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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
08/10/2020
National Capital Authority

BARNES, Ms Sally, Chief Executive, National Capital Authority

DAVIS, Ms Coleen, Acting Chief Operating Officer, National Capital Authority

SMITH, Mr Andrew, Chief Planner, National Capital Authority

Committee met at 10:51

CHAIR ( Dr Webster ): I declare open the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories's biannual public briefing with the National Capital Authority. In accordance with the committee's resolution of 1 August 2019, this public briefing will be broadcast on the parliament's website and the proof and official transcripts of proceedings will be published on the parliament's website. Those present here today are advised that filming and recording is permitted during the briefing. I also remind members of the media who may be present or listening on the parliament's website of the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee.

Today's public briefing is the second of the 46th Parliament and is something that the committee usually undertakes to do twice a year. It provides the NCA with an opportunity to bring the committee and members of the public up-to-date with the projects and issues it is working on. It also allows us to ask questions and raise matters of interest on the public record.

I now welcome the representatives of the National Capital Authority to give evidence today. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and, therefore, has the same standing as the proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement before we proceed to discussion.

Ms Barnes : Thanks for the opportunity to talk to the committee about the work that the NCA does to shape a capital that all Australians can be proud of. I guess it goes without saying that it has been a very big year for everyone, for the National Capital Authority and for Canberra itself. You may not be aware, but before COVID we already had a series of incident management issues. We were on the tail end of a drought, where we had seen the most significant drop in lake levels and water in Canberra for a long time. Our air quality was impacted by bushfires, which made it difficult for visitors to come to the capital. We also had to manage that from a staff safety perspective. We had a massive hailstorm at the end of January, which wreaked havoc on both our built assets and natural assets in the capital. It ripped out and shredded some of our trees. We're only just seeing them come back now. Then of course we had COVID. Throughout this period, we worked with staff, contractors and our partners to maintain services and keep people safe and also to keep people employed, wherever possible. We gave rent relief to some of our leaseholders, and we pivoted online for a lot of our education materials and our information services. We shifted our workforce so everyone was working remotely, and now we're going through the transition of returning to the office.

Our business continuity kicked into operation, and we continued to operate and saw 96 per cent of our works approval applications were processed within 15 days for the year, which meets our target. We saw a six per cent increase in website traffic and we saw significant increases in people using our public spaces for recreation. Some of our major events had to be cancelled because of all these issues, and our revenue was down in many areas. Many events were cancelled: weddings, marathons and community events. And Floriade—the largest community event in Canberra, which last year brought in 500,000 people—had to be cancelled and was reimagined by the ACT government. Our focus continues to be on maintaining high-quality design and landscapes within the national capital, ensuring safe and good access for the public to areas they love in the national capital and also continuing our program of asset renewal and rejuvenation, now that many of the assets are reaching over 60 years old.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. Andrew Smith or Coleen Davis, do you have anything to add?

Ms Davis : No, thank you.

Mr Smith : No, there's nothing for me to add.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. We'll open this public briefing to questions now. I might open it to the committee. I'm not sure who's in the room now, so could you identify yourselves and then ask any questions you have?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can you tell us about any of the items in the budget that were announced on Tuesday that are specifically going to go into the National Capital Authority?

Ms Barnes : In this year's budget, you would have noticed that our overall total resourcing is less than last year. That's mainly because last year we had a number of new policy proposals for a business case for Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, money to do lake wall repairs and also a modernisation fund. All of that was expended. This year in the budget, there was a note about the upcoming work we'll be doing to design the Diplomatic Estate at North Curtin, and there's an allocation of an additional 1.5 ASL. I'll flag that, over the next two years, we'll spend $600,000 on studies in preparation for that work at Curtin for the Diplomatic Estate.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Did I see something about Old Parliament House? There was some work announced in the budget.

Ms Barnes : That's separate from us. Old Parliament House and the Museum of Australian Democracy have their own budgets and all of the cultural institutions have their own budgets.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Okay. They sit within your precinct, but they manage—

Ms Barnes : Yes, we're all linked together in terms of being on national land and we all live in the same space and cooperate in terms of marketing and communication, but they have separate budgets.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I have one other rather trivial question. Do the footpaths around Lake Burley Griffin come under your authority?

