultation taking?
Mr Rake —There is a formal intergovernmental committee comprising officers of the ACT government and the National Capital Authority and that committee is chaired by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Who, specifically, chairs it?
Mr Rake —Renee Leon, Deputy Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Who are the other members of the committee?
Mr Rake —The ACT government is represented by the Chief Executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, Andrew Cappie-Wood; and the Chief Planning Executive, Neil Savery. The National Capital Authority is represented by our Executive Director of Planning, Andrew Smith; and me.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Approximately how often is it meeting?
Mr Rake —It ranges from once a month to once every second or third month. There were some more intense periods of meetings prior to Christmas last year, but I think there have only been two meetings this year.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Is it getting down to the level of talking about particular areas of the territory, which are designated land but have different ownership to the authority that is the designated authority over that land? Are there particular problems with that interface you are discussing or are you still talking concepts?
Mr Rake —Unfortunately, no, we are not into any detail at all. All of the discussions to date have been around responsibility for strategic planning. The view that the authority is putting in is that the view formed by this committee and its report is the correct one—that this is the national capital and that the Commonwealth needs to request the final say and responsibility for strategic planning and land use planning, albeit there is a far more inclusive way to bring the ACT into that process. The ACT posits a different view and the discussions to date are bogged down in resolving that. Until that is resolved, it makes it difficult to get into the more detailed work, which is where the more productive gains are to be made. That is where the complexity in our planning system exists.
Senator HUMPHRIES —What is the ACT government’s position on this interface?
Mr Rake —They would like the Commonwealth to document matters of national significance and to allow the ACT to interpret those matters of national significance and to effectively write their own strategic plan, their own planning laws, and to use those principles as the sole mechanism for protecting the national interest in Canberra as the national capital.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Has there been any suggestion of elevating these discussions to minister to minister to resolve these deadlocks?
Mr Rake —We are probably getting close to that point, but no, it has not been formally suggested as yet.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I want to ask you about any work that is going on at the moment with respect to the provision of pay parking in the Parliamentary Triangle. I think on a previous occasion you put it to us that there was a joint group or taskforce between the Commonwealth and the ACT. Is that still ongoing?
Mr Rake —Yes, that is still ongoing. The NCA is chairing that. It has quite a broad membership. Most Commonwealth agencies within Russell, Barton or Parkes have either membership or a very close briefing watch and multiple agencies from the ACT government are also being represented.
We have a discussion paper due for release either late this month or very early in July outlining some research that we have undertaken about the state of parking in Russell, Barton and Parkes. It is essentially a supply and demand analysis. Rather than jumping straight to a conclusion that pay parking should be implemented because there is some inequity between Canberra city and the Parliamentary Zone, we want to test whether there is a problem, whether it is the sort of problem that requires a policy intervention and, if so, what policy interventions might work to resolve those problems. Pay parking might be a solution to a certain range of problems but we first need to assess what those problems are.
When this discussion paper comes out it will reveal that a couple of parking surveys that we undertook in November last year—one in a sitting period and one outside a sitting period—show that within the Parliamentary Zone there is currently an excess supply of car parks. There is not a parking problem in the Parliamentary Zone at the moment. Certainly people might not be able to get a park immediately outside their building, but well within standard walking distance there are available parks. That is likely to change within the next two to three months. The occupation of the Edmund Barton building and the potential adjustments to parking in and around the Ottoman behind the Edmund Barton building could result in a shortfall and that will be our tipping point, and that is identified in this report.
Within Barton there are a different range of problems. There is again an excess supply of car parks in aggregate in the area but many of them are locked up in basements and the building tenants are not making full use of the car parks within their basements. That feeds parking problems out into the publicly available parks. Russell is completely at capacity and is at capacity almost every day.
Senator HUMPHRIES —Is there an end date for this consultation process between the two governments?
Mr Rake —No. There is a target of the end of this year, but I do not think we will be ready for that because we will need to take our time in talking to the community about the nature of the problem and getting their views on where the problems are, contrasting availability for permanent workers in the zone, temporary workers in the zone, volunteers to the national institutions and visitors to the cultural institutions. Once we understand the range of problems they are seeing we can develop a range of solutions and go back out to the community. Those solutions could range from changing the balance of long-stay and short-stay parking, adjusting car park opening and closing times to weigh them in favour of particular users through to and including pay parking as an option.
