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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
National Capital Authority

PENN, Ms Shelley, Chair, National Capital Authority

RAKE, Mr Gary, Chief Executive, National Capital Authority

SMITH, Mr Andrew, Chief Planner, National Capital Authority

Evidence from Ms Pen n was taken via teleconference—

Committee met at 13:00

CHAIR ( Senator Pratt ): Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false evidence or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I invite you to make a short opening statement to the committee. As the Chair of the NCA, Ms Penn, do you want to make any remarks?

Ms Penn : Thank you, Senator. Firstly, I apologise that I am not there in person. That is due to illness and my doctor's advice. I really did not want to infect the committee, so it is better to be remote. I do want to make a brief opening statement. I thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for allowing me to make this statement and to appear before you. In November 2011, I appeared before you in the capacity of acting chair. You may be aware—and you are aware, as you have just demonstrated—that last week I was formally appointed as chair, and I believe that was announced this morning. That goes through to the end of 2014. I am very honoured to assume that position for a number of reasons, foremost being my recognition of the importance of Canberra as Australia's national capital.

The responsibility associated with the role of the NCA is considerable. We have held fast during a period of uncertainty and frugality and have emerged with a strong endorsement of our role and a number of clear tasks. I will touch on some of these, as they align with areas of interest that have been raised by the community and may be of interest to the joint standing committee. I would also like to reiterate my thanks to my predecessor, Professor Don Aitkin, for his work with the NCA. His leadership and contribution to the national capital through the NCA were significant, and many advancements in our work can be attributed to his approach.

My role with the NCA brings together many of my personal and professional interests as an architect who is passionate about design quality and its importance in the public realm. In my practice I combine the design of relatively small projects with a role as adviser to government in relation to very large projects. The mix of small and large scales is relevant to the NCA because each incremental intervention has an impact and at the same time the big-picture perspective is critical. We require long-term foresight and vision and we need to support and demonstrate excellence in detail. In relation to my own work, I should also advise that I have just commenced a term as National President of the Australian Institute of Architects.

I am not a resident of Canberra but I hope to bring a sensitivity to local concerns, to draw on the knowledge of fellow authority members who live there and to learn much from the local community. I also intend to maintain and strengthen the national perspective on the work of the NCA. Within the short period since my appointment was confirmed, a number of people have asked: what will the NCA do? What will it be under my leadership?

My answer is that the NCA will continue the good work it is doing, and it will also be setting out on a path which represents an important new phase and will contribute to the positive legacy which is the Australian national capital.

I think that path can be summarised in three key points. Firstly, we will renew and reinvigorate our focus on the special characteristics of Canberra as the national capital, the aspects that we believe most Australians would recognise and expect us to manage and protect on their behalf. The planning and presentation of the central national area is foremost in our mind, as are the landscape which embraces and permeates the city, the heritage places which express our values and tell the stories of Canberra and Australia, and the quality of the public realm, which must be excellent. Through best practice in our own work, we hope to exemplify and demonstrate the value of good planning and design. We consider ourselves to be trustees, and it is a role we take very seriously. We also recognise that many Canberrans carry a sense of stewardship for the capital, a sense of responsibility to protect and enhance it on behalf of all Australians. We will work with the local community on these shared objectives.

The second element, which will dominate much of our work, is a major review of the National Capital Plan. We will embrace bold reform addressing the way we share responsibility for the capital with the ACT government.

CHAIR : Ms Penn, I am sorry to have to interrupt you, but our House of Representatives colleagues need to leave us because there is a division underway, which means, sadly, that we will become inquorate.

Ms Penn : Okay.

CHAIR : Can we quickly form a subcommittee so that Gary can ask his questions now? Is that okay?

Dr Leigh : Yes, I move the creation of a subcommittee.

CHAIR : Thank you—appointing Senator Pratt and Senator Humphries as members of that subcommittee? Great, thank you.

Our colleagues will not get the benefit of your remarks, so we will allow Senator Humphries to ask some questions now and we will return to your statement, Ms Penn.

Ms Penn : That is fine, Senator, yes.

