Chapter 4 - National Capital Estate

Program 1.1.3

Advocacy, enhancement and management of the National Capital Estate


Section 6 of the Act provides for the NCA ‘with the Minister’s approval, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to manage National Land designated in writing by the Minister as land required for the special purposes of Canberra as the National Capital’.

The NCA manages and maintains National Land and some of the nation’s most significant cultural assets. These assets are managed as a national investment for their cultural, heritage and environmental values and provide the setting for ceremonies, activities and events that occur in the National Capital.

Map 2 indicates National Land areas administered by the NCA on behalf of the Australian Government. This includes the Parliamentary Zone, Lake Burley Griffin (the Lake) and parts of the foreshore, Anzac Parade, Conservation Areas such as Stirling Park and Yarramundi Grasslands and Diplomatic Estates in Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley. These areas have been declared for the special purpose of Canberra as the National Capital.

In managing assets in the National Capital, the NCA aims to ensure maintenance and other practices are consistent with the design intent and support the objectives of the Plan

Major Achievements and Highlights

The Australian Government has a direct ongoing interest in developing and maintaining the National Capital as a place all Australians can feel proud of.

During 2014–15 the NCA undertook the following activities on National Land:

  • upgraded the irrigation control system to deliver water efficiencies in the Parliamentary Zone
  • prepared a feasibility study to identify improved water management options in the National Capital Estate
  • began a program of upgrading out-dated and inefficient light fittings
  • conducted Level 3 detailed engineering inspections on the Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue bridges
  • commissioned the capital upgrade of the Captain Cook Memorial Jet and the refurbishment of the second pump
  • worked in partnership to conserve and manage grasslands
  • issued 350 boat permits for recreational and sporting use on the Lake
  • responded to over 1,000 requests for maintenance activities on National Land
  • replaced dead or dying trees across all NCA-managed land
  • implemented a Love Lake Burley Griffin community education campaign centred around the message ‘Canberra’s drains are just for the rain’
  • undertook clearing of the lake islands in Central Basin
  • implemented a pay parking scheme for cars parking on National Land
  • undertook conservation and refurbishment of artworks at Reconciliation Place.

Managing and Maintaining National Assets

The NCA manages and maintains a diverse range of assets on behalf of the Australian Government, including:

  • national infrastructure assets, such as Scrivener Dam, the Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue bridges and major roadways, including Parkes Way, Kings Avenue, Capital Circle and State Circle
  • national heritage buildings, artworks, memorials, fountains and water features, including the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, National Carillon, Blundells Cottage, Commonwealth Place and Regatta Point
  • assets on National Land and the Lake, including Aspen, Spinnaker and Springbank Islands, the Parliamentary Zone and Anzac Parade
  • tree management of over 20,000 trees on National Land and the Lindsay Pryor National Arboretum
  • land management and maintenance of all Open Space including Old Parliament House Gardens, National Rose Gardens, Commonwealth Park and Kings Park
  • conservation management of Stirling Park and Yarramundi Grasslands.

‘Like some irresistible siren-song, every day, from morning until night, for the past 50 years, Lake Burley Griffin has been beckoning Canberrans from all walks of life and visitors to the nation’s Capital to relax and play in, around and above its mysterious depths.’


Key Achievements

When scheduling maintenance or replacement works and activities, the major factors considered are public safety and asset life. Assets are maintained under competitively tendered contracts and asset-maintenance programs are based on regular condition assessments and reports. An asset management system is used to track asset information such as locations, descriptions, condition, works undertaken and life-cycle data.

For information on the NCA’s asset management framework, see Chapter 6.

Open Space

The NCA manages 610 hectares of Open Space, predominantly formal parks and gardens on National Land, such as Commonwealth Park and Kings Park. Maintaining these areas involves mowing, weeding, edging, tree care, irrigation maintenance, graffiti removal, rubbish removal and pavement cleaning.

