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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
CHAIR (Senator Pratt)
Adams, Dick, MP
Humphries, Sen Gary
Brodtmann, Gai, MP
Simpkins, Luke, MP
Crean, Simon, MP
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Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories - 19/06/2013 - National Capital Authority
PENN, Ms Shelley, Chair, National Capital Authority
RAKE, Mr Gary, Chief Executive, National Capital Authority
Committee met at 12:40 .
CHAIR ( Senator Pratt ): Good afternoon. I open this biennial hearing with the National Capital Authority. I ask that a committee member move that the media be allowed to film the proceedings today in accordance with the rules set down for committees, which includes not taking footage or still images of papers or laptop screens.
Mr ADAMS: I so move.
CHAIR: Carried. Thank you to everyone who has joined us today. This is a hearing that we undertake twice yearly so that we can stay in touch with the National Capital Authority. It enables the committee members to bring members of the public up to date on issues and projects that are being worked on and gives us the capacity to raise matters of public interest and to put them on the public record. This hearing is an important part of the committee's work as it allows parliament to engage with the authority on matters of importance to our capital. I would like to thank the National Capital Authority for its ongoing participation in this process and for the assistance that you provide us throughout the year. I would particularly like to thank the NCA for appearing again today, noting that you were with us last week at our hearing on amenity in the Parliamentary Triangle.
Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise that these hearings are formal proceedings of the 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 parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I invite you to make an opening statement.
Ms Penn : We just want to thank you for the opportunity to answer any questions that you might have. As you pointed out, we have seen you recently a few times on a few key issues. I think that you know what we are doing. We are really here to answer any questions that you have. Rather than make an opening statement, I will hand over to you.
CHAIR: Thank you. I have a question in relation to the anticipated Scrivener Dam works. It is really a question about the progress of that.
Mr Rake : Would you like an update?
CHAIR: Yes, thank you.
Mr Rake : The work is on track and on budget. We anticipate having the repairs completed by March 2014. In very particular detail, we are nearing completion of the remediation of the first gate. There are five gates on Scrivener Dam. We anticipate that work will be completed on the first of those gates on 28 June. That gate will be fully back in service with a design life of at least 100 years by 8 July. We will move straight into working on the second gate.
We have taken a little bit of extra time on this gate to deal with some of the technical issues. We have used up most of the program contingency that we had available. But we are now very confident that there will no further program delays. The peculiar elements of this job in working on a dam that was custom built for this purpose have now been resolved.
The other important news for the committee is about the budget. We initially estimated that the budget would be $14 million for this project. We have revised that down to $8 million. Those are tender prices. They still allow contingency and allow for some variations that we expect to come through. They are not yet certain, but we have made full allowance for them. That saving has really come about by taking extra time to analyse the problem and design it well. On Friday morning this week we will be giving your colleagues on the Public Works Committee a tour of the work undertaken so far on the dam. We have engaged closely with the Public Works Committee to make sure that all due process was properly dealt with in undertaking this important work.
CHAIR: When the authority first became aware of corrosion, in 2011, by what process was the authority made aware of the corrosion?
Mr Rake : We engage two specialist sources of external advice: someone to manage the dam on a day-to-day basis and someone to perform the role of a safety auditor. In early 2010 we changed the supplier of our safety audit. In their first audit in 2010 they basically re-performed the same work as the previous inspector. In 2011 they undertook a more extensive review and found early signs of corrosion.
We discovered that this corrosion probably started the first time that water flowed over the dam, which would have been in 1964, and it had been undiscovered since. We had to put in place some pretty urgent safety measures to make sure that we protected asset and community safety. That gave us time to set about remediating the problem. The two things we are doing are fixing the heart of the problem, so that the dam is safe for another 100 years, but we are also making sure that there is no prospect of an undiscoverable problem emerging like this. The way the dam was built in the early 1960s made it virtually impossible to have discovered this problem earlier.
