The National Capital, Canberra, belongs to all Australians. Embedded in the design of its significant avenues, ceremonial lawns and sweeping vistas is the narrative of Australia’s evolving story. The National Capital Authority (NCA) is committed to strategies that strengthen and protect this unique national landscape in ways that embrace Australia’s heritage, values and aspirations, recognising the context of thousands of years and continuing Indigenous heritage in the Canberra region.
The year 2017-18 has been one of transition and renewal for the NCA. The Board has assumed our new role of accountable authority from 1 July 2018 and we have a full complement of Board members with the appointment of the very experienced public servant, Dennis Richardson and the new Chief Executive, Sally Barnes. Sally brings a wealth of experience in heritage management, ecotourism and management of cultural and environmentally sensitive areas. She has been a senior executive and leader in both the New South Wales and the Australian Governments for many years.
To be successful in its role, the NCA as an Australian Government entity, must take the long view as it works through planning and heritage matters. Please be assured that while the Board acts independently, my fellow Board members and I understand that decisions we take, underpinned by the National Capital Plan and government legislation and policies, will have enduring impacts on the National Capital - on the look and feel of the city, how it is viewed on the international and national stage and the pride Australians feel in their nation.
We are also conscious that we are part of a growing and vibrant city and regional area that is valued and loved by the people who live and work here and that is fast becoming a “must see” destination on the national and international stage. We are committed to working with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government to deliver multiple outcomes and benefits for our citizens.
The NCA and the ACT Government are jointly developing the City to Gateway Urban Renewal Strategy (the Strategy). The Strategy provides the overarching plan to secure liveable spaces and places and high quality development along Northbourne Avenue, a major precinct in the National Capital Plan. The Strategy will guide the shape and form of the gateway from the New South Wales border right through to the city centre and is designed to reflect the importance of the avenues in the Griffin Plan. The draft Strategy was released in February for public consultation and should be finalised in 2018-19 with possible subsequent amendments to the National Capital Plan to guide its implementation. Community feedback to date has been positive. Local people and planning professionals have confirmed their passion and support for the Avenue to continue to represent the garden city and city beautiful principles while allowing for urban renewal and some increases to density the closer you get to the centre of Canberra.
How people move in and out and around the city and region will become even more important as the population and local economy of the ACT grows. We can see the impact of congestion on other cities and can learn from these experiences. Having worked closely with the ACT Government on Stage 1 of light rail from Gunghalin to the City to enhance the design and ensure a quality outcome along this very important main avenue, the NCA is now looking at the proposed next phase of the Canberra’s intertown transport system from the City to Woden.
The NCA is acutely aware of the heritage values and sensitivities related to the proposed route and the potential changes to the fabric of the National Triangle and others parts of designated areas. We will utilise independent external expertise to carefully assess the heritage and landscape impacts to ensure the project has addressed and mitigated heritage impacts and is of the highest design standard.
If appropriate environment and heritage approvals and other standards have been met, the Board will consider whether to progress the project to the Minister for her consideration to take to the Parliament for its approval. If and when the project progresses it will be the greatest change to the Parliamentary Zone since the construction of new Parliament House over 30 years ago.
As Australia’s National Capital, Canberra is home to many members of the diplomatic community. This was very evident at the launch of the expanded revitalised flag display at Commonwealth Place on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in June 2018 when over 100 high commissioners, ambassadors and guests joined Minister the Hon Dr McVeigh MP and myself in friendship as we cut the ribbon on the newly expanded display. We now proudly fly flags of the 108 countries with representation in the National Capital.
The expanded flag display reflects the important role Canberra plays on the international stage. This role is also reflected in increasing demand by the international community for land to establish new or expand existing embassies. The current supply of land suitable for diplomatic purposes is nearly exhausted. To address this shortage and ensure Canberra continues to perform this important international role the NCA is currently investigating options for the establishment of a new diplomatic estate.
The National Capital continues to be the focal place for people from across the country to collectively pay respect to the efforts of fellow Australians. Our national memorials provide special places for all of us to remember those who served and to reflect on the sacrifices they made. The setting of memorials on national land provide opportunities for significant public ceremonies. This year the NCA worked with the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council Limited (AFAC) to complete works on the National Emergency Services Memorial in Commonwealth Park to include on the memorial the names of those who died on duty. Works were completed by the annual commemoration ceremony held in May 2018.
