Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2362

Senator VIGOR(10.05) —I move:

That the 89th Series of Variations of the Plan of Layout of the City of Canberra and its environs, dated 28 April 1987, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.

The eighty-ninth series of variations involves the closure of Ainslie Avenue between City Walk and Bunda Street to allow an atrium to cover the space between the Monaro Mall and the proposed development opposite on section 38. This means an end to part of the vision of Walter Burley Griffin. Mount Ainslie has to date been directly linked to City Hill by views along Ainslie Avenue and has formed an important secondary axis of the Griffin plan for the city of Canberra. This integral plan of the townscape is to make way for an argument of improved commercial viability for the proposed Canberra Building Society development on section 38.

In similar vein the past policies of the National Capital Development Commission are being jettisoned in the name of development at all costs. I would like to ask: Indeed, at what cost to the people of Canberra and the people of Australia? This is a matter which has exercised the minds of a number of people in the Australian Capital Territory. They, like me, fail to see how a responsible body which is supposed to act in the public interest-as the National Capital Development Commission is supposed to do-could have allowed such a shambles as the Civic development to develop.

In 1984 the NCDC published the metropolitan policy plan, which sets out employment and retailing patterns for Civic. That document, formally noted by the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes), is supposed to present a blueprint for the future of that part of Canberra. It is supposed to let the people know what they can expect in future planning. A lot of time and effort goes into the production and improvement of such policy. It is a matter of infinite regret to find that all the planning principles have been turned upside down within the space of three years. We need to ask how an organisation which prides itself on its professional planning expertise can behave in a fashion which has seen so many local government bodies dismissed in the various States. We need to ask: What is so wrong with the current process that a total perversion of what has been set out as policy is allowed to continue to run unchecked? We need to ask what is being done to make sure that an unplanned mess of this magnitude will not be foisted on the people of Canberra in the long run.

Back in July the NCDC set out policies which anticipated a work force in Civic of between 25,000 and 27,000 people by the year 2003. The Commission explicitly rejected the concentrated model which led to a work force of 35,000 by the year 2003. It did so for extremely good reasons. The Commission wanted to co-ordinate major zones of activity with the capacity of the transport system and infrastructure to serve them. It did not want a chronic, unmanageable congestion in the centre of Canberra. It did not want to load the people of Canberra, and all Australians for that matter, with a spiralling cost of infrastructure for environmentally unsound proposals.

I believe the matter is summarised very well in a letter that I received this week from the Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra. This is the peak conservation body for this region. I quote part of that letter:

The NCDC's Metropolitan Plan for the development of Canberra until 2003 published in 1984 advocated a continuation of dispersed planning and employment decentralisation. It determined an employment threshold for Civic of 25-27,000 workers. Beyond this threshold it predicted outer suburban residents forced to work in Civic, increased fuel consumption for the journey to work as outer suburban residents were forced to work in the city, increased inner traffic congestion and air pollution and the need for a massive increase in expenditure on transport infrastructure to cope with the expanded transport task.

In other words, sensible and environmentally sound policies were deliberately chosen three years ago. Since then, the policies have been gradually whittled away until, in practice, they have become the opposite of what they were meant to be.

Accordingly, as is evidenced in the figures supplied to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, we are well on the way to a Civic work force of more than 25,000 by the end of this year, and nearly 33,000 by the end of 1992. Those figures relate simply to developments that have been approved or are under close consideration; there is no guarantee that they will not rise further. There is no guarantee that the numbers presented are necessarily accurate because they differ, to some extent, from those presented by the National Capital Development Commission in a recent court case. In the interests of time, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled `Employment Growth in City (Approved Development)', which was submitted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee. I have sought leave from both sides of the House.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

Attachment A














White Industries (St. 1)...


Canb. Build. Society...


Northbourne Towers...


White Indust. (St's. 2 & 4)...


Ian Potter House...


Civic Hotel...


White Indust. (St's. 3 & 5)...


C.W.A., Polish Club (St. 1)...


Ansett Building...


Edwards, Dunlop...


Gaha Park. Struct....


Derwent House...




Polish Club (St. 2)...


Nat. Capital Ctr. (St. 1)...


Section 56 Park Struct....


Nat. Capital Ctr. (St. 2)...


White Ind. Hotel/Con. Ctr...




Derwent House...




Nat. Capital Ctr. (St. 3)...


Section 38-Retail...


Town House...




Section 38-Office...


White Industries (Stage 6)...


Nat. Capital Ctr. (St. 4)...




Canberra Times (St. 1)*...




Canberra Times (St. 2)*...



* Development Under Consideration

Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled `Future Development Projects', which is attached to the affidavit of Dr Robert Care, Chief Engineer of the NCDC, which was submitted to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory at about the same time.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-








Space in





White Industries 1.1...