Senator HUMPHRIES —The building that is planned for the present site of the Ottoman restaurant has been said to have the potential to trigger fringe benefits tax implications for the provision of parking. Has the NCA or this consultation group taken any legal advice about that?
Mr Rake —We have not taken legal advice on the implication for fringe benefits, but fringe benefits is certainly an issue that is being considered if there is application and based on what it applies to. At the moment, the majority of the surface car parks in the Parliamentary Zone are publicly available car parks; they are not car parks provided by an employer to an employee in the course of that person’s employment and so they would seem to fail some of the critical tests for fringe benefits tax. The same might not be true of private access basement car parks.
Senator HUMPHRIES —What is the progress with our friends from the Brodburger van?
Mr Rake —For members who may not be familiar, Brodburger is a hamburger vendor in a caravan placed on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. It has been in place now for about 18 months without having sought the necessary planning approvals. We have been trying to resolve it in a way that does not take an unduly heavy-handed approach, but we do have a commercial enterprise ignoring Commonwealth law. The initial permit expired on 1 June; we granted a three-week extension because we had received quite a strong demonstration of good faith that the trader was trying to come up with a way to transition to a legally compliant mechanism for trade. That extension runs until 22 June—Tuesday next week. The primary purpose of that extension was to enable the trader and the ACT government to have negotiations about the potential for a permanent site and construction of a permanent kiosk. I have not had any update on whether those negotiations have occurred or, if they have, how productive they have been.
Senator HUMPHRIES —I have a question to place on notice—I assume you could not answer it now. How often in the last 12 months has the minister been briefed by the NCA about issues to do with the NCA’s remit and how many times have written briefings been provided to the minister’s office in that period?
Mr Rake —We will take that on notice.
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —Is there an update on the progress or the status of the Anzac Avenue toilet block proposal?
Mr Rake —There has been no work undertaken on it since the last set of discussions broke down. We have not undertaken any active work on that proposal.
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —So the current status of it is a proposal sitting dormant?
Mr Rake —There is a proposal that has not been actively looked at for more than two years and it does not look like re-emerging in the foreseeable future.
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —I ask because a veterans group asked me. My other question is to do with the centenary, and I notice you already made reference to that. I have a bit of an interest at a federal level in how the coordination is going between, say, the NCA, this building and other national institutions around the town in relation to the centenary. You particularly mentioned school visitations and there is quite a bit of interest emerging about firm plans or ideas—I am not sure which they are—for trying to get every year 6 student in the country to come here. How is the coordination going from your point of view? Is there anything you think we need to pay additional attention to?
Mr Rake —The coordination on behalf of the Commonwealth is again being chaired by the Attorney-General’s Department, so we are involved as a stakeholder from time to time. I have put it to the Attorney-General’s Department that we would be happy to take any greater role that it or the government might wish us to. We already have very strong working relationships with the ACT government, and it being the centenary of the national capital I cannot think of a better agency than ours to be more heavily involved. But within the working group, such as it is comprised, the national institutions do feature and the Commonwealth is still working on a program of institutional contribution to the centenary—each of the galleries, the museums and the like.
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —Who is the chair of that group? If you do not have that name, could you get it to us?
Mr Rake —I will have to take that on notice. It is within the territories unit of the Attorney-General’s Department.
Senator ADAMS —Thank you for your presentation. You have just spoken about involving the community. How do you communicate with community members?
Prof. Aitkin —We have a public forum every year in which people are invited to nominate the issues they would like us to talk about or respond to. We have a website. I do not know how many hits we get on it; maybe we had better take that on notice as well.
Senator ADAMS —That would be great; thank you.