CHAIR : Thank you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Thanks, Ms Penn. I just want to clarify what the arrangements are with respect to the extra funding which the NCA was awarded in the budget this year. I have read the submission from the Walter Burley Griffin Society about the current state of play with respect to funding and projects before the NCA at the moment, and I want to take up a few points that they raised in their submission. To what extent is the funding which has been provided in this year's budget meant to be for restoring the funding base which has been removed in the last few financial years, and to what extent is it funding for specific purposes such as producing the 50-year plan that Professor Aitkin spoke about on a previous occasion or for other specific tied purposes?

Ms Penn : I will just address that briefly, if that is okay, and then Gary could perhaps provide some more detail. It is for both. It certainly is about allowing us to survive and to continue. We were short, as you are aware, so that funding will certainly allow us to continue and to perform our statutory duties. But it also will allow us to get on with a review of the National Capital Plan, which is something the authority have identified as our first priority. We have also identified heritage implementation—implementation of heritage management plans—which is a legal obligation of ours under EPBC, as well as an outreach program, where we really want to extend our education and awareness within the broader Australian community. We are proposing to use that funding for those three purposes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So it is not specifically earmarked by the federal government but they are aware of your forward agenda and this money is generally capable of supporting all three of those goals?

Mr Rake : Very much so. The announcements at budget time were quite clear that the funding underpins the financial sustainability of the NCA in delivering its core statutory responsibilities; that it enables us to improve our heritage management and, in particular, compliance with our EPBC Act obligations; and that we implement the recommendations of Dr Allan Hawke's report as accepted by government—that is, in a manner consistent with the government response. That includes review of the National Capital Plan, improving our relationship with the ACT government in respect of sharing the planning system, and developing an active education and outreach program.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are any of the things that have been put to one side in the last few years because of funding shortages now capable of being restored? For example, is it possible to re-establish the position of National Capital Plan director and the staff that went with that position?

Mr Rake : I think there may be some confusion around the state of that position. The position that existed in 2002 was a director level position. In common APS levels, that was an EL2 position. For the past five years at least, and certainly for all of the time that I have been chief executive, we have had an SES band 1 in charge of planning—it is Mr Smith; he carries the title of chief planner. I think it is a higher level of focus on that function than existed in the past. So, no, we will not be recreating a position dedicated as 'director, National Capital Plan'; we have a chief planner. We will be investing additional resources in more senior planners to support Mr Smith in the delivery of his role. In fact, we had at least one ad in the paper last weekend for a person who will lead the reform of the National Capital Plan.

Senator HUMPHRIES: After the funding cuts in 2008, the NCA reduced the opening hours of Blundells Cottage and performance times at the Carillon and I think also made cuts in opening hours or other services at the National Capital Exhibition Centre. I have not heard that those reductions have been restored. Do you intend to use any of this money to do any of those things?

Mr Rake : We have actually undone many of those cuts over the last couple of years, primarily by improving efficiency in our asset management. Our asset management team through their tender and competitive procurement processes have freed up a fair bit of additional money, so we doubled the opening hours at Blundells Cottage and removed the entry fee. It was a very minor entry fee. It was hardly worth collecting. It presented a security risk. But, as soon as we took away that fee, the numbers increased by many multiples. We are maintaining all of our opening hours and the provision of tours, particularly for school groups, at the National Capital Exhibition. We have been able to reinstate a large proportion of the Carillon recital program, although that was by attracting a private sponsorship. That sponsorship has proven very successful, and we will be seeking to renew that sponsorship. It has been a great partnership with a local business.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Good. What about general maintenance of the Parliamentary Triangle? There was a period in which you were seeking to make savings in that area. What is the status of the expenditure on that goal at the moment?

Mr Rake : There was a period where we needed to make savings. Working within the existing contract, the only way to do that was to reduce scope. We have found better ways of doing that now, and we have been able to improve the standard of our delivery without compromising on price. On the additional funding that has come to us in the recent budget announcement, with its focus on heritage: a large part of our heritage management is the way we manage assets day to day, so we will be able to direct some of that money into asset management in a way that protects and conserves heritage values as well, so I think there is some pretty good news there.

The areas that we will not be reinstating are some of the larger public events that we previously contributed to. The authority prior to 2007 put an investment in the order of a million dollars a year into the Australia Day Live concert. We do not make that investment anymore but the concert continues, so there has been no loss to the community, and we have redirected our resourcing and our effort to activities that are a bit closer to home.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So are you saying that all of the maintenance functions that were achieved by the NCA in 2007 are today being achieved, subject obviously to different configurations of what needs to be maintained?