Northbourne Towers...




White Industries 1.2...




White Industries 1.3...




Edwards Dunlop...




Civic Hotel...




White Industries 2.1...








CWA Building...




Polish Club...




Uniting Church...




Section 56...





Section 8...



White Industries 3.1...




Town House*...




Uniting Church 2...




Canberra Times1*...




Section 53...





Section 38...




Canberra Times2*...





(say 32,700)


* not yet approved

1.1 stage 1, Building 1

Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. Honourable senators can examine the variations in permanent employment figures for particular projects, which are noticeable in the documents prepared by the same organisation--

Senator Coleman —On a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President, I draw your attention to standing order 406, which precludes the right of any honourable senator in this place to read his speech, and also to the fact that Senator Vigor has read his speech for the past seven minutes. I am not prepared to sit here for the next 23 minutes and listen to him promoting himself for selection in the Australian Capital Territory.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Giles) —Order! The practice in this chamber is that honourable senators have every right to refer to notes, however copious they may be. There is no point of order.

Senator VIGOR —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. Indeed, in dealing with matters of such importance, it is important to get one's facts correct. I could continue for a great deal longer if I were shooting from the hip in these matters-which is exactly the problem that we face because that is what the NCDC, the Minister and the Department have been doing to date. If there were less shooting from the hip and more conscious care about detail, there would be much better government in this country.

The section 38 development is mentioned in both of the tables to which I referred. The Chief Engineer's table has 1,374 jobs on section 38, 275 at the associated structure on section 53 and 187 on section 56. The table supplied by the Secretary and Manager of the NCDC, Mr Alan Phillips, has 270 jobs on section 56 and 870 retail and 700 office jobs on section 38. Undoubtedly, the NCDC will be able to reconcile those numbers, as it is able to do with most matters.

The point of agreement in both the tables is a total Civic work force of about 32,700-although the Chief Engineer has that happening by 1990, while the Secretary and Manager of the NCDC has it happening by the end of 1992. Either way, employment levels in Civic are heading towards 35,000 people 10 years earlier than they were meant to be heading towards 27,000 people. That is the nub of the whole problem of section 38 development and the proposed variations in the city plan.

Many Canberrans are left scratching their heads about how such incongruity could arise. They are wondering just what extra cost they will have to bear as a result of this turnabout and the explosion in development in the inner city. People in the inner suburbs are wondering what will happen to their living standards. Residents associations have been formed in both Braddon and Turner in recent weeks as the magnitude of potential traffic, lead pollution and commuter parking problems has become clearer. Only yesterday Mr John McMillan, the Convenor of the Braddon Residents Association, contacted my office and pointed out that concern over the impact of the rapid development of Civic and its surrounding areas had brought 70 people to attend a public meeting in April to form a residents association.

Ms Katherine Beauchamp of Turner wrote to me in these terms:

I am one of four residents who last week convened a meeting in Turner concerning unwanted conditions being forced on our suburb by the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Territories. The vote was overwhelming to form a residents association, which is currently being planned and will be formalised in a couple of weeks.

Ms Beauchamp pointed out that over half of those present were in the older age bracket.

The Reid Residents Association has been actively pursuing traffic and pollution questions in its area related to section 38 development. The Association made an extremely thorough submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. It has been pointed out that there will be lead pollution problems in the Reid and Braddon areas as a result of the section 38 development. At page 48 of the Joint Committee's report we find the following passage, which clearly contains some internal contradictions:

In order to reach the upper lead limit (1.5 grams per cubic metre) 15 metres from the road the traffic volumes will need to be in the order of 8000-plus vehicles per average day. At present no residential areas in Reid/Braddon experience these traffic levels and therefore no streets would experience unacceptable lead levels. Most streets would in fact have very much lower lead levels. The exception to this is the following streets: Ballumbir/Coranderrk Street and Constitution/Limestone Avenues, which surround Reid/Braddon. These streets have existing traffic volumes in excess of 8000 vehicles per average day and therefore predicted lead levels in excess of the health standard quoted above.

This is just the start of the problem. It is not good news for the public housing tenants in the Bega flats and in the Allawah flats, or for those people who use the nearby child minding facilities. On page 56 of the Joint Committee's report we find the following paragraph:

Existing daily traffic flows on Ballumbir Street are around 23,000 vehicles a day north of Ainslie Avenue and about 15,000 vehicles per day south of Ainslie Avenue. These volumes are expected to increase to around 30,000 vehicles per day at the time section 38 is completed.