CHAIR: I have a follow-up question from our hearing last week. The minister recently wrote to us advising us of the intention to roll out infrastructure relating to paid parking in the parliamentary zone. By that I assume the minister is referring to the broader definition of the areas that will be subject to parking metres.
Mr Rake : If I may clarify, in that letter the minister is very strictly referring to the parliamentary zone, and it is because works within the parliamentary zone are subject to approval in each house of parliament. So that is just the area south of the lake bounded by Commonwealth and Kings avenues.
CHAIR: They are the areas the minister is obliged to write to us about—
Mr Rake : Correct.
CHAIR: But will the actual rollout include or not include the other areas?
Mr Rake : The actual rollout will include the other areas, but there is one particular area where the parliament has a special additional roll.
CHAIR: Thank you for clarifying that. I am seeking some further clarity about the specific locations where paid parking will roll out and about any negotiations that the NCA has had with the parliament in terms of how it is going to respond. For example, what discussions if any have taken place with the parliament about preventing further displacement to areas where parking remains free, if you put a price on parking?
Mr Rake : Across the broad area where government will introduce paid parking, there are a number of organisations that need to independently form a view on how they will manage parking on their land. Those are Parliamentary House, where the decision will be made by the presiding officers; the High Court, where the decision will be made by the justices; and then there are the independent organisations—the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, from 1 July this year, and the Australian War Memorial. I have written to the administrative head of each of those organisations—those letters went out only yesterday—asking them to form a view on the management of parking in their precincts. The decision made by government enables the NCA to help those organisations if they choose to introduce pay parking; we can help them introduce it with the same technology and try to ensure that they do not suffer becoming the new target for encroachment. I do not yet have a view from any of those organisations.
CHAIR: It was put to us last week—and I have to remember which department it was that was leasing land from the Department of Finance—
Mr Rake : The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade leases a car park from the Department of Finance.
CHAIR: How will that car park be dealt with as part of this policy? Or will that be managed in the same way as other independent institutions, because they have independent control, if you like, over that property?
Mr Rake : The primary government policy decision applies to unleased property. So that car park, being under a lease, will remain within the terms of the lease agreement between the land manager and the land occupier—the Department of Finance and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is possible that the terms of that agreement will change, but that will be between those two parties, not a matter for the NCA.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Perhaps I could just follow up on the chair's question about the work on Scrivener Dam. Lake Burley Griffin has been lowered to allow that work. How far has it been lowered?
Mr Rake : It has been lowered approximately 500 millimetres—well, almost precisely 500 millimetres; we have quite fine control over the water level.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I have noticed, moving around the edge of the lake, that the lowering of the limit of the water level has revealed—at least some time ago—a bit of garbage in the lake. Has the opportunity been taken to remove that visible garbage?
Mr Rake : That opportunity is taken almost every day. We have a contractor who works the lake regularly, and they collect material that flows in down the drains or down the river. Under wind and wave action, it collects and accumulates at particular points, and they are cleaning it virtually every day.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I assume all the debris that washed into the lake as a result of the flooding last summer or the summer before—
Mr Rake : It was late 2010.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Was any damage recorded to Scrivener Dam, or anything of that kind?
Mr Rake : No, that did not cause any damage to Scrivener Dam, and the known obstacles have been removed—those that were identified by lake users. But it is an active waterway, and there are regularly new trees washing down with higher rainfall events. Anything from 20 millimetres will bring a new tree floating down the river.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I asked you some questions on notice out of the paid parking inquiry on the provision of child care in the parliamentary triangle, and you said that essentially the NCA does not overview or supervise the provision of child care. I think you said that you were aware of at least four centres but that it is not really a matter for you. I take it from that that you have no capacity to release land that is specifically for the purpose—and only for the purpose—of child care, if you believe that a need was identified in the parliamentary triangle that the market was not adequately catering for because there were other higher-value uses than child care. Is that correct?