The NCA also finalised the stunning memorial to honour all Peace Keepers on Anzac Parade. In both cases the NCA
worked with the Canberra National Memorials Committee of the Australian Parliament
on the design and quality of these places.
We have worked with a range of other partners in 2017-18 on their major projects including the Australian National University on the development of a new masterplan and with staff from the Australian War Memorial as they scoped and shaped plans for their exciting expansion.
During the year the NCA provided submissions and appeared at hearings related to two inquiries being undertaken by the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories – the Inquiry into Canberra’s National Institutions and the Inquiry into Commonwealth and Parliamentary approvals for the proposed Stage 2 of the Australian Capital Territory Light Rail Project. The NCA will work with the Australian Government to implement any recommendations that flow from these inquiries.
The Australian Government’s funding injection of $17.1 million over the next four years announced in the 2018-19
Budget in May 2018 is most welcome. It will support the continued renewal and revitalisation process required to
manage successfully nearly
$900 million worth of assets, some nearing 60 years of age. The National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point re-opened on 24 September 2018, bringing new life and technologies to make it a truly world class, interactive display that tells the story of Canberra. This will be matched by the next phase of conservation and landscape works at Blundells Cottage on Lake Burley Griffin due to be completed in October 2018. The cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Canberra and will become a must see destination and a valuable part of our important schools program.
In 2017-18 we started to scope and plan remedial works at the National Carillon on Lake Burley Griffin as part of a two year rolling program ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2020. The Carillon was a gift from the British Government to the people of Australia to commemorate Canberra’s 50th birthday and was officially opened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 1970. Another priority this year has been conservation works at Stirling Ridge with an emphasis on protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and threatened species. My thanks to the local Friends of the Grasslands for their efforts. Indeed my thanks goes to all of the committed and talented volunteers who play a vital role in delivering NCA programs and helping to achieve our outcomes.
I would like to thank my fellow Board members for their support and contribution over the year. I would also like to thank Andrew Smith for stepping into the role of Chief Executive from August 2017 until February 2018 and I welcome Sally Barnes to the role. Thanks also to the NCA staff for their ongoing contribution to our strategic goals and delivering on a range of major projects. It has been a very big year and we could not have achieved what we have achieved without our talented people.
I am confident that the NCA will go from strength to strength in leaving a positive legacy for Canberra as a city that all Australians can be proud of.
National Capital Authority
"I have planned a city that is not like any other in the world. I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city – a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future."
Walter Burley Griffin - New York Times, 2 June 1912
This vision is a story told in the redeveloped National Capital Exhibition (NCE) - the Story of Canberra. Canberra is unique in design and innovative in the history of town planning being the result of a worldwide competition.
The winners of that competition, Walter and Marion Griffin, presented a design where the built and the
natural landscapes have equal importance. They designed a city that fits in-between landmarks and remains in
with humans. This story is one that is told through the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point for over 50 years.
With the co-location of the Canberra Region Visitor Centre in 2016 the NCE started the planning and subsequent commissioning of a new, modern and engaging exhibition to inform and educate the Nation about the Story of Canberra. An exhibition design was prepared for the replacement and fit-out of exhibits within the NCE, including the use of new digital display and the improvements to the ever popular Model of Canberra.
Having gone through a comprehensive review of other cultural institutions and the story that they tell, the NCE’s objective is to tell the story of our unique National Capital, a city designed to unite Australians in shared ideals and aspirations. Canberra is a symbol of Australia’s national identity now and into the future and represents our country to the rest of the world.
The exhibition has five narrative themes including:
- Orientation: Who and what was in this region before the modern capital. This includes the Indigenous story.
- Foundations of the Capital: Canberra is important because it was born from the process of federation and continues to reflect national ideals.
- Ideals and dreams/symbols: The Griffins’ design for Canberra was driven by ideas and
aspirations for the new nation. Though the city has changed
with the needs of the nation, their design created a world-class garden city, based on the best of international thinking.
- Developing Canberra: As the national capital, where key nation-making decisions, commemoration, protest and international relations happen.
- The future of the Capital: Canberra is not a museum piece but a living, working and evolving capital. As the custodian of the National Capital, the NCA aims to ensure that it continues to be a symbol of Australian national life.
In April 2018, the NCE began major redevelopment works to make this exhibit modern and engaging and enhance the story that was being told under the five narrative themes mentioned above.
This is the first extensive redevelopment to the exhibition in almost 20 years. The NCE welcomed new and repeat visitors when it reopened on 24 September 2018.