Surely this raises questions about the potential effect of lead pollution as a result of the proposed 89th series of variations and the development of section 38. Yet the Department of Territories has the gall to tell the Joint Parliamentary Committee that `there should be no significant environmental impact' as a result of the development of section 38. Similarly, the NCDC ignored the significance of its comments in Appendix VI supplied to the Committee, from which I would like to quote:

The Committee also asked for the expected travel time from the development to Barry Drive. The Commission anticipates that the travel time will be six to eight minutes at peak times but would be subject to a high degree of variability due to the way traffic control signals are linked and phased, and the simplifications built into the traffic network model.

Once again, both the NCDC and the Department wish to ignore a significant environmental consideration. I believe that the estimate by both the Department and the NCDC that the cost to the Commonwealth would be only $1.23m is most appalling. That is the result of adopting the most narrow definition of cost. I feel that that is a problem. Significant transport, parking and public infrastructure costs will be incurred year in year out by the people of Canberra as a result of this project.

I wish to address some of the matters that should have been spelt out in a full environmental impact study. We should not be going into such projects without full impact studies; we require them. The Government complains about problems in the States, yet it does this type of thing in Canberra. It is very important to protect the environment. It is very important for Canberra to have the right facilities and not be subjected to environmental degradation because of `development at all cost' types of policies. On 10 March 1986 the NCDC Commissioner, Mr Malcolm Latham, wrote:

At the present time, the Commission would be irresponsible to allow yet more office space in the knowledge of its potential adverse impacts on parking and transport and without material progress having been made to resolve these problems.

Earlier in that letter is the following passage:

Essentially the problem is an imbalance between the sudden growth in employment through a development boom and the amount of parking and public transport which have not kept pace with office development. Unless the combined efforts of the public and private sectors can redress the balance the Commission will have no option but to review its policy and limit future development or redevelopment to levels which will not worsen the situation.

I believe that that letter shows that the NCDC is conscious of the problems which face it in respect of section 38 and the Town House Motel. The section 38 proposal represents a net parking loss, yet the Commissioner still recommends it. That is a problem. The Committee's recommendation that the Town House Motel be redeveloped for hotel use was endorsed by the NCDC's Chief Planner, its Chief Architect, its Chief Construction Manager and its assistant secretaries in the urban economics section and the external relations and information section. The Commissioner overrode the advice, saying:

The effect of accepting the recommendation in the submission would have been to change the Commission's general policy regarding the future development of Civic. I was not willing to bring about a change in policy of such magnitude as a result of a single decision on a single development application.

The Commission has made mincemeat of that 1984 plan in a series of decisions of which this is one. The Town House Motel case saw an attempt by the Department of Territories to claw back its costs after the Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra was forced to withdraw a redevelopment objection because of a lack of funds to remain in court. In its perceptive editorial of 29 March 1987, the Canberra Times said:

In the absence of any form of self-government, the citizens of this city must have a legal right to be heard on development plans. The present system guarantees no such right. As things stand, the right to object to NCDC proposals has little to do with the merits of the case but with who has control of the purse strings.

I seek leave to have the full text of the editorial incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The editorial read as follows-


The already limited say the residents of Canberra have in the development of their city is even more limited with the decision of the Government to refuse legal assistance to a community organisation seeking to challenge, on public-interest grounds, a major redevelopment project in Civic. The Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra has been forced for want of money to withdraw its legal objection to plans to vary the lease of the Town House Motel site in Civic to enable its demolition and the construction of a 13-storey commercial complex. This is most regrettable because the objection seemed to have considerable merit, given the chaotic parking situation in Civic and the unhealthy noise and pollution problems of Civic in general, and of Barry Drive in particular.

The departments which could have given the council financial help to mount its case, Territories and Attorney-General's, have refused to do so. Territories' reason is that it is indirectly a party to the objection proceedings in the Supreme Court. It refused assistance to the ACT Youth Accommodation Group, too, in the important Morpath case in the Federal Court. That case concerns the commercial redevelopment of residential sites in Turner and is regarded as the redevelopment test case for the ACT. Attorney-General's refused to help the conservation council because it regards the Morpath case as the only one which might justify public funding, though so far it has not told the Youth Accommodation Group that it will actually cover the costs. And it will not fund the two Turner residents who bravely, and perhaps foolishly, took on Morpath and the Minister for Territories on their own. Unless Attorney-General's comes to the party, the youth group faces insolvency and the residents could lose their houses if they lose in the Federal Court and if costs are awarded against them. That this is even remotely possible is scandalous. The objectors have done the residents of Canberra a considerable service in challenging, in a most comprehensive and reasoned way, the seemingly unlimited powers of the National Capital Development Commission to shape the future of the city. That they could face financial ruin for doing so is wrong.