Mr Rake : I guess there are two parts to that: the things we control through the planning system—the enabling of land use—and the things we control as a land manager, where we may recommend that government dispose of a parcel of land or make it available for that use. The planning provisions present no barrier whatsoever to additional child care centres coming in. It is a standard permitted purpose in office buildings. It is very common these days to have a childcare centre coming with a new office development. Land within the parliamentary zone itself is the main area in which we control the land use as well as the planning provisions. There would be no barrier if government decided to release a parcel of land. We work in accordance with government policy in that. I think it would in many ways be more sensible to attach that to another development in the parliamentary zone rather than allocate such highly significant and symbolic land particularly for that use. But in Barton they could come in with the next round of development as early as next year.
Senator HUMPHRIES: So the relevant government agency could release land with a specified condition that it include a childcare centre?
Mr Rake : Government could do that, yes.
Senator HUMPHRIES: There is the variation that is in front of us at the moment about the removal of the West Basin pedestrian bridge. I only have a black and white version, so I am not sure exactly how that all works. Are we talking about the bridge from close to the new Acton development across to the car park near the kiosk?
Mr Rake : No, this is removal from the National Capital Plan of a provision for a bridge. It is the old Immigration Bridge proposal. This is basically the final termination of that proposal. It removes the provision for a bridge that does not exist, and there is no prospect of it being built.
Senator HUMPHRIES: What is the progress of Immigration Place—is that what it is called? I have passed there and have not noticed anything happening on the site. Is it proceeding?
Mr Rake : There is still a committee actively working on it. The next step for them will be to approach the Canberra National Memorials Committee to hold a design competition. The CNMC has already approved the use of that site. A condition of that approval was that the committee come back with their design competition brief and have that endorsed by the CNMC before they conduct any design competition. The CNMC will not meet again until we have a government response to the report Etched in stone from this committee.
Senator HUMPHRIES: My impression was that the progress of Immigration Bridge would have seen the competition completed by this point in time. Is that your understanding?
Mr Rake : For Immigration Bridge it would have. But the committee organising that project has abandoned the bridge as their idea. They are now firmly focused on Immigration Place. They would like to—
Senator HUMPHRIES: Is the idea of a monument to immigration still proceeding, or has the moving of the location for this, and the scale of the concept, put barriers in the way of actually executing it? In other words, are they able to proceed with this project in the new context?
Mr Rake : Subject to the approvals of the Canberra National Memorials Committee, yes, they are able to proceed. They are still very keen to do so. We think it is a good location.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand that they are able to proceed. That is clear. My question is whether they are actually going to proceed. To your knowledge have they encountered difficulties because of the change in the scope of the project?
Mr Rake : I do not believe they have encountered any difficulties. They need to go through the approval process, and that will occur in due course.
Senator HUMPHRIES: You mentioned the CNMC. This may not be a question for you, but are you aware of what the status is of the process of the government's response to the report of this committee? Have you been consulted about that?
Mr Rake : Upon assuming those responsibilities, Minister King made a public statement that she was keen to respond quickly to Etched in stone, and also to the report into the allocation of diplomatic land. I understand that is still the minister's intention.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I assume she cannot respond after 12 August, when under caretaker mode?
Mr Rake : I anticipate a government response before then, but it is a matter for government.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Good. I just wanted to see if we are making progress. I notice some work going on at Bowen Place. Is that the beginning of the flyover there?
Mr Rake : It is the creation of a temporary crossing. To construct Bowen Place there are three main stages. The first one is the relocation of underground gas and electricity mains. That work has been completed. We did that through Autumn of this year. It meant that we were not interrupting power in the peak of summer, when people are running air conditioning, or gas in winter, when we are running it for heating. So that work is done. The work underway at the moment is moving the existing crossing point about 100 metres to the south. That will immediately improve safety on site, because it will give a longer sight line for both pedestrians and motorists, but it also gives us the construction detour. It gives a safe way for pedestrians to move around the site when we are building the project. We will be into main construction in early 2014, with a completion date of the end of 2014. So this time next year there will be a great big hole there and a lot of paving going in. By the end of next year the new crossing will be in place.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Is the plan for Bowen Place that this committee was briefed on a year and half ago the same? Has it changed?
