The Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (the Act) establishes the requirements for the National Capital Plan (the Plan) and its administration. For full information it is important to refer to the legislation itself. A summary of key provisions is outlined below.


The Australian Capital Territory (Planning And Land Management) Act 1988

The Act was proclaimed on 31 January 1989.

The Act introduced new arrangements for the planning and development of the Territory, designed to provide for continuing Commonwealth involvement in the development of the National Capital, while ensuring that the interests of the people of Canberra are both fully represented and protected.

The necessity for the new planning arrangements was a consequence of the Commonwealth's decision to introduce self-government to the Australian Capital Territory. This was provided for by the Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1988 which established the ACT Legislative Assembly to govern the Territory.


National Capital Plan

The Plan is prepared and administered by the National Capital Authority.


Object of the Plan

The Plan has a single statutory object:

…to ensure that Canberra and the Territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance.


Functions of the Plan

The Plan is a statutory document which:

  • specifies areas of land that have the special characteristics of the National Capital to be Designated Areas
  • defines the planning principles and policies for giving effect to the object of the Plan and sets general standards and aesthetic principles to be adhered to in the development of the National Capital
  • sets out general policies to be implemented throughout the Territory, being policies of land use and the planning of national and arterial road systems
  • sets out the detailed conditions of planning, design and development for Designated Areas
  • sets out Special Requirements for the development of areas (not being in a Designated Area) that are desirable in the interests of the National Capital


Objectives Of the National Capital Plan

Building on the object of the Plan and the matters of national significance are the key objectives of the Plan – goals for the city and what the planning and development of Canberra and the Territory should achieve.

Key objectives of the Plan are to:

  1. Recognise the pre-eminence of the role of Canberra and the Territory as Australia’s National Capital.
  2. Further develop and enhance a Central National Area which includes the National Triangle and its setting, Lake Burley Griffin and its foreshores and the diplomatic sites and national institutions, as the heart of the National Capital.
  3. Emphasise the national significance of the main approach routes and avenues.
  4. Respect the geometry and intent of the Griffins’ formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  5. Maintain and enhance the landscape character of Canberra and the Territory as the setting for the National Capital.
  6. Protect the undeveloped hill tops and the open spaces which divide and give form to Canberra’s urban areas.
  7. Provide a plan offering flexibility and choice to enable the Territory Government properly to fulfil its functions.
  8. Support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices.


Works Approval

Works (as defined by the Act) within Designated Areas require approval from the National Capital Authority. The National Capital Authority uses the Plan to assess applications for works approval.


Relationship with the Territory Plan

The Act describes the specific nature of the relationship between the Plan and the Territory Plan:

‘The Territory Plan has no effect to the extent that it is inconsistent with the National Capital Plan, but the Territory Plan shall be taken to be consistent with the National Capital Plan to the extent that it is capable of operating concurrently with the National Capital Plan.’

The Act requires the ACT Legislative Assembly to make laws to establish a Territory planning authority and confer functions on that authority to prepare and administer a plan in a manner not inconsistent with the Plan.

The object of the Territory Plan is ‘to ensure, in a manner not inconsistent with the National Capital Plan, the planning and development of the Territory to provide the people of the Territory with an attractive, safe and efficient environment in which to live and work and have their recreation’.

The Act requires the Territory Plan to define the planning principles and policies for giving effect to the object of the plan and provides that it may include the detailed conditions of planning, design and development of land and the priorities in carrying out such planning, design and development.

The Territory Plan does not apply to land within Designated Areas. In all other areas, and within the framework of the Plan, the Territory Plan will guide the day to day planning and development of Canberra and the Territory.

 

Development and management of National Land

The Act provides that land used by or on behalf of the Commonwealth may be declared National Land, and managed by the Commonwealth.

Given the significant presence of Commonwealth Departments and authorities in the Territory and the extent of their National Land holdings, it is appropriate that procedures be established to assess Commonwealth development proposals and that the provisions of both the National Capital and Territory Plans be observed. Accordingly, the Plan:

  • includes large National Land sites within Designated Areas where it is considered that they have the special characteristics of the National Capital
  • contains Special Requirements for Development Control Plans to be prepared and agreed by the National Capital Authority in respect of the remaining National Land sites which are not included within Designated Areas
  • requires that proposals to develop, subdivide or lease National Land must be referred to the National Capital Authority who will assess consistency with the provisions of the Plan.

The meaning of terms used in the Plan are defined within Appendix A, Appendix B, or within the Act [External Link].