The way the Conservation Council was forced to drop out of its case is unsatisfactory, too. It tried to get the hearing of its objection deferred till the Morpath decision was known, but was refused by the Supreme Court. As well as giving all the parties, and the court, the benefit of that decision (which could change considerably the nature of the case), it would have had more time to raise the money to pay its legal costs. Why the court refused that reasonable request is hard to fathom. But the end result is that the ``system'' has combined to defeat the council and the many people it represents. Once again, the only conclusion The Canberra Times can reach is that the entire system of planning and development in the ACT is deficient and should be radically overhauled. In the absence of any form of self-government, the citizens of this city must have a legal right to be heard on development plans. The present system guarantees no such right. As things stand, the right to object to NCDC proposals has little to do with the merits of the case but with who has control of the purse strings.

Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. Earlier I mentioned the closure of Ainslie Avenue between City Walk and Bunda Street as part of the eighty-ninth series of variations. This prospect was examined in 1985 by R. J. Nairn and Partners and costed at $2.7m in extra travel costs each year on the basis of there being 28,500 workers in the Civic area. An indication of the costs of the NCDC's removal of future options from Tuggeranong and Gungahlin can be found in a study titled `Transport Implications of City Development' from the Commission's own staff. In order to save time I seek leave to incorporate those figures in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

Table 5.1


Civic Employment







Capital Costs

Roads and Parking

* City Roads (incl. traffic management measures)




* Regional Roads (from MPP)




* Parking (PE and/or Govt.)




Public Transport

* buses









* interchange



to City

* bus priority




Pedestrian/Cyclist facilities




Landscape Protection




Operational Costs (p.a.)

Policing/Parking inspectors




Road Maintenance




Public transport operational deficit




Senator VIGOR —At the 35,000 employment mark, rejected by the NCDC in 1984 as being too much for the year 2003, the road system apparently starts to choke up. Planning authorities have to start examining the idea of a light rail or similar mass transit system between Woden and Civic. The cost of roads required for 27,000 workers is $271m, but this is nearly doubled to $540m if 35,000 people work in Civic.

The section 38 development will mean permanent Civic jobs for some 2,000 or more people. They have to get to Civic somehow and the public transport system is already unable to cope. In 1985 it was shifting about 19 per cent of those people working in Civic. This has since dropped to 17 per cent during the explosion of the development approvals, as mentioned at page 411 of the Committee's transcript. Thirty-five of the 110 extra buses needed were available through the Budget funding this year. Who knows whether in the May cuts proposed future bus services will be cut, and whether we are going to have to rely on ACTION's aging fleet. I believe a lot of pressure will have to be applied to bring the public transport system up to scratch to enable it to handle any of these projects. The services are just not currently available. This will bring pressure on to the whole centre of the city.

The section 38 proposal is in fact a net contributor to parking overspill. On page 51 of the Joint Parliamentary Committee's report is a table headed `Effect of New Development Only', which estimates a parking shortfall of 321 spaces. This is the last document that I would seek approval to incorporate in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Spaces lost


Generation, new development

New offices (11900 x 3.3 per 100m2)


New Retail (35500 x 4.8 per 100m2)







Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. The chaotic situation in Civic was examined in 1985 by the House of Assembly Standing Committee on Development and Planning. On page 6 of the Committee's report we find the statement:

The Committee considers that the current parking problems in Civic are due to the unplanned nature of recent City Centre development.

The NCDC has put forward a strategic plan for additional surface car parking places which cuts all the corners. As noted from the internal submission `Short Term Parking for Civic. Implementation Plan', neither the Chief Planner nor the Chief Construction Manager was in agreement with this proposal. Most of these sites were quite unsatisfactory for landscape or other reasons. Under any sensible arrangements, the people of the Australian Capital Territory would have had a complete environmental impact statement which would have dealt with transport, parking and pollution problems associated with a development of this size. The statement would also have covered the impact on the retail scene of more than 20,000 square metres retail development being inserted beyond what the NCDC set as the target for the year 2003. There are grounds for fearing pressure to scale down the developments at Tuggeranong and Gungahlin, especially if retailers in Civic do not get the boom that they are hoping for from this type of development. This in turn will create further road and transport costs and will result in a wasteful use of scarce fuels. The Chief Planner's submission to reject the Town House Motel redevelopment, which was obviously not approved, stated:

There is increasing probability that the Commission may be required to provide information under the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 if development in Civic exceeds stated Commission policy.

Such environmental impact statements should come automatically before development approval is given. I believe that cutting corners in this way is quite unacceptable. If we cannot get a proper environmental impact statement and a public infrastructure account sheet for this project, it should be rejected. In any case, I believe that we should be pushing for a judicial inquiry into the system of land planning and lease administration before the current system gets totally out of control.