Prof. Aitkin —We get a lot of phone calls, emails and letters from within this community. It would be lovely if we got as many communications from outside the ACT as we get from inside it, because it is the national capital and not simply the city of Canberra. We often put out a media release saying, ‘Here’s something that’s likely to happen—what do you think?’ As I said, we are setting up a stakeholders group. Canberra is full of community organisations that have an interest in the status, size and texture of the national capital. We can get to them very quickly and say, ‘Here is a proposal,’ and they can get to us and say, ‘We hear that … ’. Good examples of that are Immigration Bridge, the Albert Hall—which was before my time—or the Commonwealth Building having a particular tenant.
CHAIR —A tenant we must not name. We talked about that at the last public hearing.
Prof. Aitkin —We did. So, in a way, we do not have to send stuff out; stuff comes to us all the time from people saying, ‘I hear that someone wants to build a building which will cast a shadow on my backyard,’ and so forth. Every municipal organisation in Australia gets those, and we get them in spades as well. What we have done in the last two years is to move out of our building into the territory, as it were—to go to other people’s places rather than say, ‘You’ve got to come to us.’ I think that has had a very powerful effect on people. People realise, ‘Oh, they’re actually human—two legs, two arms and all the rest of it.’ We are not seen, as we were to some degree, as a nameless, faceless power with the word ‘Authority’ in it. I think I said at an earlier meeting that, if it was up to me, I would not call us the ‘National Capital Authority’. Although we are vested with that authority, it is a bit of baggage when you are trying to deal with people. You say, ‘Tell me what you think,’ and they say: ‘What does it matter? you’re the authority.’ We are trying to get over that. Does that help?
Senator ADAMS —Yes. I was just thinking, when you are talking about it, about how do you actually do it, apart from through the website. I was wondering if you sent out surveys and what percentage you got back. But obviously you did not do that.
Mr Rake —We have not sent surveys out. We have tried to get more on the front foot in making information available. It is our general view that any information the authority has should be available to the public. There has to be a very good reason to withhold things. We were a little bit slow to move into the modern era, but we have recently added an information subscription feed to our website so that people can nominate particular areas of our work that they are interested in and, if we make an update to that information, they are automatically told that has happened.
The board also recently decided for the first time to start releasing a public record of its meetings. It is something that we have not done in the past. Sure as anything, at just the second meeting of which we intended to release a public record, we had a difficult topic. We sat and we thought: ‘We can’t fall at the first hurdle. We must do it.’ So we are pushing on. We are making those available. That (a) demystifies our decision making, (b) lets people know very early, at their very instigation, which matters are coming before the authority and (c) opens the door for us to explain what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it. I am not sure that we are going to immediately jump to joining the Twitter community, but I think we have to look for more ways to make information available.
Mr NEVILLE —Let me first say how much I welcome your approach to parking—this idea of not wanting to come down with a heavy fist and regulate everything hell west and crooked. There is a lot of natural parking there. Having said that, especially on the Kingston-Manuka side there is quite a bit of unofficial open-area parking that is not all that attractive. What would be the possibility of doing, say, a four-storey car park, two storeys underground and two above ground, in some pleasant design? Car parks look bloody terrible, but on the other hand they can look quite attractive if they are done right. What about one of two of those in the hot spots, with a fee—not necessarily a king’s ransom—for people who want to adopt that sort of parking?
Mr Rake —I am just going to grab an exhibit, if I may. The area that I think you are talking about where the unattractive unofficial parking occurs at the moment is York Park oak plantation, through this area. One of the sites here is owned by the ACT government and it is available for use as a multistorey car park. I understand the ACT government have it on their land release program for the next 12 months. We have prepared urban design guidelines to help guide the design of that car park, and the approach we are taking is that from the outside it should not look like a car park. There should be active frontages on the northern side. That could mean shops, offices or even apartments at the very edge on the northern side. On the southern side it might have a well-designed solid surface that is almost a piece of public art.
Mr NEVILLE —A mural or something like that?
Mr Rake —Yes. At the ground level there could be shops and other services, but within is a multi-storey car park. We have put a framework in place for that. I would be pleased to guide you to information about those guidelines. We are actively encouraging the ACT government to sell that site.
CHAIR —I think it would be helpful to the committee if you could forward us whatever material you have on that.
Mr Rake —We have got a documented set of urban design guidelines that we would be proud to pass on.