Mr Rake : Yes, and I would argue that in many areas it is being done better. These are very practical things that everyday people see and appreciate. The pruning of hedges was neglected for many years. It is back with regular attention. The removal of leaves during autumn is happening regularly. If you go through the Parliamentary Zone, you very rarely see a large build-up of leaves over the grass that lasts more than a day or two. The rose gardens are looking great. We are giving a lot of attention to these things and some areas in which we were previously criticised: day-to-day management and upgrade of Scrivener Dam, even aside from the major works we are doing at the moment. We have been able to do things like replace the gate seals and keep them up to date, and update our flood management modelling and preparation. There is a lot of good work being done.

Senator HUMPHRIES: In terms of outputs, what exactly does the taxpayer get for the $11.9 million extra allocated in this year's budget that was not already in the NCA's plan?

Mr Rake : The first year of that funding is approximately $2.4 million, and in the first year we will putting about half of that into the review of the National Capital Plan.

Senator HUMPHRIES: But you were already undertaking a review of the National Capital Plan.

Mr Rake : No, we were not undertaking the detailed review of the National Capital Plan. Professor Aitkin had said that it was an aspiration, but we did not have the resources. The government's response to Dr Hawke's report is tied in with this budget funding and enables us to do that review.

Ms Penn : One of the main benefits and something that we feel most happy about because we see it as well overdue—and I know that we are not the only people who see it as well overdue—in terms of the benefits to the taxpayer is that a proper, rigorous review brings the plan up to date and improves it overall. We see that as very important.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will just quote what Professor Aitkin said at our biannual review in June 2010. This comes from the Walter Burley Griffin Society's submission; I assume it is an accurate rendition of what was said:

We are planning to present to parliament in 10 years time a 50-year-forward look for the national capital. … We propose that it will take us 10 years to do this—to review the National Capital Plan, which is now 22 years old—and to present to parliament in 10 years time a vision of the national capital that would extend 50 years. … I hope parliament accepts that challenge from us …

In the hearing, I asked him:

Do you have any idea of what kind of level of work is going to be required to produce the first of these 50-year plans?

Professor Aitkin answered:

We can start doing that now within our own resources and indeed we must, because that is all the resources we have.

I took him to be saying that a review was happening and was happening within the NCA's own resources.

Mr Rake : At that point, the level of review was really contributing to the debate within government about the future role of the INCA. Before we can review the National Capital Plan, chapter and verse, we need to have a clear vision of what government's intention is for the role of the Commonwealth here in the national capital. Our effort from that point in 2010 right through to the May announcement of the government response to the Hawke report has been making the argument for presenting a vision for Commonwealth involvement in the national capital for the future. Now that we have clear guidance in the form of the government response, we will set about the meaty work, which is a word-by-word, chapter-by-chapter review of the National Capital Plan.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If I had been Professor Aitkin answering a question to a parliamentary committee, knowing what a meticulous and careful person he is, I would have been very careful about not creating the impression that we were about to embark on a review of the National Capital Plan, meaning just that—not simply as you have just described it, a preliminary work prior to that kind of process getting underway, Mr Rake.

Mr Rake : I think it is an important part of a continuum for such a review.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Of course it is, but he did not say, 'We are doing this important part of the continuum but not doing that actual plan until we have some more money to do it.' He said, 'We're going to do a review of the National Capital Plan.' He said, 'It will take us 10 years.'

CHAIR: Senator Humphries, while we are referring to this document, I will just make sure that it gets tabled and published now.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes, sure.

CHAIR: It is the review of the National Capital Authority for our hearing and a submission from James Weirick, the President of the Walter Burley Griffin Society—just so that that is done.

Mr Rake : I may then rephrase my answer and say that we will be expediting the review that started with the work that Professor Aitkin referred to in 2010, and with the addition of this funding we will be able to do it faster than 10 years.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay, so with the $11.9 million we are now expediting work that was already planned but was not going to be happening as quickly as this?

Mr Rake : Correct.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If it is not now a 10-year plan, when will it be delivered with the new funding?

Mr Rake : We would aim for that to be within five years.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay.

