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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 288


Mr RUDDOCK —Before the suspension of the sitting I was granted leave to speak on the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on proposals for variations to the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs. I want to address some comments to two variations, which have been the subject of approval by the Committee, of particular road layouts. The first one is in relation to variation 7, which relates to the road layouts necessary to approve what has become known as the White Industries development in Civic.

The previous Government approved of the development of a much needed convention centre and associated hotel, office blocks and complimentary park development in Civic. It was to be known as the Tivoli gardens project. Notwithstanding that approval, the new Government has delayed that project now for some five months since the last election. There has been continued speculation in the Press about whether the new Government endorses the project. There have been suggestions about re-negotiation of the plans by the new Government. Those suggestions seem to be based more on pique than on logic. There is no reason why this project should not proceed immediately. If honourable members read the Canberra Times of 9 August they would have seen a report of a statement made by a spokesman for White Industries Ltd, Mr Paul Barlow, who said that the company had finance arranged to enable that development to proceed. I will read the first paragraph of that news report because I think it is very important that honourable members be aware of it:

White Industries has formally advised the Department of Territories and Local Government that it has access to the $130 million needed to finance its proposal for a Canberra hotel-convention centre.

Finance is one of those matters that some people have referred to that may have been involved in the Department having a look at whether the development project should proceed, but clearly that is not a reason. Others have suggested that it is because the Australian Capital Territory Committee had to consider this matter. That is no longer a reason.

This report approves all necessary roadworks for the project. It will be a disaster for Canberra if this project is lost. It could be lost if the Government reverses its decision to approve some of the special provisions that have been made to enable this development to proceed. They include forgoing rates for a period making land available for the project without charge and the commitment on the government's part to lease some of the completed office space when it has been built. I do not regard these as unreasonable incentives to obtain for Canberra important convention facilities. These facilities will bring growth to Canberra's important tourist industry. This project-with 600 building jobs and 1500 long term jobs-will provide more jobs in Canberra than the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) dared to suggest might result from Budget expenditure on servicing land and housing and employment creating projects. Where is the human face of those who have maliciously delayed this project, perhaps out of spite because it was negotiated and obtained for Canberra by the previous Government? I submit that the confidence in the private sector is important and the Government's commitment to growth in Canberra will be sabotaged if this project is not able to proceed and if there is further inaction on the Government's part.

The Government's delay and inaction has been attacked by a number of Canberra- based bodies. They include: The Canberra Association for Regional Development; the Master Builders Association of the Australian Capital Territory; the Canberra Chamber of Commerce; the Real Estate Institute of the Australian Capital Territory; the Building Owners and Managers Association; the Confederation of Australian Capital Territory Industry; the Insurance Council of Australia Ltd; the Housing Industry Association; the Australian Capital Territory Association of Permanent Building Societies; the Canberra Visitor and Convention Bureau; the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and District Centre; the Australian Capital Territory Division , Australian Institute of Valuers; the Australian Capital Territory Committee, Australian Finance Conference and the Belconnen Chamber of Commerce. I do not think honourable members will find a more distinguished group of organisations in this capital. It would be a national disgrace for Canberra if this project were lost. I hold the Government fully accountable and responsible if this development does not proceed.

I wish also to speak also about variation 11 which relates to Erindale. Erindale is a delightful centre. A secondary college has been developed in association with a number of important community facilities. In a bi-partisan way, let me suggest that it was first initiated by the Whitlam Labor Government as an experiment. I think it has proved to be a desirable experiment. The development of that project-even though the Hayden Budget put it off for a while -was ultimately pursued and completed by the previous Liberal Government. It is a very important development in the Tuggeranong Valley. The project about which I am to speak will add a shopping centre of some size to the list of community facilities.