Ms Barnes : They definitely do because that's the outside space.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I went for a ride on the weekend and saw that it's been upgraded on the other side recently. That's very good.

Ms Barnes : Yes. As I mentioned, through COVID, in particular, when there was isolation, and even since then, it's been a trend that walking, running and riding around the lake is the thing to do for both people who live here and people who visit. Over probably 10 or 15 years, there've been a range of improvements to that walk, but we're still nervous around the potential for user conflicts—particularly over near the Carillion on the Kings Park side, which is the northern side—for bikes and pedestrians. We're actually doing some work at the moment, in consultation with the community, to see whether we can separate not so much the recreational bike riders where there are kids and families, but people who want to go a bit faster. We've got some proposals to dedicate that road to cyclists and make even more improvements.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That's a good idea.

Ms Barnes : I'm not sure whether you got to walk around the Carillon, but we've done a whole—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I rode through it.

Ms Barnes : We did a whole upgrade of Aspen Island. It looks quite beautiful at the moment. And spring in Canberra is lovely, everything pops.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Yes, and the little installations of the tulips are beautiful as well.

Ms Barnes : That's Floriade: Reimagined. We've been working with the ACT government on that. It's all around the city and in our areas as well, and it looks lovely.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Well done. Certainly with the paths, when you're on a bike going around the lake, some of the roots that go underneath the pavement—they're lifting the pavements and it can be quite dangerous, particularly early in the morning when the visibility is a bit lower.

Ms Barnes : We're also doing some work at the bottom of the National Gallery of Australia, because that was a pinch point. Once again, it's just one of those areas where you think, 'Something's going to happen here,' so we've been proactively working with the gallery to open that up so that there is more visibility for cyclists and runners and everyone can at least see each other and be wary.

Mr STEVENS: I have a couple of questions on two topics. The first is the War Memorial redevelopment. Anzac Parade and the approaches to the War Memorial are in your purview, and then I assume that—sorry, I can't think of the name of the circular street that encompasses the War Memorial land, but is all that land with the War Memorial as opposed to you?

Ms Barnes : You're correct. We look after Anzac Parade, but the curtilage where the War Memorial sits on, the land for the War Memorial and around it, is actually War Memorial land. It's national land, but the War Memorial looks after it.

Mr STEVENS: I understand. So with the proposed redevelopment of the memorial, is there any involvement in areas that you have custody over? Or is it really confined to the footprint of the land of the memorial?

Ms Barnes : No, we are the planning approval agency for any changes to the War Memorial. Anything that gets done in that area has to be consistent with provisions of the National Capital Plan. While there have been a few other processes, they all have slightly different roles. The Public Works Committee looks at whether it's a good idea to spend money on that proposal. The EPBC Act looks at specific heritage issues. We have a broader planning perspective around how it sits in the landscape and how it talks to Anzac Parade, but it must be consistent with the National Capital Plan. I'll pass over to the chief planner, who can give you some more information about our role with that particular building.

Mr STEVENS: Thank you, that would be good.

Mr Smith : The War Memorial is within the designated areas, as defined by the National Capital Plan, and, through that mechanism, the NCA is the planning approval agency. We assess against the provisions of the National Capital Plan, which covers a broad range of aspects. It's everything from design quality through to the more mundane things associated with traffic movements, and all stops in between. For this proposal, and there are a number of subparts to the War Memorial's redevelopment, our assessment will effectively look at how it nestles into the existing Canberra landscape in a manner that is consistent with the national heritage values that exist in that space.

Mr STEVENS: So, from your point of view, you're involvement in it is at the stage where you've given the approvals you are required to? Or are you still in an open—

Mr Smith : The Public Works Committee is really about expenditure.

Mr STEVENS: Yes.

Mr Smith : There are very specific provisions related to heritage approvals, which are currently being worked through—

Ms Barnes : By the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Mr Smith : Once those discussions have started, that's when the NCA starts its dialogue with the Australian War Memorial, and they have commenced. We had our first pre-application meeting, where we reviewed the work that is proposed for the forecourt of the memorial. I think it was this time last week, actually. The Director of Strategic Planning and I attended a presentation at the memorial, went through the scheme, made some commentary about how it would operate, understood a little bit more about the architecture, gave the War Memorial some feedback. They are taking that on board, and there'll be a meeting scheduled for another couple of weeks to follow that on. It's a process of preapplication meetings and, when they've satisfied all matters to do with the development, not just the NCA's, they will come to us for a formal works approval.

