Explanatory Statement

Part Four(a) sets out conditions for those areas where the Commonwealth has planning approval responsibility. This includes both Designated Areas and National Land outside Designated Areas. Part Four(a) consists of:

  • a map identifying land deemed to have the special characteristics of the National Capital (Designated Areas).
  • Precinct and General Codes which set out the detailed conditions of planning, design and development for Designated Areas.
  • Special Requirements for National Land outside Designated Areas.

Designated Areas

Designated Areas (identified in Part One of the Plan) are divided into a series of precincts. Precinct Codes and General Codes identify planning and design controls for different precincts and development types within Designated Areas. An application for works approval will be assessed against the provisions of the relevant code(s).

Precinct Codes provide objectives, and planning and design controls for defined spatial areas.

General Codes provide detailed controls for particular aspects of development or types of development.

Where inconsistencies exist between provisions of applicable Codes, Precinct Codes take precedence over General Codes.

Each identified precinct within the Central National Area, with the exception of Canberra Airport which is subject to a Master Plan under other legislation, is subject to a Precinct Code.

The Inner Hills forms part of Designated Areas, however is also part of the broader Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces land use category of the National Capital Open Space System (NCOSS). In treating Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces as a whole, provisions for the Inner Hills are located with other policies for this area in Part Three of the Plan.

Development within the Central National Area as defined in this part is also guided by a series of general principles (derived from ‘The Griffin Legacy Propositions’) and detailed conditions of planning, design and development applicable to all precincts within the Central National Area.

National Land outside Designated Areas

The Act makes provision for the Plan to set out Special Requirements for the development of any area (not being within Designated Areas), being requirements that are desirable in the interests of the National Capital. In addition to areas of Territory Land (refer Part Four(b)), Special Requirements apply to National Land outside Designated Areas


4.0 Designated Areas

Figure 10 identifies each precinct within Designated Areas. Precincts numbered 1-15 and Canberra Airport form the Central National Area.

Outline of precincts of the Designated Areas

Figure 10: Designated Areas precincts

Detailed conditions of planning, design and development for each precinct are set out in a series of Precinct Codes. General policies are also applicable to the Central National Area and the Parliamentary Zone and its setting (as defined below).


4.1 The Central National Area

The Central National Area includes the following Precincts:

  1. Parliamentary Zone
  2. Barton
  3. Deakin/Forrest Residential Area
  4. City Hill
  5. West Basin
  6. Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade
  7. Australian Defence Force Academy, Royal Military College Duntroon, and Campbell Park Precinct
  8. Australian National Botanic Gardens
  9. Jerrabomberra Wetlands
  10. Lake Burley Griffin and Foreshores
  11. Acton Peninsula
  12. Diplomatic Precinct (Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley)
  13. Australian Institute of Sport
  14. Australian National University
  15. CSIRO Black Mountain
  16. Canberra Airport (within the Central National Area however not within Designated Areas).

Main Avenues and Approach Routes are subject to a Precinct Code as they are within Designated Areas, but are not part of the Central National Area.

4.1.1 General policies for the Central National Area

Development in the Central National Area will be guided by the principles below. The principles direct future public and private investment in core areas of the capital where opportunities are created for vibrant, mixed use precincts alongside cultural institutions, government buildings and major national attractions. They restore the intended urbanity and vitality of Canberra as a cosmopolitan lakeside city.

The following general policies will form a basis for planning and urban design decisions for the Central National Area, its landscape setting and approaches. These include:

