This consultation closes on 7 July, 31 days remaining.

Please watch our video that may help to answer some of your questions in regards to NCA’s obligations re diplomatic missions and what’s proposed by DA95.

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The National Capital Authority (NCA) has released National Capital Plan Draft Amendment 95 – North Curtin Diplomatic Estate and Urban Area (DA95) for public consultation.

The draft amendment

Key changes to the National Capital Plan proposed by DA95 include:

  • changing the land use policy of Block 4 Section 106 and part Block 5 Section 121 Curtin to facilitate a new diplomatic estate
  • at the written request of the ACT Government changing the land use policy for a portion of Block 5 Section 121 Curtin to urban to allow future residential use
  • including the whole area (both Commonwealth and ACT Government land) within Designated Areas to ensure that the NCA has responsibility for design quality outcomes.

DA95 Area 01 DA95 Area 03

Background

Planning the National Capital

The NCA secures the Australian Government's interest in the planning and development of the National Capital to ensure that it continues to serve its national purposes. The NCA's planning responsibilities are to:

  • prepare and administer (which includes determining development applications) the National Capital Plan (the Plan)
  • keep the Plan under constant review and to propose amendments to it when necessary.

The Plan provides the strategy and blueprint giving effect to the Commonwealth’s interest and intentions for planning, design and developing Canberra and the Territory, and ensures that these interests and intentions are protected.

Australia’s diplomatic obligations

Canberra’s function as the Seat of Government and as the nation’s capital have been the basis for the establishment of Australia’s principle government, judicial, cultural, scientific, educational, and military institutions. Like other national capitals, it is also the reason that foreign governments seek to establish their diplomatic missions and residences in the city.

Australia’s obligations with respect to diplomatic missions are defined under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Under this convention, Australia has an obligation to facilitate the acquisition of, or assist in obtaining, accommodation for diplomatic missions.

The diplomatic estate is of special significance to the National Capital and a symbol of Australia’s international cooperation. Diplomatic matters are a component of foreign affairs and therefore a Commonwealth, rather than a Territory function.

The NCA manages Canberra’s diplomatic estate on behalf of the Australian Government under the Leases (Special Purposes) Ordinance 1925. This includes the sale and issue of Crown leases for diplomatic purposes, rent collection, lease variations, and lease compliance.

The diplomatic estate currently consists of 95 blocks. The majority of these blocks (91) are located within three estates in the suburbs of Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley. The remaining four blocks are separately located within the Central National Area (CNA) in the suburbs of Forrest and Red Hill.

Of the 95 blocks in the diplomatic estate, only two blocks remain suitable and vacant for new missions. Seventy-five are either developed or reserved for development. Eighteen blocks are unsuitable for diplomatic use due to easements or environmental matters.

The supply of diplomatic land in Canberra is effectively exhausted. Currently the NCA is unable to offer suitable options to countries who have requested new or expanded sites.

The NCA needs a long term solution to providing suitable land for diplomatic purposes.

Land exchange between the Australian and ACT Governments

In February 2020, the Australian and ACT Governments agreed via an exchange of letters to a land transfer to facilitate the development of a new diplomatic estate at Curtin. The agreement resulted in:

  • The transfer of Block 4 Section 106 and part Block 5 Section 121 Curtin from being land managed by the ACT Government, to land managed by the NCA for the special purposes of the National Capital (being a new diplomatic estate). 
  • The transfer of a portion of the bed of Lake Burley Griffin from land being managed by the NCA for the special purposes of the National Capital, to land managed by the ACT Government.

The land exchange agreement was given effect by the publication of gazettals on the Federal Register of Legislation on 23 March 2020. These instruments are publicly available:

The draft amendment

Now that the Commonwealth owns the land at Curtin it is in a position to formally consult on its future use. The primary purpose of DA95 is to change the land use policy of Block 4 Section 106 and part Block 5 Section 121 Curtin to facilitate the development of a new diplomatic estate, and at the request of the ACT Government to create a new urban area adjacent to the this estate for future residential use.

The Curtin horse paddocks and nearby land have been identified by the NCA in many public forums as suitable for diplomatic use. The site meets policies of the Plan that encourage diplomatic activities to be established in places which are prestigious, have good access to Parliament House and other designated diplomatic precincts, and meet security requirements.

The Curtin horse paddocks are large enough to accommodate the anticipated long term growth of diplomatic missions in Canberra as advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Subject to estate development planning, the National Capital Authority expects that a new diplomatic estate at Curtin will accommodate growth of the diplomatic community for the next 25 years.

DA95 also proposes that land adjacent to the diplomatic estate, that has been retained by the ACT Government be identified for urban residential uses. It is intended that the Plan identifies several broad parameters concerning future development of this new urban area, such as identifying land use, restricting access from Adelaide Avenue, and requiring a soft landscape buffer between the road and any development.

More detailed planning controls can be developed in the future in the context of strategic planning investigations for the City to Woden corridor. This process would determine matters such as building heights, density, subdivision layout, design quality, landscape structure and open space, etc. Residential development could not occur until these strategic planning investigations were complete. Public engagement would be part of this process.

All land subject to the draft amendment, including both the proposed area for the diplomatic estate and future residential land, is proposed to be included within Designated Areas. Within Designated Areas, the NCA has detailed planning and approval responsibility, and can ensure high quality architecture, landscaping and public domain works.

The proposed detailed land use arrangements are shown in the drawing below.

YDC Precinct Code

Further details regarding all changes proposed by DA95 can be found in the Draft Amendment document available to download below. Frequently Asked Questions are also available to download below.

Public consultation

The NCA is undertaking public consultation with regard to current Public Health Emergency Directions resulting from COVID-19.

Where possible, public consultation activities will be conducted in accordance with the NCA’s ‘Commitment to Community Engagement (August 2015)’, however some activities such as public information sessions are not possible due to current restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

Options to get involved or obtain further information include:

  • Watch the video at the top of the page regarding NCA’s obligations re diplomatic missions and what’s proposed by DA95.
  • Send your questions to draft.amendment@nca.gov.au. NCA officers will provide a written response, alternatively please indicate if would like an NCA officer to call you to discuss your questions.
  • Check the website and the NCA’s social media channels regularly for further updates and responses to key questions and comments being received.
  • If you belong to a community organisation, please email draft.amendment@nca.gov.au to organise a video or teleconference with NCA officers.

Submissions and feedback

The NCA welcomes written comments on DA95 from interested parties as part of the consultation process.

Submissions to DA95 can be:

  • Emailed to draft.amendment@nca.gov.au
  • Mailed to Chief Planner, National Capital Authority, GPO Box 373, Canberra ACT 2600
  • Delivered to National Capital Authority, Ground Floor, Treasury Building, King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600

Submissions are invited until close of business on Tuesday 7 July 2020.

Please note that the NCA will also be considering community comment made via social media and other online platforms.

Further information

For further information on DA95, please email draft.amendment@nca.gov.au