Mr STEVENS: Do you have care and control over the memorials along Anzac Parade, or does that go to the War Memorial?

Mr Smith : It's us. Anzac Parade itself is national land set aside for special purposes for the national capital. The NCA's responsible for planning, design, development and maintenance of all those memorials. We are currently doing refurbishment of the planter beds on Anzac Parade as part of this year's program of capital works.

Mr STEVENS: That was to be my next question. The War Memorial is a long project, obviously. I'm wondering if there are any allied works that fit in with your budget that are naturally going to see broader amenity enhancement along Anzac Parade as part of that coming online.

Ms Barnes : Anzac Parade is a priority for us this year, and it's in our regular asset maintenance and upgrade sequence and cycle. In fact last year we did a lot of work waxing the existing monuments. This year we're doing work on the landscaping on either side of Anzac Parade but also in the middle of Anzac Parade. The beds in the middle contain hebes.

Everything in Canberra is more than you see. Everything in Canberra, I've learnt, has a story that's quite deep and significant and symbolic. Anzac Parade's is around the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, of course, so the trees on the outside of Anzac Parade are Australian blue gums and the plants in the middle of Anzac Parade, on the gravel, in the planter beds, are New Zealand hebes, so you've got Australia and New Zealand.

The hebes in the middle of Anzac Parade, in those beds, have been struggling for a little while. We did a big investigation last year as to why and to get a feel for what the state of play was. The advice we got back from the specialist was that it was time to renew those plants, take the old soil out, do more work on irrigation—not just freshen them up but redo them. At the moment, we've taken all the soil out and put fresh soil back in. We're letting it settle in. The irrigation improvements have gone in. We've got one bed that's been planted up—as of Tuesday, I think, when I last looked at it—but the rest are going to come online.

Our plan is to have all that ready for Remembrance Day in November. People are interested all year round, but the two key ceremonial days for Anzac Parade are Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Our plan is to have the beds planted for Remembrance Day. They'll only be baby hebes but they'll be a fresh start, and then we'll continue to look at them. We've been told by specialists that hebes should grow there. As I said, we've struggled, but we're taking on the new advice and giving it another go, because we think it's important from a heritage perspective to maintain those links.

Mr STEVENS: Thank you. I had a second line of questioning, but, Senator McMahon, you might want to ask something.

Senator McMAHON: I just wanted to ask how you were going with the bridges.

Ms Barnes : Within our strategic asset management plan and our financial plan we identified that we needed to do some investigative work on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, as the first priority, and then in our program three or four years down the track we would look at Kings. Last year, in the budget, we received $3 million to do a detailed business case on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The business case was to look at a range of options, but we all thought we would end up going the strengthening route because it was such a well-designed and well-loved bridge and, if we could strengthen it to maintain it, that would be our preference.

Infrastructure Australia released their report on our business case—was it two weeks ago? It was only very recently, towards the end of September. Their assessment was that it was appropriate for that project to go on a priority list of funding for government. At this stage, we understand government is still assessing the Infrastructure Australia advice and our business case.

Senator McMAHON: Wasn't one of the issues that you'd pretty much need to drain the lake to be able to do that?

Ms Barnes : Thankfully, no. The beautiful thing about those bridges is that they were built before the lake was in place. Unlike other bridges which have to take into account water, they were built when there was only the creek and the small river there. So their engineering is quite magnificent from that perspective. But, no, it wouldn't be a good idea to drain the lake. We won't have to drain the lake to redo it. I don't think the business case said we have to—

Mr Smith : There's no lake draining.

Ms Barnes : But we will have to take into account the lake and disruption, and work carefully around that. If we do get the money at some later stage, we'll have to look how we manage water and barging things in and building. It's a very complicated project.

Senator McMAHON: An unrelated question: do you have oversight or control of the orange scooters?