  1. Protect the Griffins’ vision by:
    1. fostering recognition of the 1918 Griffin Plan as a work of national and international cultural significance, and conserve those elements that contribute to this significance in a sustainable manner whilst allowing for the evolution of the city in contemporary terms
    2. recognising that Canberra is a young city and ensure that future development continues to give expression to the visual geometry, built form, landscape and cultural vitality of the 1918 Griffin Plan
    3. recognising that some elements (for example, the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House) are successful reinterpretations of the 1918 Griffin Plan which are consistent with and strengthen the framework and spirit of the Plan.
  2. Building on the Griffins’ vision by:
    1. maintaining the 1918 Griffin Plan as the primary organising framework of the city’s urban form, landscape and symbolism
    2. fostering Canberra’s unique sense of place that has evolved from the Griffins’ planning principles
    3. maintaining the Garden City and City Beautiful values which underpin Canberra’s quality of life
    4. continuing to give expression to the principles of the 1918 Griffin Plan – its visual geometry, built form, landscape spaces and cultural vitality – in order to maintain its integrity as a work of cultural significance which is internationally recognised
    5. continuing to reinforce and, where possible, express the integrity of the Griffins’ visual structure by strengthening the geometry and form of Main Avenues, vistas and public spaces
    6. refocusing the symbolic framework of the 1918 Griffin Plan by consolidating development of national symbols and spaces for commemoration and celebration on the land and water axes, and within the National Triangle
    7. maintaining the geometry and where practicable the fine-grain pattern of the streets and blocks of the 1918 Griffin Plan
    8. strengthening the landscape framework from the natural setting of the hills, water courses and parks to the character of its streets as generously-scaled corridors for formal plantings of broad-canopy trees
    9. maintaining the metropolitan structure principles of Canberra’s planning legacy of environmentally balanced urban extensions: design with nature; undeveloped hills and valleys; landscape containment and greenbelts; low traffic congestion; long-term public transport reservations; provision for walking and cycling; and protection of the Central National Area
    10. maintaining a mix of tree species which enriches the landscape by providing beauty, shade, shelter and wildlife habitats and enhances the built environment.
  3. Revitalise the vision with growth in the Central National Area by:
    1. reinstating the Griffins’ intended unity between the Central National Area, its setting and the everyday life of the city
    2. delivering the richness and vitality of the Griffins’ vision by ensuring that City and surrounding neighbourhood precincts are strongly connected with the Central National Area, especially with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding parks
    3. accommodating growth in Canberra Central to contribute to a compact, sustainable city that fosters a healthy community, and offers: increased housing, employment and recreation choices; ease of movement; integrated transport and land-use; and respect for the natural environment
    4. developing the central areas of Canberra, such as City and Constitution Avenue, to the urban scale and diversity intended to consolidate the central areas of Canberra.
    5. managing change – particularly in terms of traffic and development – to preserve the historic landscapes, Garden City and City Beautiful values, and the dignity of the Central National Area
    6. using public investment in infrastructure to guide private investment, to enhance the vitality, accessibility and national significance of the public domain of the 1918 Griffin Plan, and to generate economic growth
    7. fostering a greater level of activity, choice, connectivity and accessibility in the central areas of Canberra.
  4. Link the city to the Central National Area by:
    1. reducing the physical barriers between the Central National Area, City Centre and surrounding neighbourhood precincts
    2. fostering exchange between local and national activities
    3. harnessing the cultural and economic links between the City Centre and surrounding neighbourhood precincts
    4. facilitating the development of physical connections and urban form to enable greater interaction and exchange between the Australian National University, the Central National Area and City Centre.
  5. Extend the City to the Lake by:
    1. developing a variety of waterfront activities on the Lake which are diverse in urban, recreational and ceremonial character and are accessible to the public along the waterfront
    2. enhancing lake-based tourist facilities and experiences
    3. maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the lake shore through environmental management requirements for any new development adjacent to or on the lake
    4. developing natural drainage corridors as linear parks and pedestrian/cycle paths to connect with the lake parklands.
  6. Reinforce the Main Avenues by:
    1. realising the identified Main Avenues of Constitution, Northbourne, Commonwealth, Kings, University, Sydney, Brisbane, and part of Canberra Avenue as multi-use boulevards providing corridors of higher-density mixed-use development, public transport, broad tree-lined footpaths with potential for outdoor dining and street parking
    2. preventing the Central National Area from being overwhelmed by through traffic
    3. providing flexible, efficient and sustainable public transport and pedestrian and bicycle systems that reduce car dependency
    4. developing a sufficient density and mix of land uses to support public transport
    5. improving the urban design and streetscape qualities of the Main Avenues as approaches to the Central National Area
    6. maintaining the ease and comfort of movement around the city to cater for a diversity of pedestrian, cycle, vehicular and public transport modes
    7. providing streets with a quality architecture and landscape character that fosters a compact, connective and pedestrian-friendly environment for central city living
    8. reducing the barriers of major roads to make it easier for people to access the public spaces of the city, particularly in the Central National Area
  7. Link national attractions by:
    1. maintaining the Central National Area as the appropriate setting for the presentation of events, ceremonies and celebrations of national and international significance, so that Australians might better understand their culture and history – and showcase them to the world
    2. consolidating national and international tourism activity in the Central National Area to enhance the visitor experience and appreciation of the symbolic role of Canberra as the National Capital
    3. developing existing and new national cultural attractions to complement the settings of existing memorials and national symbols, and to enhance economic benefits for the Australian Capital Territory community
    4. developing network concepts to link national attractions in the Central National Area, improving legibility and way finding for visitors, and linking existing public domain and transport networks
    5. engaging new cultural and government buildings with the daily life of the city by connecting them to diverse and mixed-use districts that support a range of public activities, including shopping, dining and entertainment
    6. reinforcing corridors of tourist activity with additional attractions and supportive land uses such as retail, restaurant and hotel developments
    7. protecting and enhancing ecological values of the Central National Area as a site for eco-tourism
    8. identifying opportunities for developing eco-tourism activities in the Central National Area, provide connections to the National Capital Open Space System, and reinforce Canberra’s identity and environmental integrity as the ‘Bush Capital’
    9. enhancing the provision of lake and land-based recreational and tourism opportunities within a predominantly public open space setting
    10. enhancing the sense of arrival for visitors to the National Capital by improving the quality of the approach routes and by progressively formalising the gateway experiences at key city thresholds, culminating in arrival at the Central National Area
    11. enhancing the vistas to the national attractions and icons.

