Chief Executive’s year in review and outlook

Malcolm Snow

Year in review

The NCA performs a custodial role in ensuring the unique heritage and culture of Canberra is maintained through its planning and land management responsibilities, as well as its construction and renewal programs.

The National Capital is an Australian asset and one that needs to be properly managed and maintained so that its important place values are reinforced. The NCA’s role of fostering awareness of Canberra as the National Capital continues to be a major focus for the future, with the clear goal of strengthening the National Capital in the hearts of all Australians. Our accomplishments during this financial year reflect this responsibility.

Having been the Chief Executive now for almost 18 months, I am pleased to present the NCA’s key achievements for this financial year. The past year has been a period in which the NCA has seen a number of major projects commence, and many more fully realised. It has been a successful year for the organisation, with highlights such as the release of the National Capital Plan Review Exposure Draft, the introduction of the pay parking scheme in the National Triangle and the construction of the vital Bowen Place Crossing civil works project.

As the administering body of the National Capital Plan (the Plan) for the Australian Government, we have a statutory obligation under the Act to keep the Plan under constant review and to propose amendments to it when necessary.

The Plan has not been comprehensively reviewed since it came into effect in 1990, just after self-government for the ACT. The review of the NCA undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke AC in 2011 provided clear recommendations to the Australian Government on how to find the right balance in planning responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the ACT Government. The recently released Exposure Draft proposes a number of changes in line with Dr Hawke’s recommendations.

Reform of the Plan has multiple objectives, including:

  • to respond to contemporary circumstances and community expectations
  • to clearly articulate and protect the Commonwealth’s interest in the National Capital
  • to adjust metropolitan planning arrangements so as to streamline the planning process and empower the ACT Government to manage the future growth of Canberra
  • to reduce ambiguity, duplication and complexity in the planning process by removing most of the NCA’s ‘Special Requirements’ for a substantial proportion of the ACT
  • to fine-tune provisions relating to areas identified as having the special characteristics of the National Capital (Designated Areas)

The NCA will review all submissions received on the Exposure Draft and consider any adjustments ahead of releasing the Draft Amendment of the Plan in September 2015.

As a key area in Walter Burley Griffin’s plan, the National Triangle hosts many of Australia’s most important cultural and political institutions and important heritage listed items within the Parliamentary vista. In 2013 the NCA was given the task of implementing pay parking within the National Triangle, primarily to assist in better managing parking in the area and to improve the visitor experience to the national institutions by ensuring access to convenient and accessible parking.

The pay parking scheme began on 1 October 2014, and since then the NCA has observed a reduction in commuter parking within its operational area. This demonstrates that the scheme is achieving its primary objective of freeing up parking spaces for visitors to the National Capital’s popular cultural institutions. The NCA continues to liaise with agencies and national institutions regarding the ongoing management of pay parking. Since the introduction of the scheme all institutions have reported that their visitors now have ample access to parking.

Our initial research suggested that parking demand would fluctuate with the seasons, and to date this has proved to be the case.

We will continue to report the scheme’s operational performance figures quarterly on our website and when necessary make adjustments to its management to maximise accessibility to the Central National Area.

RG Menzies WalkRG Menzies WalkKings Ave BridgeKings Avenue BridgeNational Police MemorialNational Police MemorialCommonwealth PlaceCommonwealth Place

The NCA proudly manages the Australian Government’s continuing interest in planning and developing Canberra as the National Capital. Our clear focus is on designing, presenting and managing a National Capital Estate that symbolises Australia’s heritage, values and aspirations. Key to this task is the continued improvement of the Central National Area. We are committed to progressively transforming this nationally significant precinct into a lively public domain where pedestrians and cyclists have priority.

The Bowen Place Crossing upgrade will also contribute greatly to realising this strategic goal. While initiated as a public safety improvement, the project has developed into a more crucial exercise in placemaking. The design brief sought to capture the site’s unique ‘sense of place’ while also sensitively addressing its physical and heritage parameters. The design takes advantage of key view corridors to and from the site to enhance its public space potential. Once opened, I’m confident that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike will appreciate the attention that has been invested in its planning and design. The project sets a benchmark for further public space improvement projects across the Central National Area.

The NCA has a shared interest with many other organisations and community groups in ensuring Canberra remains a vibrant city. We highly value working with these stakeholders, recognising that such partnerships are essential to achieving our vision for the future of the nation’s capital. This year we continued to work closely with the community, other Australian Government agencies, the ACT Government Directorates, the national cultural institutions and business. We look forward to another collaborative 12 months with these partners and to playing our part in making Canberra a city of exceptional quality and character.

Financial information

In 2014-15 the NCA received revenue of $20.4 million from the Australian Government and other sources to fund its operations, including resources required for the implementation of the pay parking scheme. This funding was allocated across the NCA’s three functions as follows: $16.8 million for maintaining much of the Commonwealth’s heritage estate in Canberra; $1.6 million for planning for the future of the National Capital; and $2.0 million for informing and educating Australians about our National Capital.

For the 2014–15 financial year the NCA reported an operating deficit of $0.943 million. After adding back unfunded depreciation charges of $1.109 million, the NCA’s effective operating result was a surplus of $0.166 million.

The NCA received $13.8 million to upgrade and renew administered assets across the National Capital Estate.

In addition to this, the NCA received non-cash assets worth $3.2 million for Boundless Playground, Parkes.

Outlook for 2015–16

A National Capital is never ‘complete’. The NCA will continue to develop the National Capital in a way that will ensure its relevance, not just for today but for all time. As such, looking ahead to 2015–16, our key priorities will include:

  • completing the construction of Bowen Place Crossing in late 2015
  • continuing the reform of the Plan and assessing the submissions received for the Exposure Draft
  • releasing the Draft Amendment of the Plan in late September 2015
  • installing new lighting in a number of car parks across the Central National Area
  • commencing construction of the John Gorton Building car park upgrade
  • continuing to research solutions to improve water quality in Lake Burley Griffin
  • continuing to ensure the quality of the National Capital Estate’s buildings, roads, bridges, paths and public spaces are of a standard appropriate to the nation’s capital
  • completing stage 2 of the Commonwealth Park Lighting Replacement project by replacing pedestrian lights in Commonwealth Park with energy-efficient LED post-top lights and instituting a higher-quality lighting design
  • continuing to inform and educate Australian and international visitors to the National Capital Exhibition of the importance and significance of the National Capital.

I would like to thank my hard-working staff for another year dedicated to achieving the NCA’s business objectives, for their continued interest in the past, present and future of the nation’s capital and for assisting in making our capital city one that all Australians can be proud of.

Malcolm Snow
Chief Executive

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