Prof. Aitkin —If I just gloss on that, as we put more and more public servants in a particular area we get a corresponding need for professional services of various kinds. People need to go to the dentist and all that sort of thing. These buildings are quite well equipped to do that, because they do not need anything more than a bit of space. They do not need to be set up. We have suggested that, and I think it is in the guidelines.
Mr Rake —Before I take the next question could I just come back. I have the name of the coordinator for the centenary. It is Ms Alison Green. She is the Acting Assistant Secretary of Territories East in the Attorney-General’s Department.
Mr NEVILLE —I have a pet one. My colleagues know this. I think we are letting the standards of our national memorials slip a bit—not the existing ones, but when we do something new. For example, the women’s franchise—
Mr NEVILLE —I thought the women’s suffragette thing was a pretty poor example. We had a thing that looked like a windmill, which was supposed to be emblematic of a fan.
Ms ANNETTE ELLIS —The red fan.
Mr NEVILLE —Yes, the red fan. I cannot see why we did not have a major bit of sculpture there representing some of the people, some of the early voters.
CHAIR —Women’s suffrage.
Mr NEVILLE —Yes, people who were central to women’s suffrage—the first woman in the House of Representatives, the first woman in the Senate, the first woman to stand for parliament and all those sorts of things. I have not seen the one for the war correspondents. Have you seen that one?
CHAIR —The memorial or commemorative works for World War I and World War II? Is that what you are talking about?
Mr NEVILLE —The location of the memorial was in some doubt. It was to honour the war correspondents.
Mr Rake —It has not come to us.
CHAIR —I have not heard of that one.
Mr NEVILLE —It might be within the grounds of the War Memorial. I encourage you to let your heads go a bit. On that point, have you at this stage thought of a role for the parliament in the 2013 celebrations? Do you have in your mind’s eye some edifice or some restoration—I do not know what—that might complement what we are doing for 2013?
Mr Rake —We do not at the moment. As I said, at the moment we are just a participant in the working group. We would actually like to have strong role. I think that is a great idea, and we would be keen to hear more about it, particularly in looking at the story of Canberra as the national capital, the number of parliamentarians who went off to inhospitable places at inhospitable times of year searching for a site. I think the contribution of parliamentarians in the genesis of the national capital is something that we should celebrate. Aside from that, from our own greedy perspective, engaging with parliamentarians is a mechanism for engaging with the broader Australian community in more than a traditional Canberra bashing way but to see the national capital as the repository of our democracy, national memories and national pride.
CHAIR —I have a couple of questions to follow up. Mr Neville prompted me to remember the concerns expressed in our local newspaper, the Canberra Times, about the nature of the proposed World War I and World War II memorial at the foot of Anzac Parade, on the lake foreshore. Can you describe for the committee what the NCA’s role is in the process of the establishment and maintenance of those memorials, please?
Prof. Aitkin —It is very complex. I will defer to Gary in just a second. There is a whole process to do with memorials per se. The NCA has a role with respect to placement. Having opened the curtain that way, I will show you how dark it is inside.
CHAIR —If it is particularly complex, given that it is nearly question time, I am happy for you to take the detail on notice. But I think this is a very good opportunity to get on the public record the nature of the NCA’s engagement with regard to those memorials.
Mr Rake —For a national memorial—and I use that term deliberately—there is a body called the Canberra National Memorials Committee. They are responsible for agreeing the location and character of national memorials. The membership of the Canberra National Memorials Committee includes the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the leaders of the government and the opposition in the Senate. The World War I and World War II memorials have had their location and character agreed by the Canberra National Memorials Committee. The National Capital Authority does have a statutory role in granting works approval for the physical construction. To date, the authority has also been the agency that takes over the maintenance of national memorials once they are completed.
To help guide proponents who are interested in developing a new memorial, the authority has prepared a guideline for the development of commemorative works on national land. It can apply to everything from a commemoration of war correspondents, which would not classify as a formal national memorial, through to and including national memorials. We are in the process of preparing an update to that document, and the key theme we are trying to get across is to identify different geographic areas of the national capital that are appropriate to commemorate different forms of service or sacrifice. So Anzac Parade is for military service and sacrifice in theatres of war.