4.1.2 Detailed conditions of planning, design and development

  1. In the Parliamentary Zone (the area bounded by the southern edge of the Lake, Kings Avenue, State Circle and Commonwealth Avenue):
    1. Land uses will comprise:
      • Parliamentary Uses and National Capital Uses, including national legislative, judicial and executive functions, and Commonwealth cultural institutions
      • such other uses, including a limited range of commercial uses and tourism facilities that complement and enhance the function and character of the area.
    2. Development must be guided by the principles, policies and Indicative Development Plan for the Parliamentary Zone set out in the Parliamentary Zone Precinct Code.
  2. Other parts of the Designated Areas will be used in accordance with relevant Precinct Codes.
  3. Land uses will relate primarily to national functions. This should not, however, preclude the establishment of appropriate ACT Government functions, suitably located.
  4. Consideration of commercial uses in those parts of the Designated Area that lie in the City will have regard to the planning effects on City as well as on the Central National Area.
  5. Special consideration will be given to community, cultural, residential, tourism, entertainment and leisure uses which complement and enhance the function and character of the Designated Area.
  6. Traffic capacity and traffic arrangements on major routes in the Designated Area will be planned to ensure safe and dignified access for all ceremonial occasions, and for residents, staff, tourists and visitors.
  7. The transport system within the Designated Area will be planned and managed for volumes of traffic and parking consistent with the significance and use of the area. Transport infrastructure should foster the use of transport systems which minimise adverse effects from vehicular traffic.
  8. The urban design of the area is to achieve an integrated design of the highest quality by managing building height and bulk, and by encouraging building forms and layouts on consistent building alignments which enhance the structure of the Griffins’ plans.
  9. New development should seek to respect the design and character of adjacent buildings in terms of scale, colour, materials, massing and frontage alignment.
  10. Individual development proposals will be assessed on their merits in respect to sunlight penetration, amenity, pedestrian and vehicle access. No buildings taller than RL617 will be permitted in the Designated Area, but the general building height will be 3-4 storeys except where the National Capital Authority determines otherwise.
  11. Buildings in the area must show an appropriate quality of architectural design consistent with their location in this area of special national importance.
  12. Direct access to and from major roads will be permitted where practicable and not inconsistent with traffic safety requirements. The design and maintenance of all roadways and parking areas, including their associated landscaping, signs and lighting, will be of a consistently high quality.
  13. Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues, the avenues connecting the nodal points of the National Triangle, are of critical significance in delineating the geometric form of the Griffins’ plans. They are not only the primary movement routes, but they are powerful generators of structure and urban form. Their formal expression is paramount and is to be achieved by strong avenue planting, consistent road design, special lighting and detailing. Building heights and setbacks will be planned to ensure consistency and continuity. Except where otherwise specified in the Plan, setbacks for buildings adjacent to Kings and Commonwealth Avenues south of Lake Burley Griffin should be 10 metres. Setbacks for buildings adjacent to Kings and Commonwealth Avenues north of Lake Burley Griffin should be six metres.
  14. Landscaping is to enhance the visual setting of the Designated Area and integrate the buildings with their landscape setting. This will be carried out in accordance with a landscape masterplan to be prepared by the National Capital Authority which particularly emphasises the following landscape themes:
    1. the formal and consistent landscaping of Main Avenues and mall spaces
    2. the combination of formal and informal landscaping which occurs around the Lake’s edge and is the setting for Parliament House and its adjacent area.
  15. Residential blocks must not be subdivided for separate occupation.
  16. Any proposal to subdivide land within the Central National Area will require the approval of the National Capital Authority.


4.2 The Parliamentary Zone And Its Setting

4.2.1 Background

The Parliamentary Zone and Its Setting comprises the Parliamentary Zone, Diplomatic (Yarralumla), Deakin/Forrest Residential Area, Barton, City Hill, West Basin, and Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade Precincts.

The National Capital and Seat of Government is the legislative, judicial, administrative, executive, ceremonial and symbolic centre of the nation.

The role of Canberra as the National Capital warrants high environmental and aesthetic standards for development generally. It also requires that national functions are located where they may operate effectively and efficiently.