Mr Rake : It is the same plan, and it is still as popular in the community as ever. The only comments we get now are 'Hurry up.'
Senator HUMPHRIES: I have a question about how the NCA is travelling with its budget at the moment. There was some money for the NCA in the most recent budget or the budget before that. I forget which it was. Was it this year's budget or last year's budget?
Mr Rake : It was the 2012-13 budget. It was part of government's response to Dr Allan Hawke's review of the NCA. In a budget sense, whilst we are responsible for land management, there is always a list of things that we would like to do better; it would not matter how much money we were given, we would find a good use for it. But we are managing within our resources. We believe the estate is being managed in an appropriate manner. It is safe; it is presentable; we get good feedback from consumers, visitors and citizens. We have applied the first part of the funding increase towards commencing the review of the National Capital Plan. That is proceeding well, and some of those amendments have already come past this committee.
Senator HUMPHRIES: When the original cuts—I forget whether it was specific cuts or just the efficiency dividend cuts—were imposed on the NCA, you made a number of decisions, including reducing the hours of operation of The Carillon and access to Blundell's Cottage, and the scope of operations at the visitors centre at Regatta Point. Have the effects of all of those decisions been reversed as a result of recent funding increases?
Mr Rake : Very broadly and in the most genuine sense, yes. So, in the case of Blundell's Cottage, I think we are now open more frequently than we were previously. In the case of The Carillon, we have reinstated the recital program. That was done with the assistance of some private sponsorship. But more importantly we now have a new professional development for carillonists and we are attracting and training new carillonists to make sure that we do not ever reach a point where we run out of musicians. It is quite a specialised instrument. There are only three in Australia that you can work on. And Regatta Point is as busy as it has ever been, and we are getting great feedback from new suites of visitors, including adults who previously were not attracted to the story that we were telling there. We are finding new ways to tell the story and getting new groups of visitors coming in. So we are broadening our reach.
Ms Penn : Can I just augment Mr Rake's answer to the question immediately before that, to do with the additional funding. It has allowed us, as Gary said, to commence work on our review of the National Capital Plan, which, as you know, is overdue. We are a year down the track there and feeling very positive about it. We have also been using some of that additional funding to implement our heritage strategy. We are doing quite a lot of work in that area, including development and review of heritage management plans and implementation under those plans. Also, we are—and this is where Regatta Point is relevant—doing a lot of work in relation to communication; informing and educating around the value and the role of the national capital. So we have been doing a number of things in relation to that, and that additional funding has allowed us to do that. We can talk about that more if that is of interest.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Sure.
CHAIR: Senator Humphries, I will give the call to someone else, and we can return to you if there is time.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Sure.
Ms BRODTMANN: Sorry I was late for the presentation. I had another hearing. I want to talk about two issues today. Firstly, paid parking and the amenity: following up on the discussions we had during the hearing—I just want to be clear—in terms of the planning barriers, you suggested that the planning arrangements now free-up opportunities for people to build amenity, should it be required—and I do believe it is required. Can you tell me: when did that change? When did it become freer? I want to get an idea about the planning barriers of the past and when they came to an end.
Mr Rake : The biggest change would be the change to the arrangements in Barton. That flowed progressively over the past five to eight years with a master plan to deal with York Park and the precinct, which effectively became the Barton office precinct master plan. It mandated the development of retail plazas at ground floor. That is a very recent amendment, and certainly that has come to life since the last time this committee considered paid parking seriously, which was in about 2004.