Ms Barnes : We licensed the orange scooters. Probably 18 months to two years ago we started, as requested by the ACT government, to consider licensing bikes. You'll remember that the rest of the world was having problems with bikes in waterways and piles of bikes. So we put strict conditions around the bikes that we used, and that seemed to go very well. When the scooters came along, we were happy to look at licensing them with the same conditions. They have got geocaching, which means they should be starting from places we have already designed for them to start from and ending up in places where we'd like them to be dropped off. I understand that, for the first couple of weeks, there were technical issues with the geocaching—so they were turning up in places they weren't meant to be, but the company has been quite good in coming to pick them up. The geocaching is designed so that, if you don't drop the scooter off at a designated place, it keeps taking money from your credit card. So there's a financial incentive to do the right thing. We think it could work very well. They have been very popular to date.

Senator McMAHON: Have you seen any issues with them?

Ms Barnes : No, it goes back to the paths and planning properly. The other thing we did with the company was: as well as geocaching—so if you don't drop them in the right place, you get charged—we put in a condition that their speed would drop automatically when they came into that central basin area or on any of our lands; I think the speed drops to 10 kilometres. We have done a risk assessment and we have put mitigation measures in place to manage any of the risks, including speed. If we can get the pathways right—and we're nearly there—then we've just got to rely on people to do the right thing, too—so personal responsibility.

Senator McMAHON: Thank you.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I actually downloaded the app and had a little go of them on the weekend; they're quite good! But you can't come up here to Parliament House—or you can come up here but you can't park here.

Ms Barnes : That's right.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Is that for safety reasons?

Ms Barnes : I'm not sure. They probably would have negotiated with Parliament House around those conditions.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Could be a good way for MPs to get to and from here.

Ms Barnes : It's good exercise walking up the hill!

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is!

CHAIR: I have got a couple of questions. I know you were given a list of approximately 10 things that we might ask about, Ms Barnes; it feels like it's a bit scary, but it's not really! I just want to focus on the Curtin horse paddocks for a moment; there has been quite a bit of correspondence from Senator Gallagher forwarded to us about that. The proposal and the process has been criticised. I'm just wondering if you can give us a bit of an understanding of the factors that you believe favoured the exchange of the land pertaining to the Curtin horse paddocks and the West Basin.

Ms Barnes : Certainly. For a number of years in this committee there have been discussions about diplomatic land, the availability of diplomatic land and, also, checking in to make sure that the existing diplomatic land that has been leased to countries is being utilised in the right way. At the last hearing last year, the chief planner mentioned that we were getting really to a critical stage around having no more land available for countries that are looking to establish diplomatic missions in Australia. This had been reported through various inquiries and various reports. But really, as we said in that inquiry, it was now at a very critical stage. We'd been talking to the ACT government for a number of years around this issue, in that it's not just an issue for the National Capital Authority. It's an issue for Canberra and its standing and how it's perceived on the international stage.

The ACT government could see that we all needed to do something around solving this issue of land available for diplomatic purpose in the future. So, last year, officials from the ACT government discussed a proposal with us which would see land at Curtin transferred to the Commonwealth and Commonwealth land, lake bed at West Basin, transferred to the ACT government to assist with the implementation of the West Basin project, in line with some planning approvals that were already existing in the National Capital Plan. Governments worked around that proposition and in February it was agreed by both governments that it made sense, for the good of the capital and for the standing of Canberra as a city and also because embassies and diplomats actually are a good thing for, as I say, both the capital and the city, that that land exchange would go ahead.

With agreement of both governments, Assistant Minister Marino used her powers of gazettal to gazette the land at Curtin. About 31.6 acres of land at Curtin have been gazetted to be Commonwealth land and at the same time she also gazetted part of the lake bed at West Basin to be ACT government land. That's the process. I know that before the land was gazetted, we started talking to the Territory Agistment group, who were managing the land and working with the horse owners, letting them know about the change and making sure we had the right legal framework in place so that they could continue to operate on that land as it became Commonwealth land. Then the day the land was transferred, we contacted the ACT Equestrian Association and all the horse owners to let them know what had happened and to organise a time to meet with them or their representatives and explain our intention, which was to keep the existing arrangements in place for the horses for two years at minimum and then to work with them as we started to develop the site.

CHAIR: Thank you. You've answered my next question, which was around community consultation. Clearly, there was some community consultation. Do you think there was enough community consultation?