Key Achievements

In 2014–15 the NCA undertook a program to improve the standard of Open Space on the National Estate. The included high visitation areas of Waterfall, Lily Pond, Mirror Pool and Nerang Pool, as well as surrounding garden beds within Commonwealth Park. Additionally, gardens along RG Menzies Walk, the National Library and the Boundless Playground were restored. Turf renovations were undertaken at the Old Parliament House Gardens.

The NCA completed the replacement of the central irrigation control system across the National Capital Estate. The new system provided improved irrigation controls to monitor usage and leaks, leading to a reduction in water consumption.

The Gallipoli Reach pumping station, which draws lake water for irrigation into the eastern half of Commonwealth Park, was re-commissioned. A preliminary feasibility study was undertaken to identify improved water management options in the National Capital Estate. This study identified lake water abstraction as the most cost-effective option for sourcing irrigation water supply.

Urban Trees

With many trees planted over 50 years ago, the NCA continues to implement a tree-replacement program for trees in the National Capital Estate that have died or that present a public safety risk. The NCA aims to maintain current plantings and to protect the heritage significance of individual trees and their landscape settings.

It is not always possible to replace every tree owing to the lack of available space or the unsuitability of the location. The NCA’s policy is to replace ‘like with like’ except where the species is a weed or has performed poorly.

Key Achievements

During 2014–15, 272 trees were removed because they were dead or dangerous and 127 trees were planted. In many locations, the density of existing plantings prevented replanting all of the trees removed.

The small reduction in tree numbers in no way reduces the shade available and often reduces competition between trees, resulting in mature trees living longer. Along Dunrossil Drive, the replanting of Pinus canariensis (Canary Island pine) and Quercus englemannii (Engleman oak) has commenced and will continue in 2015–16. These plantings will replace the Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) that are being removed over a three-year period and will strengthen the avenue of trees lining Dunrossil Drive.

On Anzac Parade, four dead trees were removed and eight planted. The Eucalyptus bicostata (Southern blue gum) planted was grown from seed taken from trees on the parade in keeping with the requirements of the Anzac Parade Heritage Management Plan.

Lindsay Pryor National Arboretum

The Arboretum, located opposite the Canberra National Arboretum, was planted in the 1950s by Professor Lindsay Pryor AO, an eminent Australian forest scientist, botanist and landscape architect. The NCA has created a Masterplan, which de nes the Arboretum as a place for recreation, scienti c research and education and also gives recognition to the achievements of Professor Pryor AO. Consideration of the site’s heritage, including recognition of its history of trialling tree species for use in Canberra, guided the restoration program including future tree planting.

Key Achievements

Works completed during the year in accordance with the Masterplan included the removal of weeds in treed areas and spreading 1,400 cubic metres of mulch under many of the trees.

Access to the Arboretum has been improved with the construction of concrete footpaths connecting existing car parks and cycle paths and bitumen sealing of the access roadway to the first intersection.

Conservation Management of Grasslands

The NCA manages Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach conservation grasslands and grassy woodlands through hazard-reduction burning, woody weed removal, re-establishment of grass, mowing firebreaks and control of invasive weeds.

Key Achievements

The NCA works with volunteer organisations to support the management of significant conservation ecosystems in Stirling Park and Yarramundi Grasslands. Weed removal was undertaken with the assistance of ‘Friends of the Grasslands’ volunteer group and hazard-reduction burning with the ACT Rural Fire Service, including prescribed burning at Yarramundi Reach, the Arboretum and Stirling Park. The NCA undertook quarterly firebreak maintenance; Broadacre weed control of St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Tall African Lovegrass; and spot-spraying of Broom and Madeira vine.

Buildings and Infrastructure

The NCA engages contractors to maintain building and civil infrastructure assets


The NCA continues to implement energy-efficient alternatives to lighting where practical, during routine re-lamping or capital projects.