Then, more particularly, there is the site planning around the car park behind the Ottoman restaurant, section 9 Barton. Forgive me if I am not entirely accurate on the year but it was around 2009 there was a proposal to release that site for development. It was to be sold by the department of finance and the proposed development would have incorporated three tall towers. There was quite strong community resistance, and the board of the NCA reviewed that quite carefully, taking account of some new heritage information. We removed or lowered the provision for those towers to—RL591 is the height limit that we prescribe, and that is roughly the corners of parliament drive. So that amendment was about 2009. But it also reinforced the need for retail plazas on that site. So we are really talking about quite a rapid improvement over the last six to eight years.
Ms BRODTMANN: So the planning environment has become far more amenable for amenity, but it sounds like it has been a relatively recent phenomenon, and it is post the reviews that have taken place in the past.
Mr Rake : Correct. So it has been very strongly influenced by previous considerations of this committee. I guess, in the life cycle of development, the planning changes come first and development follows. We have those planning changes in place and we think the development is not too far off now.
Ms BRODTMANN: We have actually seen that in the Barton precinct already.
Mr Rake : Certainly. Those same amendments are the one that enabled the development of the Hotel Realm and the supporting services there.
Ms Penn : Ms Brodtmann, I just wanted to add that amenity within the Parliamentary Zone is consistent with what we are trying to do—or support, to the extent that we can—generally, which is about it being a lively pedestrian place in which people want to walk and feel safe. Part of that is about activity on the streets and part of that is about access to those sorts of services. So we are very supportive of that and we are very keen to see that happen. From our point of view, it is really a matter of the market coming and grabbing that opportunity.
Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, there does seem to be a bit of interest. Moving now to the diplomatic estate: I noticed with great delight as I was driving around Perth Avenue recently that the Pakistan High Commission site—which has been vacant for more than 50 years, I think—now has builders on it. I took a bit of a bow at that one, even though I am sure it is not me. As a result of us focussing attention on the fact that there is all this land that has been sitting there vacant for a lot of time—when countries already have missions in other parts of Canberra, they have these vacant lots—has there been any more movement on any of the land in the current diplomatic enclave?
Mr Rake : There has not been anything that I would call a quantifiable move, but certainly there is a change in the tone of the discussions. When we issue reminder notices that missions need to get on with it, I think they understand that the Australian parliament has a very real interest in this and that they should take our reminders seriously. So it has been useful to have that discussion. We have redoubled our efforts to look at some of the land that is less viable—and we are talking about O'Malley now. We have undertaken some preliminary studies about other ways to carve that land up and to try to make it more useful. We hope we will have some ideas we can put out into the public domain within the next few months.
Ms Penn : We have been looking at what could be done within the existing planning controls and what would happen if you relaxed those controls for higher density options; what those might be and the viability of those, given the topography and so on. Our head is not around what is the best position and what is likely to be successful on all the levels that it needs to work; however, we are well down the path of looking at options.
Ms BRODTMANN: Have you had any conversations with DFAT as to whether there is any greater sense of urgency in their discussions with the missions?
Mr Rake : No, I do not have any update there.
Ms BRODTMANN: Okay. Thank you.
CHAIR: Mr Adams?
Mr ADAMS: Thank you. The area of Yarramundi Reach is being opened up for further development. You might be able to throw some light on what that is about. Is that a change to your planning scheme?
Mr Rake : I don't think Yarramundi is being opened for further development. The amendment that we have here would actually remove a development provision and protect environmentally sensitive temperate grassland as open space in perpetuity.
Mr ADAMS: So it is taking it away to trace back to the development in that area?
Mr Rake : The environmental constraints on that site mean that no development proposal could sensibly succeed. The environmental groups that volunteer to work in that space see it as a pall hanging over their head. There is no sensible reason to retain a development provision, so we are lifting it.
Mr ADAMS: So that will be open space for people to use?
Mr Rake : That will be open space. We manage it as an environmental grassland. Over the course of the next couple of years the Geological Society of Australia would like to develop what they are referring to as a rock garden—an interpretive space to show the science of geology in Australia's geological history. It sits below the recently developed National Arboretum, which the Commonwealth contributed to as part of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations, and alongside the Lindsay Pryor arboretum, which we proudly manage—one of the legacies of Canberra's urban forest.