Mr Rake : To be perfectly clear: there will be a number of stages in this. We expect the first of those stages will be in the public domain in the second half of this calendar year, so before the end of 2012 we will have one of the early stages. It may be a review of the language and format of the plan or a review of the matters of national significance, which are two very key early stages. They will be into the public domain this calendar year. There will not be one single redrafting of the plan that lands on someone's desk for the committee to look at.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is fair enough. What else do we get for the $11.9 million that is not already in the pipeline?

Mr Rake : The financial sustainability of the NCA is underpinned. This financial year, as the budget papers record, we were headed towards an operating loss of $1 million. We will be able to operate within our budget resources next year. Another key feature of the Hawke report and the government response was that we reinvigorate our statutory function to promote the national capital, clarifying that to mean 'inform and educate Australians and visitors about the significance of Canberra as national capital', so we will be developing a five-year program of education and outreach activities. These will range from the development of new media like apps to help people find their way around the national capital and understand the values of the place, through to the exhibition that is currently in the Presiding Officers' gallery in this great building, which will be travelling around regional centres, and we would hope to have a program of similar exhibitions.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I have more questions, but I will let my colleagues have a go.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Dr LEIGH: As the member representing Campbell, my questions today will just relate to DA 74. Many of the submissions that you and we have received address the issue of the height limit. Why did the NCA choose to keep the seven- or eight-storey built form adjacent to the memorials and Anzac Parade?

Mr Rake : It is important to clarify that the amendment that we are proposing at the moment reduces an existing development ability. There is a provision in the National Capital Plan at the moment that already allows for development at that height but on a much larger footprint and, in particular, in a form that would have large, multistorey development directly across the road from existing single-storey dwellings. We have retained a portion of the development at that upper height limit, but the new form of this development, both as originally proposed and as modified after community consultation, reduces both the overall development capacity of the site and the building heights in a transition fashion as it moves closer to existing residential development, and improves heritage protection on the site both in a landscape sense and in a cultural sense. So across three areas we believe there have been considerable improvements compared to development permissions that exist in the current framework.

Dr LEIGH: Notwithstanding the response of the NCA to the submissions, there still seem to be a number of concerns about increased traffic through Constitution Avenue and the potential for rat-running through Campbell. The response to the submissions talks about parking in great detail but has deferred consideration of traffic to a later date. Have you considered the cumulative impacts of increased traffic in and around Campbell for the purposes of considering this amendment?

Mr Rake : We have. We commissioned detailed traffic modelling that took into account current and future expected development, and Mr Smith made a detailed presentation to the residents of Campbell on Wednesday evening last week, Wednesday the 13th, which highlighted the outcomes of that traffic modelling. What it did identify as one of the key findings was that a lot of the traffic congestion in Campbell relates to the suburb itself—for example, people going to the Campbell shops or to and from the couple of schools. Campbell has a private school and a childcare centre. A lot of the traffic in those surveys emanates from visits to or from those sites. There was not a lot of rat running recorded in these traffic surveys. We looked at both the am and pm peak times and used number-plate recognition technology. Campbell is a busy suburb but a lot of the traffic relates to the fact that the suburb is busy rather than that it is a rat run.

Dr LEIGH: The DA anticipates an increase in both cyclists and walkers. Have you considered issues of safety of pedestrians and cyclists as a result of increased traffic?

Mr Rake : Very much so. The master plan for Constitution Avenue, which is being built by the ACT government with funding provided by the Commonwealth, provides for two new pedestrian paths linking Campbell to the city along Constitution Avenue and for a dedicated off-road cycleway. Within traffic management on-site at the section 5 development, we have also increased the visitor parking and made sure that it is above ground and accessible, so that it is not a hassle for visitors to get to those car parks and they are not encouraged to park in the streets of Campbell.

Dr LEIGH: There is going to be some landscaping around the proposed DA. Who will plant and who will maintain that landscaping? There has been concern from some residents that they will be expected to maintain the landscaping that is put in place to address the heritage and environmental issues.

Mr Rake : It will be a combination. Some of that planting will be in public space and will be the responsibility of the leaseholder. If it is a multi-unit development it will be the body corporate's responsibility. But there will be some trees planted in the road reserve and the public land managers, whether they be the ACT government or the NCA—and we both have responsibility for road reserves there—and the responsible government agency would take over management of those. That landscaping is designed to take account of heritage values, in particular, its proximity to Anzac Parade and the New Zealand memorial. One of the basket handles is very close to this site. We have had close interactions with the New Zealand high commissioner to make sure that we are addressing those concerns.