Key lighting projects delivered during this time include:

  • LED replacement ground lights for RG Menzies Walk
  • LED upgrade luminaires for Parliamentary Zone tripod lights
  • LED lighting upgrade to bridge handrails commencing with the 7-tonne bridge
  • lighting upgrades to Commonwealth Park.

The NCA has replaced damaged sections of paths in and around the Parliamentary Zone which posed a public safety risk. Key locations included Commonwealth Avenue, King Edward Terrace, Langton Terrace and Newlands Street.


Early in 2014–15 the NCA received the final report of the 2014 Bridge Condition Assessment Report. To ensure levels of service into the future, a Level 3 detailed engineering assessment and report of both Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue has been undertaken. Recommendation for works to bridges will be provided in 2015–16.


The NCA roads that form the connection and definition of the National Triangle are maintained under the annual program.

Renewal of line-markings on State Circle, King Edward Terrace and Queen Victoria Terrace was undertaken to restore delineation and safety at intersections.

Car Parks

The NCA has significantly improved the safety of several of the car parks during 2014–15. The repairs have been undertaken to improve the pedestrian access while being considerate of the existing established trees and hedges.

Car park 22, east of the John Gorton Building, was improved by replacing damaged kerbs and pavements while installing motorcycle bays and providing increased area for established trees to grow.

Car park 19, south of Newlands Street, was improved by replacing damaged kerbs and concrete paving. Pedestrian refuge islands were installed in the car park to increase ease and safety of pedestrian movement through the car park. Motorcycle parking facilities were improved and the number of bays increased.

Heritage Management

Conservation works were completed at Blundells Cottage, including:

  • external painting and conservation of external joinery based on paint scrapes
  • lime-washing of internal walls
  • removal of intrusive security grilles and their replacement with non-intrusive security glass
  • removal of trees identified in the Heritage Management Plan as posing a safety risk to the Cottage and Slab Building.

Memorials, Artworks and Fountains

The NCA manages over 220 commemorative works in the National Capital, comprising of national memorials, fountains and artworks. These include the memorials on Anzac Parade; the King George V Memorial; the Federation Centenary Fountains; the Treasury Fountain; the memorials and artworks in Commonwealth and Kings Parks; and the artworks in Reconciliation Place.

The NCA tests, treats and maintains the water, the filters and pumps for 18 water features. In consultation with a conservator, the NCA has set maintenance standards and best practice benchmarks for managing and maintaining these special assets, taking into account their artistic and heritage values.

Key Achievements

Work undertaken during 2014–15 included:

  • replacement of three full sets of flags across the Estate (including the Parliamentary Zone, Anzac Parade and International Flag display)
  • Kemal Atatürk Memorial garden bed upgrade works (prior to Anzac Day)
  • Anzac Parade memorial garden bed upgrade works
  • Reconciliation Place Artwork Upgrade Works (electrical, lighting repair, glass replacement, specialist conservator bronze waxing, polishing)
  • stonework conservation of the King George V Memorial.

Flag Supply

The NCA is responsible for the supply, maintenance and display of flags for Anzac Parade, the International Flag Display at Commonwealth Place and the flags throughout the Parliamentary Zone. The flags are rotated quarterly and have a life span of approximately three years.

The NCA also maintains 360 flagpoles on National Land, including Anzac Parade, Federation Mall, Commonwealth and Kings Avenues.

Key Achievements

The NCA has engaged a specialist supplier for a three-year period to provide flags for the International Flag Display, the Parliamentary Zone and other sites on the National Capital Estate.

Scrivener Dam

Scrivener Dam (the Dam) is a concrete gravity dam that controls the water level in the Lake. It incorporates five ‘fish belly’ overflow floodgates and three sluice gates. The floodgates hold back the upper 5 metres of the storage and are the prime component of the spillway, which controls flood discharges from the Lake.

Managing the Dam involves:

  • routine operations and maintenance including flood planning, forecasting and operations
  • undertaking maintenance of the Dam’s asset database
  • routine operator inspections
  • creating and maintaining programs, procedures and instructions
  • undertaking minor planned and unplanned works.

