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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5506

Senator LIGHTFOOT (4:25 PM) —I present the report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories entitled Striking the right balance: draft amendment 39, national capital plan. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator LIGHTFOOT —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I have pleasure in presenting this, the committee's second report for 2002. Draft amendment 39 of the national capital plan was first brought to the committee's attention in February 2001. A revised version of the draft amendment was provided to the committee in April 2002. The committee considered this revised version and, in May 2002, decided to seek a reference from the minister to conduct an inquiry. In particular, the committee wished to learn why the original provision of draft amendment 39, which removed the designated area status from the Deakin-Forrest residential precinct, was not included in version 3 of the draft amendment.

The committee was well aware of the competing interests in this matter and the need to strike the right balance between them: there is the ACT government, which seeks to provide a consistent and equitable set of planning and development processes throughout the territory; there are the residents and leaseholders from the area, many of whom wish to protect the residential character of the area; and there are others, especially those with properties fronting State Circle, who want to improve the area and enhance the value of their properties. The Commonwealth, as represented by the National Capital Authority, is charged with safeguarding the national capital significance of the area and encouraging development outcomes appropriate to the setting of the area.

Mindful of these sometimes conflicting interests, the committee sought to ensure that all parties were given every opportunity to present their views. To this end, a full day was allocated for a public hearing on 21 June 2002. A second public hearing was held on 26 August 2002 to hear evidence from Sir Lenox Hewitt, who has two family properties fronting State Circle. That the inquiry generated a considerable degree of interest is evidenced by the receipt of 15 written submissions. In all, the committee heard evidence from 12 witnesses, including a number of residents and leaseholders, representatives of the ACT government, the National Capital Authority, the Royal Australian Planning Institute and a local property developer.

In its deliberations, the committee focused on three principal issues. The first was to determine who should have planning control over the area in question. The majority of the committee shares the concern of the National Capital Authority that current and proposed changes to territory residential policies have created some planning uncertainty. The majority of the committee believes that, in this climate of uncertainty, the Commonwealth should retain planning jurisdiction over the area. The majority of the committee also believes that National Circuit constitutes an appropriate outer boundary for the area. The report's first recommendation, therefore, states that the designated area status currently applicable to the Deakin-Forrest residential area between State Circle and National Circuit be retained. Some members, however, have drawn a conclusion different from that contained in recommendation 1. An alternative view of planning control and the appropriate outer boundary is articulated in the minority report, which recommends that the designated area status of the area in question be uplifted from all but the blocks fronting State Circle.

The second issue confronting the committee was the nature of future development in the area. The area is a well-established residential precinct, for the most part exhibiting the best of Canberra as the garden city. The committee as a whole therefore recommends that the land use policy should continue to be residential and that non-residential development should be prohibited.

The committee shares the concerns of some residents/lessees that many of the properties fronting State Circle have fallen into disrepair and detract from the national significance of the area. Both the National Capital Authority and Mr Richard Drummond of State Circle Developments presented the committee with different residential development scenarios for State Circle. The committee chose, however, not to judge which type of residential development proposal was most suitable for State Circle. The committee's primary concern is to ensure that any redevelopment of the State Circle sites be consistent with the residential character of the area. Further, the committee believes that the design and landscaping of the area should be of a standard commensurate with its status as an area of national significance. These views are expressed in recommendation 3 of the report.

The third issue considered by the committee was that of the consultation processes used by the National Capital Authority. The committee believes that, in relation to the redevelopment of No. 15 State Circle, the authority failed in its duty to the residents/lessees of the area and ignored the committee. The authority admitted its mistake and has sought to rectify its procedures. In view of the committee's recommendation that the Commonwealth retain planning control over the area, the committee has further recommended that changes be made to the act to ensure greater public consultation by, and access to, the authority with respect to works approval in the area.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I express on behalf of the committee our gratitude to all those who participated in the inquiry and to the staff of the secretariat. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my committee colleagues for their work and support throughout the course of the inquiry and reporting process. Having said that, I commend the report to the house.