National Capital Role Should Be Nurtured

Brett Odgers - October 5, 2015

The article was published as a letter in the Canberra Times on October 5, 2015.

Your editorial (Times2, October 2, p2) is notably sanguine about Canberra’s future. Yet it expresses no interest in Canberra as the nation’s capital.

The National Capital Authority is portrayed as “an independent planning watchdog sidelined”. It is, of course, the Commonwealth’s key agency responsible for fulfilment of Australia’s national capital aspirations. Moreover, “having an unelected body such as the NCA serving as ‘trustee’ of the national capital certainly seems anachronistic”. The editorial refrains from mentioning the duality of planning agencies for Canberra where the institutional changes to governance, representation and co-ordination recommended in Allan Hawke’s report are yet to be fully resolved. There is also a responsible federal minister and a Minister for Cities.

The editorial speculates “if the draft changes survive the final public consultation process”. The NCA is accepting further comment until November 13 and declared that the changes to the National Capital Plan should be enacted by Parliament in December 2015.

It would have been helpful to mention that the federal Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital has a vital role to play in these sweeping, historic changes to Canberra’s planning institutions and policies. The ACT is represented on this committee by our two members and two senators, together with several other parliamentarians with a close interest in Canberra.

The source of many issues about the National Capital Plan are the so-called Griffin Legacy Amendments enacted expediently in 2007. The parliamentary committee on that occasion was sidelined but subsequently produced an adverse report on the changes. The committee should play a responsible part in the current process, despite the NCA’s schedule, which threatens a repeat of the 2007 evasion.