Dr LEIGH: On that, do you believe that the additional trees and landscaping will be sufficient to protect the heritage status of that memorial?

Mr Rake : Yes, we do. We have also referred the matter to the department responsible for heritage, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and had it assessed under the EPBC Act. The current provisions in the plan would not have protected those heritage values. The amendment that we are proposing does, and it embeds those protections within the planning framework. We have also embedded, in the planning framework, mandatory consultation on every single development that would occur on that site in future. That is the strongest level of consultation that exists in that part of the city. We have embedded that in the plan so that it is mandatory.

Mr Smith : One further thing in regards to the landscape protections: the proposed amendment makes mandatory that that landscape be in place prior to approval of any building development on the site. The first thing that has to happen is the landscaping.

Dr LEIGH: Thank you. Many submissions suggested that DA 74 be adjusted to set the first building 25 metres further east on Constitution Avenue and away from Anzac Parade East, so the symmetry of the eastern handle of the New Zealand memorial is not affected as much. Why was that not done?

Mr Rake : The detailed landscape assessment found that the treatment we had in mind and the form of the development were not going to compromise that value in the first place, so it was not necessary to make the change. We have procured quite a bit of three-dimensional modelling to help explain to the community what the view sheds will be. We have fully completed development from as many angles as we can—from the human height perspective, from the top of Mount Ainslie, from the steps of the War Memorial. We have picked as many angles as we can to demonstrate that this proposal is a marked improvement and will not unduly affect the heritage values of that area.

Dr LEIGH: Are there going to be requirements for further consultation by developers with residents?

Mr Rake : Yes. For each and every development, we have mandated that and we have put it into the amendments. It is now compulsory. It is very rare in the National Capital Plan for developments that are not in existing residential areas—and this site is at the interface of that—to have mandatory consultation. We have done it by protocol over the past couple of years; here, we are locking it into the plan. There is no wriggle room.

Dr LEIGH: Just one final question. There has been concern that the lack of development on Constitution Avenue east will lead to an unbalanced vista and use of the road. Have you taken into account the effect and the overall feel and appearance of the entirety of Constitution Avenue? Some constituents raised the notion that, if the intention is to create a grand boulevard, it might look a bit odd if it ends abruptly at the eastern end.

Mr Rake : I think the concerns of those residents are driven by the ACT' government's focus on the western end of Constitution Avenue for redevelopment, funded by the Commonwealth as part of last year's budget announcement. We have a planning framework that would extend that full boulevard character along the entire length of Constitution Avenue. As private developments occur at the eastern end, particularly on the northern side of the road where we have the RSL building and various other privately owned buildings, we are pushing the developers, as part of their redevelopment, to upgrade the public domain in a manner that is consistent with that full boulevard effect. The landscape treatment, the provision of the cycleways, the bike paths, the pedestrian paths are all allowed for to maintain that corridor. We do not want it to be a piecemeal approach. It needs to be a high-quality public domain, and we have set a framework that will achieve that.

Ms BRODTMANN: Thank you to the NCA for being with us today, and congratulations to the new chair of NCA. I think that it is a terrific appointment and I look forward to working with you

Ms Penn : Thank you.

Ms BRODTMANN: As you know from my previous comments in these hearings, I am quite sceptical about the urgent need for a Yarralumla diplomatic enclave, particularly given O'Malley is not full, Molonglo Valley is coming on line and we have very good commercial opportunities in the CBD, or Civic—and, added to that, there is the eurozone crisis. Can you outline to us the consultation process and discussions that took place for the new enclave in Red Hill, the brickworks and Stirling Ridge? I am particularly interested in the issues that were raised and also the submissions that you received for each proposed area.

Mr Rake : We have assessed each of those three sites. We promised the community that we would assess in great detail the environmental values, the social values and the economic implications of developing each of those sites. We received in the order of 500 submissions. Approximately 450 of those related to land adjacent to the Federal Golf Club. The strongest theme within those submissions was that there were high environmental values on that site that the community believed would preclude development. Very early on, we made a decision that we would treat each of the three sites as though it were already under Commonwealth control for the purposes of our evaluation. In a strict sense, we only control one of those sites at the moment. The purpose of treating them all as being under Commonwealth control is that it brings into play the highest environmental standards in the land, and we assess them on that basis.