I have found it necessary-along with some of my colleagues-to dissent on one aspect of the comments that have been made by the Committee in relation to the pursuit of this development. However, I want to make it clear that I, and my colleagues who have joined me in this dissent, regard the importance of satisfying the urgent retail shopping needs of the Tuggeranong Valley as being of the utmost importance. We acknowledge and agree that the development progress in the Tuggeranong Valley has exceeded the provision of adequate shopping facilities to date. In other words, we agree that there is a shortage of adequate retail facilities in the Tuggeranong Valley. We have not dissented from the recommendation that the necessary roadworks be proceeded with to enable the retail facilities to be built at Erindale. We are of the view that those roadworks ought to be approved. We do not disagree with that.

I think it is important that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and honourable members understand that there is no disagreement on the question of the urgent need for retail shopping facilities in the Tuggeranong Valley. We have not, in any way, dissented from the recommendation that the necessary roadworks for these retail facilities to be provided be approved. The disagreement is about the importance to ensure that proper, long term planning for the Tuggeranong Valley is not jeopardised by the way in which this present urgent need is satisfied. That matter needs to be understood. The reservations I have arise from the evidence. A former member of the National Capital Development Commission and a distinguished town planner, Mr Harrison, gave evidence to the Committee. I regard his comments as being very important. He commented that the development that is now proposed at Erindale is of such an extraordinary size that it will be an impediment to the proper development of an effective town centre in the Tuggeranong Valley. That was the nature of the evidence that this very distinguished town planner gave to our Committee. Honourable members will also see in the report that Mr Harrison objected to the Erindale proposal on the following grounds:

it was in the wrong place, too much traffic will be generated to the detriment of surrounding areas; it will perform town centre functions such that the future establishment of a town centre will be made more difficult as it will be less attractive to developers--

Those comments were made by this very distinguished town planner which I found very persuasive. The National Capital Development Commission approved originally of a development of 6,000 square metres. That provided for the provision of immediate shopping facilities to help meet the needs in the Tuggeranong Valley. However, almost by an immaculate conception, the NCDC altered its proposal to a very much larger size. It suggested that it should be increased to 14,000 square metres with an additional 4,000 square metres that might also be used for commercial activities. No planning reasons were given but it seems to me that the NCDC's response was very much related to the sorts of pressures to which politicians are often subjected. It was almost a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy the urgent demand for shopping facilities in the Tuggeranong Valley, whether those facilities were going to be in the right or the wrong place. That is the concern that I have about the way in which this development is proceeding.

We believe that, if this development were staged and if the decision were that Erindale should be developed to that very large size at this point, the NCDC could proceed with development almost immediately. But if the decision were that it was not the right place then an alternative site might be pursued. The proposal that we have made will give the NCDC the flexibility to ensure that the long term planning of the Tuggeranong Valley is not jeopardised. We in no way want to prevent the provision of adequate retail facilities in the Tuggeranong Valley. We do want a proper and natural town centre site identified. If it is identified as being Erindale and that is believed to be the appropriate decision , then, sure, we should proceed with a development of this size and magnitude now. Staging would give the NCDC the flexibility to make the right decision now.

I know that some of my colleagues have, in a sense, a pre-occupation with the need for the immediate development of retail facilities on this site. I accept that there is an urgent need. But I also say to honourable members that there are urgent needs for many other things in the Tuggeranong Valley. One thing which has been pointed out to me and which I would like to emphasise is that there is no ambulance station in the valley. That might well be a cause celebre, should one want to find one. There is one fire station at the very northern end of the Tuggeranong Valley. Fifteen minutes might in fact elapse before a fire engine could reach a fire in the extemities of the Tuggeranong Valley.

I do not think the provision of retail facilities is the only issue that ought to be looked at in this context with that degree of enthusiasm. Many other issues could be taken up in that way. I think it is important that all of us who are concerned about the development of this city, its future growth, and the future of the young people who will live in it, make the right decisions and are not rushed into knee-jerk reactions simply because the NCDC has not been able to develop its planning to a point where it can tell us where the town centre in the Tuggeranong Valley should be right now.