Regular surveillance inspections covering the structural, maintenance and operational aspects of the Dam are undertaken. These inspections include monitoring the Dam structure for movement, preparing annual safety and surveillance reports and a five yearly comprehensive safety and surveillance report.

Key Achievements

In 2014–15 the Dam operator undertook refurbishment of the floating gates, refurbishment of the upstream face of floodgate 3 and patch painting of the downstream faces of all floodgates and restoration of sluice gate 3. Additionally, NCA undertook an approach to market for a dam operations and maintenance contractor to be engaged in 2015–16.

Hydrometric Data Services

The NCA maintains and manages 17 water level/river height-monitoring stations and 18 rainfall-monitoring sites in the Queanbeyan/Molonglo River, Sullivans Creek and Jerrabomberra Creek catchments. These inform normal dam and flood management at the Dam and provide flood-warning data for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Key Achievements

In 2014–15 the NCA implemented the replacement of data capture canisters (ERRTS2 compatible) with two-way communications capability, at two of our key gauging stations to improve data reliability.

Lake Burley Griffin

The Lake is Canberra’s centrepiece landscape feature with parks, playgrounds, walking tracks and cycle paths surrounding the area, as well as a number of national institutions located on or near its shores.

The Lake covers an area of 664 hectares and is an important recreational feature of Canberra with a maximum depth of 17.6 metres near the Dam and an average depth of 4 metres. Recreational activities on the waterway include swimming, rowing, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating, fishing, model boating and paddle boating.

Administration of the Lake is governed by the Lakes Ordinance 1976 (as applied by the National Land Ordinance 1989).

Maintenance and Management

The NCA is responsible for the Lake and its facilities, including the water body, jetties and beaches. A comprehensive maintenance program outlines works to maintain and enhance the Lake and its surrounding infrastructure.

On 17 December 2013 the Australian Capital Territory and Other Legislation Amendment (Water Management) Bill 2013 was passed. This resulted in the transfer of the management of water abstraction from the Lake being transferred to the ACT Government.

Key Achievements

Works undertaken in 2014–15 to enhance existing assets and associated areas included the Lake wall repair at Yarralumla Bay, beach restoration at various sites, pontoon repair, woody weed control along the Lake’s edges and buoy line and mooring replacements.

Water Quality

Routine weekly sampling for blue-green algae and bacteria occurs at eight beach sites each year from mid-October to mid-April. Results are assessed in accordance with the ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality (ACT Health, 2014) and the public is notified of relevant closures and alerts through warning signs at locations and NCA website updates. In addition, midstream samples are taken from five sites during August, October, November and December 2014, and January, February, March and May 2015.

Key Achievements

Only a small number of alert warnings were in place during the 2014–15 recreational season. An unseasonably warm autumn and low wind and rainfall conditions resulted in late blooms of blue-green algae and the closure of all recreational entry points to primary contact users. There were three areas affected for a total of 14 weeks by elevated levels of bacteria. The NCA implemented a Love Lake Burley Griffin community campaign centred on the message ‘Canberra’s drains are just for the rain.’


Flood events occur when heavy rain raises the level of the Lake, requiring the Dam’s floodgates to be operated. Heavy rainfall and upstream flows also results in significant amounts of organic debris to flow into the Lake creating maritime hazards.

Key Achievements

Three minor flood events occurred during 2014–15: 26–28 August 2014, 6–9 December 2014 and 8–9 April 2015. At all times, the safety of the Dam as well as river and Lake users was maintained.

Captain Cook Memorial Jet

The Captain Cook Memorial Jet (the Jet) was constructed to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the east coast of Australia. The Jet was officially unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 25 April 1970. It normally operates for two hours daily, between 2.00 pm and 4.00 pm.

The Jet is a stunning example of hydraulic engineering, sending 3 tonnes of water into the air at 260 kilometres per hour.

