Overview of performance
As the recently appointed Chief Executive I often find myself asking what would Walter and Marion think of the National Capital, Canberra, today? The NCA, on behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people, is the custodian of Walter Burley Griffin’s and Marion Mahony Griffin’s vision and the enduring legacy and principles for Canberra.
There is no doubt that Canberra’s continuous growth brings challenges and interesting opportunities for the evolving city. The Griffins recognised such changes should be and must be accommodated. To my way of thinking the NCA’s role is to maintain the “bones” and the character set out in their plans whilst we proactively and sensitively adapt to population growth, lifestyle changes and shifts in environmental conditions.
We have seen a considerable number of foundational changes to the city this past year, from Light Rail Stage 1 - Gungahlin to the City underway, to the completion of Stage 1 Henry Rolland Park in April 2018 and the beginning of planning for the proposed extension of light rail to Woden. The NCA continues to work collaboratively with the ACT Government to build a city that all Australians can be proud of.
We marked the ACT’s inaugural Reconciliation Day on 28 May 2018 with an early morning event at Reconciliation Place. The intimate and meaningful event included a Welcome to Country by an Ngambri-Ngunnawal custodian, Paul House, a traditional smoking ceremony and an Indigenous dance performance. Following the ceremony, a free one hour guided walking tour was offered through Reconciliation Place, exploring the various Indigenous artwork. We will continue to build public awareness and opportunities for people to participate in this important day on National Land.
The NCA supports Australia’s role on the international stage by supporting the embassies and high commissions in Canberra. These embassies play such an important role in reflecting their country’s strong diplomatic, economic and cultural links with Australia. This year we signed leases with Serbia, Nepal and Qatar. I look forward to welcoming new nations to Canberra in the future.
I am continuously delighted by the care taken by the NCA team and our contractors to ensure that the National Capital looks its best so all Australians can be proud of the democratic heart of Australia. A priority for us this year has been to improve our asset management system so we can take an even more strategic, risk based approach to guide maintenance and renewal activities of our assets – memorials, roads and bridges, buildings, parks, Lake Burley Griffin, trees and gardens. We take the safety of our visitors, our staff and volunteers very seriously and our new systems will help us deliver our commitment to them.
In June 2018 we sought to find out what it was like doing business with us. We surveyed our customers – those who transact business with us. Overall the news was positive. People respect and like dealing with NCA staff. In general, they find them professional and responsive. They did however tell us that some of our processes seem overly cumbersome and that some of our systems were out of date. They encouraged us to continue to look at using digital platforms and technologies to streamline business systems. We are committed to making improvements as suggested.
We have a range of positive partnerships that enliven and activate our public places. This includes working with ACT Events on Floriade and Enlighten and the organisers of Contour 556 and Design Canberra.
We organised some popular events in the latter half of the year, including the inaugural Star Wars community concert, May The 4th Be With You, on 4 May 2018. The idea originated from the NCA’s two junior Carillonists, Harrison Whalan and Peter Bray - they are the youngest Carillonists in the world. Media and public interest exceeded all of our expectations. On a rainy gloomy day, hundreds of people went to Aspen Island with many spectators remaining in their cars to hear the very familiar sounds of Star Wars.
Thank you to the passionate and dedicated staff and volunteers for welcoming me and for your efforts this year. You are a small team but a highly motivated and engaged group. You care and take pride in your work and making positive contributions to the lives of all Australians. A special thanks to the senior leadership team and to my executive colleagues, Chief Planner, Andrew Smith and Executive Director, National Capital Estate, Lachlan Wood.
I look forward to working with rest of the Board as we undertake our collective role as the accountable authority under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
International Flag Display Revitalisation
On Wednesday 13 June 2018, the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Hon Dr John McVeigh MP joined NCA Chair Terry Weber and NCA Chief Executive Sally Barnes to officially open and welcome ten new countries to the revitalised International Flag Display.
The International Flag Display (the Display) at Commonwealth Place pays tribute to all nations that have a diplomatic presence in the nation’s capital.
In 2017-18 the NCA undertook enhancement works at the Display including the addition of ten new flag poles, the installation of new lighting, landscaping and interpretive works.
The revitalised Display now consists of 110 flags in total, representing 108 missions that have a diplomatic presence in the nation’s capital as well as flags for the European Union and the United Nations.
The Display reflects our position on the world stage and the significant role of the nation’s capital as the political and democratic heart of Australia.
The ten new countries added to the Display at Commonwealth Place included:
- Costa Rica
- Côte d’Ivoire
- El Salvador
The Display, which is a popular destination for tourists and locals, will continue to grow as the number of diplomatic missions in the nation’s capital increases.
This important project was managed by the NCA and undertaken by Philip Leeson Architects, RAM Constructions, WSP Australia, Harris Hobbs Landscapes and Northrop Engineers.