Ms Barnes : To be fair, I'm not sure what the ACT government did around community consultation, and it was the ACT government that was transferring the land to the Commonwealth. It was their decision to change that land use. Certainly, we waited till we had the land, in that we couldn't say we were going to be owners of the land until it had transferred. I know that some of the local people feel they weren't aware there could be change in the wind. Certainly, that's come through to us, but we're committed to keep people in the loop as we start planning for the diplomatic estate.

CHAIR: Can you tell me whether you're still intending on developing the land for diplomatic embassies and what that time frame might look like?

Ms Barnes : Certainly. While the land transferred to the Commonwealth on 23 March, we then have another process where we need to confirm that land use in the National Capital Plan. At the moment, there's a process to make a change to the National Capital Plan that's gone out for public comment. We received 127 submissions around the draft amendment that allows diplomatic use in that land and lots of very good advice around environmental values—interest in making sure that if and when a diplomatic estate was developed there's plenty of green space, talking around connectivity for insects, mammals and birds, and lots of information that we will definitely use when we do the planning for that diplomatic estate. We will be finalising the report on the public consultation for that draft amendment. The next step would be to forward that to Assistant Minister Marino, for her consideration.

Mr STEVENS: You might want to take this on notice. Is a rough indication of what the—you're obviously acquiring this land because there are active requests from certain future missions.

Ms Barnes : Yes.

Mr STEVENS: I don't know the sensitivity—I'm not interested in the particular names but if there's a rough number, and how long you think this estate will last before it will be full and you might need to address land shortages in the future. Second to that, before your answer, are there existing missions—I've always noted that some of our strongest allies tend to have, understandably, the older facilities—that have indicated, 'If and when possible, we wouldn't mind potentially moving or redeveloping our sites or upgrading ourselves or getting a bigger footprint than we were given in 1947,' or whatever it might be?

Ms Barnes : Certainly, it's an evolving space. As you say, people who have been here for a while or new relationships with countries means it's always evolving. DFAT's told us that we should expect at least two or three missions a year coming onboard. It's hard to know how much land different countries would like, as you say, and there's a bit of a change in around how missions are planned, but we're anticipating this should last for 25 years. But it is an evolving space and there may be existing countries that would like to go to a new area. I'll ask Andrew Smith, the chief planner, to run through the process, because we are the planning authority and the approval authority and we're in regular contact with missions around their needs and they do change.

Mr Smith : I would have two or three conversations a year with representatives of foreign governments about their needs per diplomatic estate. They can be from countries who have been here for some time but don't have a permanent presence, a permanent embassy. By way of example, Vietnam is a country in that category who have, at times, suggested that they would like to establish. They may be a country that chooses to take this opportunity. Other countries have indicated they'd like to either expand or reduce their presence onsite. It's a little bit more of a dynamic environment than one might imagine. It's also the changed circumstances of a number of countries. They'd be looking at the security envelope of their existing facilities and whether that satisfies the contemporary needs. In some cases it's fine and in some cases it isn't. Some countries have indicated they'd like to find a facility that's secure. In other instances, they'd like to have more staff accommodation onsite. So it's a range of factors that come into play there.

We're confident that the Curtin land area will be suitable for the next 25 years or so, but it does very much depend on individual decisions by individual countries over the coming years.

CHAIR: Excellent. Has anyone else got any further questions? If not, I want to ask a couple more questions regarding the merits of NCA decisions. We've obviously had some correspondence, as you have. Deakin Residents Association noted that the merits of NCA decisions cannot be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the NCA's website states that there is no provision for planning appeal relating to the merits or otherwise of development proposals approved or not supported by the NCA. There is, however, opportunity to challenge the decision administratively, which provides the opportunity for recourse under The Administrative Directions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 to determine whether a process undertaken to inform a decision of the authority has been made correctly. In 2004 this committee found that this represents a denial of natural justice and recommended NCA decisions should be subject to an independent appeals process in addition to the ADJR Act option. From the NCA's perspective, what would be the implications of its decisions being subject to external merits review, and why are the merits of NCA decisions exempt from external review?