Key Achievements

In February 2015 the mechanical failure of a tapping band in the irrigation pump room adjacent to the Jet pump room resulted in significant water damage to assets in both spaces. Works were undertaken to rectify the damage and return both the Jet and the irrigation assets to a safe working condition. Once recommissioned, the Jet suffered a second mechanical failure that required it to be recommissioned, the jet suffered a second unrelated mechanical shut down once more.

Capital upgrade works for the Jet were commissioned during 2014–15. Following the second failure, these works were accelerated; they will allow the non-compliant safety issues to be addressed and restore operability of the Jet to the full 147-metre height in 2015–16.

Lake User Group

The NCA convenes quarterly Lake User Group (LUG) meetings about events and commercial operations, providing greater safety for all users of the Lake.

The LUG meetings include representatives from groups, such as rowing, sailing, dragon boating, triathlon, school groups and commercial boat operators, to discuss matters such as safety on the Lake, water quality and lake infrastructure.

Key Achievements

Matters discussed during 2014–15 included the status of maintenance activities regarding the Lake, the proposal to construct a commercial boat slipway at Black Mountain Peninsula and the City to the Lake project at West Basin.

Lake Permits and Agreements

The NCA aims to maintain and encourage a range of compatible recreation opportunities consistent with the special characteristics and significance of the Lake.

This includes facilitating commercial undertakings that enhance visitor and community experiences of Canberra and the Lake.

Key Achievements

In 2014–15 an online application system for boat permits was implemented. The new system captures additional boat information and streamlines the process for users. The NCA issued 365 boat permits and 28 mooring permits to lake users for fishing, sports and other recreational activities.

During the year the NCA managed six agreements to operate commercial services on the Lake under section 33 of the Lakes Ordinance 1976; these commercial services included:

  • Lake Burley Griffin Cruises
  • Lakeside Ferry Services
  • Canberra Lake Cruises
  • MV Canberra Southern Cross Club
  • Lake Burley Griffin Boat Hire
  • Canberra Yacht Club.

Administration of National Land

The NCA negotiates leases and licences for activities on National Land and on the Lake, including administering diplomatic leases and negotiating with key stakeholders to formulate and agree upon mutual roles and responsibilities. These activities contribute towards achieving the vision of the Parliamentary Zone as ‘the place of the people’ for the benefit of Australians.

Leases and Licences

The NCA manages a range of licence agreements for premises and facilities located at Commonwealth Place, Commonwealth Park, Acton Peninsula and Parkes. The NCA liaises with commercial tenants and commissions independent reviews of fair market licence fees for the various premises.

Temporary trader permits are issued under the Roads and Public Places Ordinance 1937.

Key Achievements

In 2014–15 the NCA undertook compliance checks and finalised the following licence matters:

  • Rent reviews were conducted for the Lobby Restaurant, the Commonwealth Park Compound, the Commonwealth Place West Kiosk, the Deck Restaurant at Regatta Point and the Treasury Café outdoor area.
  • Three new licence agreements were entered into for the Compound Depot at Commonwealth Park and for the Old Parliament House Depot.
  • Agreement was reached with the National Gallery of Australia for the installation of a Contemporary Art Annex in East Space, Commonwealth Place.
  • Gaby’s Takeaway on Windsor Walk was removed to allow development in the area.

Temporary trader permits reviewed during 2014–15 included:

  • Maria’s Coffee Van in Kings Park
  • My Sweet Alice Van, Wendouree Drive, Parkes.
Events on and use of National Land

The NCA issues permits for events on National Land. The NCA’s Events Policy ensures a balance is achieved between events, public access and the impact on national assets. An online registration system, accessible via the NCA’s website, allows the public to book private events on National Land and to manage their bookings.

The NCA liaises with key stakeholders on requirements for approval and running of major events on National Land and participates in the ACT Government Events Coordination Group, a forum for strategic level information-sharing and operational coordination for events in Canberra.