Mr ADAMS: Maybe the mining industry could pay for that.
Mr Rake : There is quite active engagement between the Geological Society and the mining companies. It is an important story.
Mr ADAMS: That is good. On another issue, you mentioned the other institutions along the lake in relation to the parking issue but you did not mention the National Library.
Mr Rake : The National Library does not control any car parks of its own. We control the car parks around it. So we work very closely with the library, but those car parks will be covered by the government policy decision.
Mr SIMPKINS: I was not able to be online for the teleconference that we had before, so this might be going back over a little bit of old ground but I will try to be brief. How was the paid parking concept initiated on this occasion?
Mr Rake : Where did the advice come from?
Mr SIMPKINS: Yes.
Mr Rake : The NCA gave advice to government on how to manage the emerging parking problem where visitors were unable to get a car park to visit the national institutions. That is our primary policy driver.
Mr SIMPKINS: So why was it paid parking and not parking time limits?
Mr Rake : The use of time limits does not suit the broad spectrum of visitors that we need to deal with. What we have in the parliamentary zone is a multi-use precinct. We do need to allow for employees who work in the area, whether they work in the government departments or the institutions themselves, and they need all-day parking. We have a wide variety of visitor types. So we have people who might visit the Bookplate cafe at the National Library for nothing more than a coffee, and a 30-minute stop might be long enough for them, but we might also have a PhD researcher who wants to be working in the library and accessing materials from opening at 9 am until closing at 9 pm, and they need long-stay parking. So time limiting would not have suited all of those. We could have looked at a mix of permits and validation systems. Those systems need to be underpinned by an accurate matching of supply and demand, and with such a moving array of visitors it is just not possible to do that in a sensible manner.
Mr SIMPKINS: To clarify, things like the foreign affairs car park across the road from the Casey Building—will that be paid parking?
Mr Rake : The foreign affairs car park is the one that Senator Pratt was asking about earlier. It is currently leased by the department of foreign affairs from the department of finance. It will be for them to decide what happens in that car park. The area immediately around it, which is publicly accessible—that will be paid parking. Between us and the department of finance, we manage the majority of that car park around it. It is publicly accessible. It will be paid parking under this policy.
CHAIR: We had some discussion on this last week, and it has been touched on today: Mr Rake, you spoke last week about the difference between what the NCA does and when you are planning a new community and, for example, you have to encourage and inject a certain level of community amenity into it. Here you have taken away the barriers to that amenity but you are essentially looking to the market to respond. What is the extent to which the NCA feels like it has some levers to pull to encourage the development of amenity in the same way that you might do for new community developments?
Ms Penn : Gary will give you a more precise answer in terms of exactly what we can and cannot do, but, other than advocacy, we are reasonably limited. Historically, sometimes governments choose to seed-fund certain activities, having looked at a viable mix that they know, over a certain period of time, is going to become self-sustaining, and sometimes they will invest in seed-funding. That is a study that could be done, I suppose. That is not something that we have chosen to undertake or are in a position to undertake off our own bat.
Mr Rake : It is probably the key barrier. We are not the land manager for the vast majority of sites in Barton. They are a combination of government-held and Department of Finance held future development sites or sites that are already in the hands of the private sector. The sorts of levers that we could bring into play there would start to look like government interfering in the operation of the market in a way that probably does not occur in many other places.
CHAIR: But I would contend that it probably does occur in other places. If you look, for example, at a greenfield development, you might require a developer to cross-subsidise something in order to ensure that there is a recreation space et cetera.
Mr Rake : I should clarify what I mean by not occurring elsewhere. These properties are already in private hands. The transactions have already occurred so we would be taking away an existing right to develop across uses A, B and C and saying that they could now only develop use A.