Areas that clearly exhibit the special characteristics of the National Capital primarily have the Parliamentary Zone and its setting as their focus. They embrace the main National Capital uses and national institutions, and other centrally located areas of National Land, diplomatic areas, and nearby lands where planning, design and development are critical.

The core of those areas is the Parliamentary Zone – the physical manifestation of Australian democratic government and the home of the nation’s most important cultural and judicial institutions and symbols.

The area ensures that the essential relationships between Parliament and its setting are planned, developed and conserved in an integrated way, with the Commonwealth providing the requisite leadership of design and ensuring that construction and maintenance operations are carried out to the highest standards.

Urban design is concerned with the arrangement of buildings and spaces to achieve harmony, interest, attractiveness, vitality and legibility. Specific urban design policies are concerned with ensuring that the quality of the built environment results in a composition which is consistent in scale and image.

The subject area is the centre for all the nationally significant activities of Parliament, the Judiciary and government and is the focal point of visitor interest in the National Capital.

A Masterplan for the Parliamentary Zone (refer to the Parliamentary Zone Precinct Code) guides all future development in the Zone.

Within the Parliamentary Zone, the National Capital Authority’s statutory responsibility for the approval of works in Designated Areas does not affect section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 which provides at subsection (1) that:

no building or other work is to be erected on land within the Parliamentary Zone unless:

  • if the land is within the precincts as defined by subsection 3(1) of the Parliamentary Precincts Act 1988 – the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives jointly have; or
  • in any other case – the Minister has;

caused a proposal for the erection of a building or work to be laid before each House of the Parliament and the proposal has been approved by resolution of each House.

The combined effect of the Act, the Parliament Act 1974 and the Parliamentary Precincts Act 1988, is that within the Parliamentary Zone (which includes the Parliamentary Precincts), Works as defined by the Act require approval by National Capital Authority in addition to any Parliamentary approvals necessary under the other Acts.

Within the Parliamentary Precincts (generally within Capital Circle) the Presiding Officers have responsibility for control and management. In the exercise of this responsibility, any actions falling within the definition of Works set out in the Act continue to require approval by National Capital Authority.

The Plan includes City Hill and the area inside London Circuit as part of the Designated Area. City Hill is one of the three corners of the National Triangle formed by Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues, and as such the character of its future development and that of the area adjoining it is crucial to the long-term character of the National Capital.

Linking City Hill with Russell is Constitution Avenue. The Plan provides for development beside the Avenue which establishes it as a formal urban avenue. Since design issues will be crucial in setting the character of the Avenue, both sides of Constitution Avenue are included in the Designated Areas.

Land fronting the Approach Routes and avenues which were an important symbolic component of the Griffins’ plans is also considered to have special National Capital interest. Special Requirements have been established for these areas.

4.2.2 Detailed conditions of planning, design and development

4.2.2.1 Principles for the Parliamentary Zone and its Setting

  1. Canberra’s role as Australia’s capital is of continuing and paramount importance. National functions, organisations and activities are actively encouraged to locate in Canberra. They should be housed and located in prominent positions where they serve, individually and collectively, as effective symbols of the nation and its capital.
  2. Opportunities should be taken progressively to enhance the international role of Canberra as Australia’s capital. Diplomatic representation, the establishment in Canberra of international organisations, and the holding of international events in Canberra are all encouraged as means of enhancing the National Capital’s international role.
  3. The planning and development of the National Capital will seek to respect and enhance the main principles of the Griffins’ formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  4. The Parliamentary Zone and its setting remain the heart of the National Capital. In this area, priority will be given to the development of buildings and associated structures which have activities and functions that symbolise the Capital and through it the nation. Other developments in the area should be sited and designed to support the prominence of these national functions and reinforce the character of the area.
  5. Planning and development of the Territory beyond the Parliamentary Zone and its setting should enhance the national significance of both Canberra and the Territory.

4.2.2.2 Policies for the Parliamentary Zone and its setting

  1. Major national functions and activities that are closely connected with workings of Parliament or are of major national significance should be located in or adjacent to the National Triangle formed by Commonwealth, Kings and Constitution Avenues, to provide a strong physical and functional structure which symbolises the role of Canberra as the National Capital.
  2. The preferred uses in the Parliamentary Zone are those that arise from its role as the physical manifestation of Australian democratic government and as the home of the nation’s most important cultural and judicial institutions and symbols. The highest standards of architecture will be sought for buildings located in the Parliamentary Zone.
  3. Diplomatic activities should be established in places which are prestigious, have good access to Parliament House and other designated diplomatic precincts, and meet security requirements. They should be planned and designed to establish a distinct character and setting for each area reflecting their national and international significance.
  4. National and international associations and institutions will be encouraged to locate in Canberra, and whenever practicable the District of Canberra Central will be the preferred location for them.