When we completed the evaluation for land adjacent to the Federal Golf Club, we did confirm that there were high environment values. We also confirmed that there was quite a challenge in managing bushfire protection for that site. We treated the project as one where we would have to manage bushfire mitigation strategies on the site ourselves; we could not push into the adjoining nature reserve and create a fuel reduced zone there. We were left with such a small developable area, after taking into account fire and environmental protection and having separately identified very high infrastructure servicing costs, that we deemed that site to be unviable. For Stirling Ridge, we did confirm some environmental values at the north-eastern corner of the site and highlighted that there is an area that will not be able to be developed there—remembering that our evaluation of Stirling Ridge is only of a small sliver of land at the south-western corner; it is not the entire ridge. But, on part of that site, we did find high environmental values—

Ms BRODTMANN: Just while we are on that land, what sort of numbers are you looking at in terms of houses?

Mr Rake : We think that it has the potential for nine sites. About half of those would address Fitzgerald Street, and we would probably service the remainder with a loop road that came off Fitzgerald Street. So we think there is the potential for nine sites there. The infrastructure servicing is quite easy and cost effective on that site.

The Old Canberra Brickworks site was the third one. We did also identify some environmental values on that site. It has the potential to give us something like 15 sites, I think.

We promised the community that we would publish all of our findings, that this would all be in the public domain, and we have published a very detailed report. It discloses everything that we know about those sites. The board of the authority considered this at our meeting on 1 June, and we have discontinued any further evaluation of the Federal Golf Club site. We have announced publicly that we need to talk to other interested government agencies before we do any further assessment of either the Stirling Ridge site or the brickworks site. Both of them have other government agencies that are interested in them for different purposes. We had always promised that this would not be the final stage of consultation. If we decide to go any further with the evaluation, we will be going back out to the community, whichever communities are relevant and interested, to talk about any further assessment that we do. At the moment, we have got very preliminary ideas for how we might lay out blocks. I am sure that will change once we get to the point of detailed planning. We are not there yet.

You talked about the O'Malley site. Later this week, I am going out to meet with some people that I think could help us improve the attractiveness of the O'Malley site. I would like to try to get diplomatic missions interested in those vacant sites in O'Malley. That would, to some extent, take up existing demand, and might delay the need for further land for diplomats; and, if it did, it would only be for a high number of months or a low number of years. It is not going to solve the problem for even two or three years, I would not think.

Ms BRODTMANN: In terms of the time line for the ongoing consultations and discussions with government agencies on the brickworks and Stirling Ridge, can you just give us a very quick snapshot of that, because I am conscious of the time and I do have one more question.

Mr Rake : We will ask that question of those other government agencies as quickly as we can. It depends a little bit on what their answer is and how long it takes them to answer. I would have thought that within a couple of months we will know whether we are going any further in the short term.

Ms BRODTMANN: Going back to section 5, we have all had a number of representations on this issue. One of the complaints that I have had is about the consultation process. It is quite a detailed complaint, so I will put that on notice. I understand that the LDA website suggests that there should be 500 units on the site, but this has been increased by a further 50 per cent and they are now looking at 726 units. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.

Mr Rake : Sure. The 726 is a number—

Ms BRODTMANN: And please forgive me if this was covered while we were in a division.

Mr Rake : No, it was not. The 726 is a number that we used in our traffic modelling. It is because, at the time of planning, we do not know precisely how many units will be there. The LDA, quite sincerely, are looking at different numbers—I have seen 500 and 600, I think, in separate pieces of public information. One of the allowable purposes is hotel development, so we do not know precisely how many units will be there. For the purposes of traffic modelling, we take a conservative position. We asked for the modelling to be done on a higher number. That 726 was the number we did our traffic modelling on, so it should give us a worst-case outcome. The actual proposal will depend on land sales. It should not be more than 727. It might be as low as the 500 that LDA have in one of their numbers.

Ms Penn : Sorry, Chair, can I just interpose briefly. What we do define clearly within the DA is envelopes, heights, floor-to-ceiling heights, and so on. Although the yield obviously has an impact and residents are concerned about traffic issues and so on, as we know, any yield must be contained within the building envelopes, which are quite clearly defined.

Ms BRODTMANN: Is the hotel concept in the public domain? I thought it was just residential and commercial.