Ms Penn : But it is something that, yes, is done where government does own the land obviously and there is development occurring and there have been many developments in Australia where government has said, 'Thou shalt do X, Y and Z.' Sometimes there has been a private use that is seeded, as I was suggesting earlier, where government has got to find the money to get it going.
CHAIR: Is it something that the Department of Finance could be influential in, given that it is a mate and landholder in that sense?
Mr Rake : If government formed a policy position that it wanted the next sale of government-held land to be for purpose A, the Department of Finance would have to follow that. So on the earlier childcare question, if government decided that it wanted a current government-held and vacant site in Barton to be sold for the purposes of developing a childcare centre, government could make that decision and the Department of Finance would need to work to introduce it or implement it.
Ms Penn : In the broader scheme, if government was going to do that, they might consider proximity, if you have a childcare centre and a whole range of other things associated with it, which starts to build that vibrancy and positive community engagement that is perhaps being sought.
CHAIR: I get the sense that one of the reasons it has been missing historically in terms of government requiring a developer to drive that amenity, is precisely because government has been the major landholder.
Ms Penn : Possibly.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I have a couple of questions around the finalisation of our report on a diplomatic estate. We recommended, and you accepted, that Draft Amendment 78 to the National Capital Plan be withdrawn. What is the effect of that, assuming that that is what the government does? The variation was retaining the reservation of Attunga Point as a potential site for a new future Prime Minister's Lodge. Does that mean that without variation 78 that site is not retained for that purpose?
Mr Rake : No. The reservation that exists today is a reservation for the entirety of Stirling Ridge and the entirety of Attunga Point for national capital use and the identified national capital use is a potential future Prime Minister's official accommodation. That remains in place. Essentially, the withdrawal of Draft Amendment 78 leaves the National Capital Plan as it stood. What it does not do is enable the use of any part of that land explicitly for diplomatic use. The other thing that it does not do is remove that development reservation on the remnant Yellow Box-Red Gum woodland over the main part of Stirling Ridge.
Senator HUMPHRIES: So the development of parts of those blocks is still possible then?
Mr Rake : Under the provisions of the National Capital Plan, yes.
Ms Penn : That was what I was going to say in another way. The whole of the ridge is currently set aside for national use at the moment, whereas that amendment proposed to make the vast majority open space and therefore not able to be developed in any way. That is all withdrawn—that is, it is still open for use.
Senator HUMPHRIES: So what we need is not just withdrawal of Draft Amendment 78, it is also a whole new variation to determine the future of that block?
Mr Rake : That is correct. There was a recommendation—
Senator HUMPHRIES: What we did not say in recommendation—
Mr Rake : Your recommendation asked the NCA to conduct a comprehensive land-use assessment in the suburbs of O'Malley, Deakin and Yarralumla. The board of the NCA has agreed that that is appropriate. We accept that recommendation and will do it, and that will include reassessing all of those areas. We would be very surprised if we did not come out at the other end and still think that those environmentally sensitive areas particularly on the top of Stirling Ridge need to be protected. The environmental constraints, in practice, would preclude any development there. The EPBC Act would stop that.
Mr CREAN: Can I get your assessment of terms of the diplomatic estate as it is currently sits and how it is capable of dealing with future demand? Is there sufficient capacity in what is there given what countries exercising their right would expect, or do we need to be looking elsewhere?
Mr Rake : We do not believe that there is an adequate land supply. That was the reason—
Mr CREAN: You don't believe there is inadequate—
Mr Rake : We do not believe there is enough land; we think that there is a shortage. That was the primary motivation for the Stirling Ridge proposal, and it is the primary—
Mr CREAN: So how much of it is utilised now and how much is there to be 'exercised'?