Ms Barnes : The public consultation, the merits and the parliamentary oversight of the planning framework are front-loaded, if you like, in the planning process for developments on national lands. The planning framework is set by the elected officials from around Australia in that the National Capital Plan is a legislative instrument and any amendment to the National Capital Plan, which sets the planning framework, has to have a couple of things. One is that the ACT government must not object to what's going in the National Capital Plan. Then both houses of parliament have an opportunity to disallow anything that would be going into the National Capital Plan. So the merits and the front-loading of those conditions are set by the parliament. It's then our job to implement the different works approval in line with those conditions in the National Capital Plan or any of the development control plans that are also developed over time.

If people think that the works approval isn't consistent with those overriding principles, there are a number of things they can do. They can go to administrative decisions judicial approval on the process. They can also go to the authority itself—to the board. They can go to the chair of the board. They can come to me because there's a separation of powers within the NCA. I don't approve; the chief planner does the approval in line with the National Capital Plan. They can come to me and tell where they think the chief planner has erred in terms of consistency with the National Capital Plan and guidelines. Or they can go to the NCA's audit committee and once again raise those issues where they think the decisions have been made that are inconsistent with the National Capital Plan.

There were recent concerns with a development in the Deakin Forrest area. Certainly some of the people did not like the development and they asked for a statement of reasons why it was approved. We've provided that statement of reasons. I have not been provided with definitive advice as to where we have approved something that's inconsistent with the National Capital Plan.

So that's the current framework that we're working under. As I say, unless a specific issue is raised where it's inconsistent with the National Capital Plan and the guidelines, we just need to let the process do what it does.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. I'd like to move to the geoheritage at Mount Ainslie that I've read quite a bit about as well—the proposal to build apartments on a site in the suburb of Campbell, formerly the location for the CSIRO headquarters. A local Ngunawal elder has said the site was once used for sacred men's business and also has broader heritage value. This was further discussed in correspondence circulated at the last meeting, from Dr Shane West. The developer relied on a study that concluded no issues existed, and the federal environmental department did not assess Indigenous heritage. Could you outline the extent of the NCA's involvement in assessing the site and granting development approval?

Ms Barnes : I might start, and then I'll ask Mr Smith to add. The site under question is the old CSIRO headquarters on Limestone Avenue in Campbell. The Australian government sold that site in 2002. It was then purchased by the Doma Group in 2016. The NCA is responsible for the planning approvals. Over the life of considering how this site will be used, there have been a number of community consultations and engagements about the site. Through all of the consultations in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the community gave us information about the site. At no time through those public consultations was it raised with us in any written submission that this was a men's site. Certainly it was raised with us that there were interests around geoheritage, but the notion of it being a men's site—and, from studies, it was known that the site is at the foothills of Mount Ainslie, and Mount Ainslie is a women's site. It's also near Corroboree Park. Also, the whole of Australia, the whole of Canberra, the whole of the area we manage, is of significance to Aboriginal people. But, through that process, we weren't aware of it being a specific men's site. When that issue was raised by Mr Mortimer through the media, that was new information to both the NCA and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and also to the proponent. With that new information, we kicked off a new process to give ourselves assurances and certainty around what was on that site and if anything had been missed. That's a process that's underway at the moment, and I'll ask Mr Smith to tell you more about the process that's underway and what the next steps will be.

Mr Smith : Once the media statements were made regarding this site being a men's site, we convened a meeting with the site owners and representatives of DAWE, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, to map out a new process to test these claims. In short, that has resulted in a fresh Indigenous heritage cultural survey being undertaken for the site. There was one done previously. As part of that process, all the registered Indigenous organisations and members of the local Indigenous community have been consulted by a new set of heritage experts, who have prepared a report to assess these claims. I understand Mr Mortimer was contacted as part of that process. I'm not aware of the level of his engagement. That report, I understand, is now at a final draft stage, and it has been or is about to be presented back to those consulted over the last few months, to ascertain whether or not the report authors have fairly recorded the views of those members of the Indigenous community. Once that process is completed, the NCA will be provided formally with a copy of that report. It will be submitted to us for our review, and our review will also involve formal consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment so as to ascertain the extent of Indigenous cultural heritage that might be present on that site.

CHAIR: Thank you for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide any additional information, would you please forward it to the secretary. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors. On that note, I declare this public briefing closed.

Committee adjourned at 11 : 35