Mr NEVILLE —Can I just add a bit to what I said before. Ms Ellis and I did the UN visit last year, and we got a four-day variation of our itinerary to go to Washington. We talked to the equivalent of the NCA and we were taken on a tour of various national memorials, in the sense of both edifices and statues. I think that, whatever we do in Australia in the way of sculpture and so on, we should not be mean fisted. These are things that will be here for 200 or 300 years. They should not just be things that satisfy a political urge at a particular time and then are jettisoned into obscurity. I thought I should explain my motivation. I think we could be doing that a bit better than we are.
Mr Rake —It is something we would agree with you on. If we are going to build a memorial, there is no point in having it simply look good on the day it is open, and that goes for any part of the national capital estate. The only way we maintain the quality and the essential character of the national capital in commemorations and memorials is by building them to be durable, building them to age with grace and having a maintenance regime in place that protects them and maintains them at those appropriate standards. The interactions that the National Capital Authority has with other deliberately planned national capitals—Washington, Ottawa and Brasilia in particular—led to the development of these commemorative guidelines, and we drew quite heavily from the Washington experience. They shared knowledge with us.
CHAIR —Are you happy to take on notice to provide some more description?
Prof. Aitkin —We are only one player.
CHAIR —That is right. I guess the opportunity I am taking is to understand fully the NCA’s role in that.
Prof. Aitkin —We are happy to provide it.
CHAIR —Could you provide references to the other committees. I am not expecting you to go into detail of their processes.
Mr Rake —We will try to graphically spell it out for everything from simple commemorative works through to full-blown national memorials and where we get involved and what we do.
CHAIR —We do not have time to go into it now, but there is the workers memorial as well and further discussions with regard to Immigration Bridge and the prospect of a land based commemoration of migrants’ contributions. Perhaps you could take on notice to provide a description for the committee as to where those discussions are up to?
Mr NEVILLE —Talking about the workers memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt complex with the workers lining up for Depression payouts is a particularly emotive sculpture. It captures the whole essence of the thirties, doesn’t it, with the men against that stark grey wall?
Mr Rake —Works of that scale are some of the early ideas that have been fed in.
Mr NEVILLE —Yes. That is the sort of thing I think we need.
Mr Rake —Would you like one minute on the National Archives?
CHAIR —Yes, we would, because that was on the agenda. But before we go to that I did want to ask for an update on the ASIO building and the progressive works approvals of the National Capital Authority, which, as I understand it, is your point of engagement with that particular development.
Mr Rake —The majority of works approvals for the built form have been issued and our delegate is currently reviewing some landscape related works approvals.
CHAIR —Thank you. Okay: the National Archives access road.
Mr Rake —The Director-General of the National Archives approached us to ask whether there was a way of improving the address of his building. It is probably one of the less prominent national institutions and quite quickly and easily—
Prof. Aitkin —And the most awkward to get to.
Mr Rake —yes—we were able to identify that we could reinstate a connection to Kings Avenue. You can see Parliament House is at the top of this map. We have had reinstating access cleared by the local traffic authorities. Our traffic modelling indicates that it will be cheap and easy, and fortunately the above-ground works will only cost about $100,000. The relocation of services below will be about $300,000. Four hundred thousand dollars to improve the address for one of our national institutions is money well spent, in our view. Symbolically, this alignment also connects to Windsor Walk, so it is quite a prominent piece of geometry.
CHAIR —Thank you for that. I should also say that I am on the advisory council of the National Archives. I know we are very pleased to see this proceed. With that I intend to close today’s hearing. I would like to thank you formally for your attendance here today. We would appreciate it if any additional material that you have taken on notice or wish to provide to the committee could be provided through the secretariat. You will be sent a copy of a transcript of your evidence, which you are able to amend with regard to fact or grammar, and Hansard may wish to check some details of your evidence with you before you go.
I would also like to thank community members for coming along today. The committee value your interest and engagement on national capital matters and we appreciate your presence here today. Thanks to the secretariat, Hansard and members of the committee. I declare this public hearing closed.
Committee adjourned at 1.54 pm