Mr Rake : The definition of utilised is a difficult one. Of those that are not reserved or allocated—and there are quite a few that are reserved or allocated and undeveloped—
Mr CREAN: Like the Pakistan—
Mr Rake : Yes, correct. We have fewer than half a dozen really viable vacant unallocated sites. Some of those have a question about whether there are other environmental constraints and we are working towards solving those. So there are about half a dozen that are very probably viable. There are about another dozen in O'Malley that are very steep and rocky and nobody has shown any interest in developing them. That was the study I referred to earlier. We are trying to find ways to repackage that land. If we put a new road through the middle of the hill would that make it easier to develop, or if we allowed a different building height would that make it easier to develop?
But looking at our recent past, we are developing one or two new diplomatic relationships and needing new blocks each year. DFAT expect that to continue for the next probably 20 years so we think that we are going to need 40 or maybe 50 sites. When we only have at the moment half a dozen that we could take people to, it is pretty tough.
Mr CREAN: How many at O'Malley?
Mr Rake : There are 12.
Mr CREAN: That still only gets you halfway—
Mr Rake : It still does not get us there.
Ms Penn : The difficulty with those is the topography, as Gary said. But with the current planning controls—which is why we are looking at them—and with that topography, one construction is very difficult and expensive. It is also very hard to get the sorts of arrangements you need between residents and Chancery that will function properly as well—security and parking and all those other sorts of arrangements. That is why we are doing this study on that.
The issue you raise is also why, in pre-empting a government response we have put our hand up and said that we agree and think that there does need to be a forward vision and that a plan for the estate needs to happen. We are going on to do that and it is in action at the moment. But they are pushing right up behind us.
Mr CREAN: What has happened with national institutions and their entitlement? Has all that been exercised?
Mr Rake : National institutions and their entitlement to—
Mr Rake : There are things like Yarramundi Reach where the National Museum has a reserve—
Mr CREAN: No, I am thinking about lobbying. There used to be a situation, I thought, where there was land allocated for the purposes of those seeking to exercise a right to be close to the parliamentary process. Is that no longer part of your—
Mr Rake : So a future national institution—
Mr CREAN: No, like the national lobby groups, the stakeholder groups, if you like.
Mr Rake : No, there is no direct enabling process for those anymore. They were previously given access to cheap or free land primarily in the suburb of Barton—
Mr CREAN: So that does not exist anymore?
Mr Rake : That does not exist anymore. They are still considered one of the important elements of having a national capital and so they do get some preferential treatment—
Mr CREAN: But they have to find their own way.
Mr Rake : They have to find their own way in the market.
Mr CREAN: Fair enough.
Ms BRODTMANN: My question is on 'the wave' in Questacon—are you across that?
Mr Rake : The Torsional Wave—the relocation of the sculpture?
Ms BRODTMANN: Yes. It looks as though it has gone through all the EPBC process but has there been any community consultation on it? I am just concerned that we do not want War Memorial's mark 2 happening here. It is not on the lake but it is close to the lake and it is tall.
Mr Rake : It is an existing piece that is around on the lake near Questacon at the moment, and this is about relocating it around to King Edward Terrace.
Ms BRODTMANN: Where is it?
Mr Rake : It is currently around in the Humanities and Science campus garden area between the library and Questacon. To go back to your question, no, there has not been public consultation on that.
Ms BRODTMANN: There is just the height issue. As you know, people get a bit concerned about getting any barriers to the vista—
Mr Rake : This will not block a vista. This will essentially serve as the equivalent of an entry sign for Questacon, but it will be curatorially relevant. You may have noticed, if you have driven through the area in the past week—
Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, it is a little car park—
Mr Rake : The old Olympic sculptures have been moved from the front of Questacon—
Ms BRODTMANN: Have they?
Mr Rake : They were on long-term loan to Questacon and they have been given to the Australian Sports Commission and Stromlo Forest Park, respectively.
CHAIR: Thank you both, Ms Penn and Mr Rake, for your participation at this hearing and throughout the last few years. That concludes our deliberations until we reconvene after the election sometime. Thank you very much.
Resolved (on motion by Mr Humphries):
That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.
Committee adjourned at 13:26