Key Achievements

The NCA issued approximately 900 permits for events, such as Floriade, Snowy Hydro Gala, Carols by Candlelight, Australia Celebrates 2015, Australia Day, Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema, Enlighten, Balloon Spectacular, Canberra Day, Skyfire, Anzac Day, charity walks, triathlons, weddings and other private functions.

Diplomatic Land and Leasing

Diplomatic estates are located in the Canberra suburbs of Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley. The NCA administers diplomatic leases under the Leases (Special Purposes) Ordinance 1925 contained within the National Land Ordinance 1989 (and associated pre self-government laws). Management of the diplomatic estates includes the sale and issue of Crown Leases, rent appraisal and collection and lease compliance.

The NCA liaises closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on all diplomatic leasing matters.

The existing supply of diplomatic land does not meet the needs of nations wishing to establish their missions in Canberra. The NCA is working with an inter-jurisdictional working group, with representatives from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Australia, the Department of Finance, the DFAT, the Australian Federal Police and the ACT Government, to develop an Australian Government land allocation policy to address the shortage of National Land and to accommodate the expected future demand for diplomatic missions.

Key Achievements

As at 30 June 2015 there were 104 foreign missions represented in Canberra, 55 of which are located within the National Capital Estate. On 12 January 2015 the Bangladesh High Commission signed a Crown lease for a block in the Yarralumla Diplomatic Estate. On 25 June 2015 a Certificate of Occupancy was issued for the construction of the High Commission for Pakistan.

Works approved in the diplomatic estates during 2014–15, included the:

  • removal of two Pinus radiata trees at the High Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • renovation works and associated temporary infrastructure at the Embassy of Sweden
  • installation of a new security gate for the Perth Avenue entrance of the Embassy of the United States of America
  • temporary building for the consulate office at the Embassy of Sweden
  • minor amendments to the windows of the High Commission for Pakistan
  • demolition of existing building and construction of a new ambassador’s residence for the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Pay Parking

Pay parking was introduced on 1 October 2014; the aim was to free up spaces for visitors to the national institutions by reducing the pressure on available parking caused by commuters parking on National Land.

The NCA pay parking scheme covers in excess of 9,000 off-street parking spaces, with 190 parking machines installed to allow for the collection of revenue. The NCA is established as an Administering Authority, under ACT and national parking legislation, through the National Land (Road Transport) Ordinance 2014.

Key Achievements

Pay parking has been operating effectively since its introduction. The scheme has resulted in a substantial reduction in the numbers of vehicles parking on National Land, with the parking areas surrounding the national institutions now readily available for visitors and tourists.

Installation of parking ticket machines, modified signage and other infrastructure to allow the pay parking scheme to operate was completed in July 2014.

Contractors were engaged to provide maintenance and technical support for the parking ticket machines as well as cash collection and counting services for the ticket machines. Enforcement services have been provided on a contract basis, with full administrative support for all on-road enforcement activities provided by the contractor. The NCA retains a final right of review for all enforcement decisions made by authorised officers.

The introduction of pay parking on National Land was a highly visible and much debated topic in the public domain, so a communication program was launched to ensure that information about the pay parking scheme was disseminated as effectively as possible.

The NCA has engaged with other agencies to provide information and assistance for parking matters relating to the scheme. This included working with the Department of Defence to provide discount parking for their staff and enforcement of car parks managed by the Australian War Memorial, the High Court of Australia and the Department of Parliamentary Services.

The Open Areas Parking Rule 2014, made under the National Land (Road Transport) Ordinance 2014, establishes an offence when a vehicle is parked on landscaped or grassed areas on National Land. The ability to issue Parking Infringement Notices to vehicles parked contrary to this rule has improved the asset and open space protection capabilities of the NCA. The rule has also assisted in managing illegal and dangerous parking associated with events held on National Land, with officers regularly patrolling events to ensure compliance and make events safer for all attendees.

A review of the scheme is due to be undertaken during the 2015–16 financial year.

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