Mr Rake : It is there as a permitted use. There is no firm proposal for any development on this site. What we have are building envelopes and permitted purposes. So we do not know whether a particular building, once a block is carved out and sold, would be entirely residential, office space, mixed use or a hotel, and we do not know precisely how much would be retail. We do have rules about where active frontages must exist and we do have overall building envelopes.

Ms BRODTMANN: Thank you.

CHAIR: Dr. Leigh has a last question to place on notice, so I will let him do that, because I would like to use our last few minutes to allow Ms Penn to conclude her remarks.

Ms Penn : Thank you.

Mr Rake : We are very happy to take as many questions on notice as you wish and to have all of our answers published in whatever format you see fit.

Dr LEIGH: I only have one question, hopefully straightforward, to go on notice: what are the benefits of the bus lanes in the centre of Constitution Avenue?

CHAIR: Senator Humphries also has some questions to place on notice.

Senator HUMPHRIES: There are just a couple of things with respect to the section 5 development at Campbell. I understand that there is suggestion that it is a habitat for the golden sun moth. Can you indicate what conclusions you reached on that question and whether the development represents a threat to their habitat. A further question is the one I ask at most of these hearings, which is: what is going on with the consultation process between the NCA and the ACT government about rationalising planning responsibilities between the two levels of government? I assume, without asking you, that the report is that no progress has been made, as is usually the case. And, if that is the case, would you now consider reporting to the federal government that not only is no progress being made on that issue but no progress is going to be made on that issue, and that some alternative process should be identified for resolving those differences?

Mr Rake : I would be happy to put on the record that that intergovernmental group will not be convening in that form anymore because it has been overtaken by the government response to the Hawke review. On many of the sticking points that previously existed we now have clear guidance from government, so we will be able to make much faster progress.

CHAIR: Ms Penn, I do apologise for having to do this hearing in a slightly unconventional manner, but I think it has enabled us to use our time most efficiently while members were out of the committee room. I would like to turn back to you now so that you can conclude your remarks.

Ms Penn : Thank you. I will try to be brief—and perhaps some of the things I say will answer some of the questions in a broad way. I was talking about three key elements that we are pursuing at the moment. The first one I mentioned was the focus on the special characteristics of Canberra as the national capital, which I will not repeat. The second element, which will dominate much of our work, is a major review of the National Capital Plans. We will embrace bold reform, addressing the way we share responsibility for the capital with the ACT government. Self-government more than 20 years ago changed the way the Commonwealth discharged its responsibilities in the ACT, but the planning system is still not optimal in terms of recognising that change. The recent report issued by Dr Allan Hawke, and the government's response, give us some clear directions for change, and we will pursue those changes as efficiently and effectively as we can. The process needs to be focused, we need to get on with it, but we also must get it right. On balance, these changes may transfer additional powers to the ACT government to the extent required to clarify and simplify the system. However, we intend to manage the review process with rigour, to ensure the national interest is clearly articulated and protected.

Our third point is that we will continue to build our reputation as a transparent and accountable organisation with strong connections to the community, from whom we gain insight and understanding of important issues which affect the capital and whose advice always informs our decision-making. We have, over the past three years, made our way to the forefront of community engagement practice, whether through our use of the internet and social media, our annual public forum—the fourth such event having been held just a few weeks ago—or our chief executive's and chief planner's regular attendance at community meetings. We have endeavoured to ensure that people can have their say and be heard. The NCA is now an exemplar for transparency and community engagement in government agencies, and this is something we are very proud of.

In closing, I just want to say that our fundamental view is that there is neither incompatibility nor inconsistency between a focus on and passion for Canberra as the national capital, and a focus on ensuring that it is a liveable, vibrant and sustainable home to many. It is the coincidence of these two aspects which is part of its special status. There are different emphases in the considerations that the ACT government and the NCA bring to their work on development and maintenance of the capital, and there will inevitably be tensions which require robust processes, good communication and respectful management, but the overarching objectives are shared. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Penn, and congratulations on your appointment as chair. I thank you, Mr Rake and Mr Smith for joining us today, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Ms Penn : Thank you very much—and in person next time.

CHAIR: Absolutely. Thank you, everybody. I declare this hearing closed.

Resolved (on motion by Dr Leigh):

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 13:45