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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1709


Senator SHEIL —On behalf of Senator Reid and the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I present the report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs, eighty-ninth series, together with the minutes of proceedings. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.

Leave granted.


Senator SHEIL —The report I have just tabled deals with the eighty-ninth series of variations to the city plan. This special series of variations contains only one item-namely, the deletion from the plan of Ainslie Avenue between City Walk and Bunda Street and minor additions to and deletions from the plan of Bunda Street, Ainslie Avenue, Akuna Street, Ballumbir Street and Petrie Street. This is a four or five page statement, so I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

The purpose of the variation is to provide further development by the Canberra Building Society of sections 38 and 53 and part section 56 for offices, retailing and carparking.

The variation proposes the degazettal of Ainslie Avenue between City Walk and Bunda Street to permit the development of an atrium to cover the space between the city's two major shopping malls, Monaro Mall and the retail complex proposed for section 38. The atrium will integrate these two malls into one large centre which will provide improved retail facilities for both local and regional shoppers as well as providing a focus for community entertainment and tourist activities. The National Capital Development Commission and the developers argued strongly that this development was of critical importance to the future growth of Civic as the dominant retail centre.

The proposed development scheme is based around three levels of retailing comprising two full scale department stores, a full scale supermarket, discount department store and specialty shops and incorporates an office tower, overhead pedestrian walkways and carparking areas. The total scheme involves a floor space of nearly 67 000 square metres of leasable floor area.

The development of section 38 is part of a general proposal for retail development in Civic Centre which has been under consideration since the late 1950's and early 1960's and is considered essential in terms of providing a compact intensive and lively shopping environment in a dominant city centre. The development conditions included the objectives that the development must ensure the early restoration of Civic as the premier retail centre in the region and that it must offer a variety of retail tenancies, including a major department store. This development will consolidate the commercial development in Civic, complement existing retail functions and add to activities outside normal shopping hours.

The Committee's investigations of this development promoted great interest and debate from residents of Canberra and business groups. Concern was voiced about the rate of development of Civic and anticipated employment levels and the impact this was having not only on Civic itself but the whole of the metropolitan area. The Committee is concerned about the rate of development which has occurred in Civic in recent years and the number of building approvals which have been granted, and recommends that an undertaking be made between the NCDC and the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services, that no more government offices will be located in Civic Centre until the NCDC has concluded a thorough review of the Civic Centre policy plan and associated developments.

The Committee also examined the impact of releasing such a large amount of retail space in Civic simultaneously and considers that there will be an initial period of oversupply with resulting problems in trading conditions for some retailers. This will be compounded by the completion of the Tuggeranong Town Centre and expansion of the Belconnen Mall and there will have to be a readjustment in trading patterns throughout the ACT. However, the question of supply of retail space should be determined by market forces. It is inevitable that some adjustments will have to be made and it is probable that there will be a reassessment of some present high rental charges in the market. The Committee does not think it has a role in providing assessments of the economic viability of such ventures, as these are a matter for private sector investment.

Another consideration raised concerning this development was the impact it will have on the visual axis from Mount Ainslie to City Hill which forms part of Walter Burley Griffin's plan to provide a series of avenues radiating from Mount Ainslie to Black Mountain. The arguments advanced are set out in the Committee's report and it was concluded that an appreciation of the axis could be enhanced with the construction of a glass atrium providing sight lines in both direction as part of the development.

Some of the major discussions during the Committee's hearings centred around traffic movements and parking issues. The Committee examined these areas in detail and concluded that in the interest of pedestrian safety there was merit in closing Ainslie Avenue. However, the Committee does not consider that sufficient consideration has been given to existing traffic movements in Civic in relation to where traffic originates from or its final destination. The proposed Monash Drive and other proposed access roads for Gungahlin would reduce traffic pressure in Civic but the Committee is concerned that the routing of traffic from Monash Drive down Ainslie Avenue would add to congestion in other roads when Ainslie Avenue is closed off. It is also recognised that this will increase pressures in streets in adjoining suburbs such as Reid and Braddon. The NCDC has provided the Committee with further information relating to the effect of increased traffic movements on lead pollution levels and this is contained in an appendix to the report.

The Committee is greatly concerned by the lack of proper provision of carparking in Civic Centre and preliminary plans for satisfying the need for carparking in and around Civic which have been long overdue have now been provided to the Committee in this report. However, in an attempt to alleviate pressures on commuters, the Committee recommends that a trust fund account be set up and administered by the Department of Territories by the end of 1987 to enable revenue generated from parking fees to be redirected to the policing of parking restrictions, provision of further parking facilities and expansion of the ACTION bus fleet. It is the Committee's hope that these problems are of a short term nature and therefore it also recommends that regulations governing the trust fund should provide for its termination three years from commencement unless there are specific reasons for its continuation beyond this period.

In conclusion I would like to stress that this development is a very significant proposal which constitutes the largest single private sector investment in Canberra's history. This development is important for the future of Civic Centre, the Australian Capital Territory and the south-east region of New South Wales. It is important for Canberra's continued development to broaden its economic base and this project will provide employment opportunities, increased tourism potential for Civic and Canberra and greater opportunities for recreational and cultural pursuits in Civic Centre.

The major shortcoming which has been highlighted during this inquiry is the question of an overall policy plan for Civic Centre. As a consequence of its appearance before the Committee, the NCDC has agreed to undertake a Civic Plan review, to revise land use and transport policies which are no longer relevant and give a more accurate indication of the development of Civic and Canberra during the 1990's. The Committee therefore recommends that the NCDC make public by June 1987 a revised policy plan for Civic Centre outlining the likely consequences of the present level of development on future planning intentions and setting out in full the implications of this development on traffic flows and parking. Included in this revised plan must be an environmental assessment of the total impact of all development in Civic.

Finally, I would like to point out that during the Committee's extensive investigations of this proposal and in evidence taken from 29 witnesses over two days of hearings no-one was opposed in principle to the development of section 38 and associated carparks. Although concern was expressed about the timing of the development, its size and perceived lack of environmental assessment, I think that the Committee in its investigations is now satisfied that with the undertakings it has obtained from the NCDC most of these objections have been satisfied.

The Committee therefore approves the Variation.