Designated Areas are those areas of the ACT that have been identified as having the special characteristics of the National Capital. In deciding the extent of the Designated Areas, three primary factors are relevant:
- Canberra hosts a wide range of national functions - activities which occur in Canberra because it is the National Capital and which give Canberra a unique function within Australia
- The Griffins' strong symbolic design for the central areas of Canberra has given the National Capital a unique and memorable character
- Canberra's landscape setting and layout within the Territory have given the Capital a garden city image of national and international significance.
National functions include Parliamentary uses, key Australian Government policy departments which have a close association with Parliament, official residences of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, chanceries and diplomatic missions of foreign countries, and major national institutions such as the High Court, Australian National Gallery and the like.
Land has also been set aside and developed for non-building uses. Examples are Anzac Parade, which performs a ceremonial purpose as well as functioning as a roadway, and Anzac Park which is set aside for memorials. The land on which these activities are sited are included in Designated Areas so that their national significance is recognised in the planning and development of the city.
The Griffins' design incorporated the hills of inner Canberra - Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, Red Hill and Mount Pleasant - and the lake and its foreshores into the plan, as much as buildings and roads. The design had four main elements:
- the use of topography as an integral design feature and as a setting
- a symbolic hierarchy of land uses designed to reflect the order and functions of democratic government
- a geometric plan with the central triangle formed by grand avenues terminating at Capital Hill, the symbolic centre of the nation
- a system of urban centres.
Canberra has been developed as a series of separate but linked towns, established in valleys and shaped and separated from each other by a system of open space. This arrangement has protected the major hills and ridges from development, and has created a scenic backdrop and natural setting for the urban areas. It has reinforced the garden character for which Canberra is renowned. This landscape setting makes a major contribution to the environmental quality which is a feature of Canberra's character. Conserving and enhancing the landscape setting is important in retaining the character of the National Capital.
The Designated Areas currently comprise:
- Lake Burley Griffin and its foreshores
- the Parliamentary Zone
- the Inner Hills which form the landscape setting of the city
- urban areas immediately adjoining the Parliamentary Zone and Lake Burley Griffin (including West Basin, City Hill, Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade, Russell, and parts of Barton and Forrest)
- diplomatic estates in Yarralumla, Deakin and O'Malley
- the road reservations of the Main Avenues and Approach Routes (for example, Northbourne Avenue, Canberra Avenue, and the Federal and Barton Highways).
Within Designated Areas the National Capital Authority has responsibility for determining detailed planning policy, and for Works Approval (otherwise known as development assessment).
Designated Areas are identified in the figure below.