Designated Areas

These are areas of the ACT that have been identified as having the special characteristics of the National Capital. These primary characteristics are:

  • the Griffins' strong symbolic design for the central areas of Canberra, which have provided the National Capital a unique and memorable character
  • the wide range of national functions hosted in Canberra because it is the Capital of Australia, and
  • Canberra's landscape setting and layout within the Territory, which has given the Capital a garden city image of national and international significance.

National functions include Parliamentary uses, key Australian Government policy departments, 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 and the Australian National Gallery.

Land has also been designated for their national significance in the planning and development of the city, as well as their ceremonial use. Anzac Parade, for example, performs a ceremonial purpose as well as functioning as a roadway, and Anzac Park which is set aside for memorials.

The Griffins' plan incorporated the hills of inner Canberra - Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, Red Hill and Mount Pleasant - the lake and its foreshores, 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 linked towns, established in valleys 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.

Within Designated Areas the National Capital Authority (NCA) has responsibility for determining detailed planning policy, and for Works Approval (otherwise known as development assessment).

The Designated Areas includes:

  • Lake Burley Griffin and its foreshores
  • the National Triangle
  • the road reservations of the Main Avenues and Approach Routes (MAAR).

Designated Areas are identified in the figure below and the full list can be found in the National Capital Plan.

Main Avenues and Approach Routes

Canberra’s main avenues and approach routes have historically been subject to rigorous planning scrutiny, and care has been taken to ensure that suitably high standards of development and landscaping have been observed.

A traveller’s first perception of a city’s character is gained upon approach and arrival. When arriving in Canberra it is important that the traveller is immediately aware of the special symbolic and functional significance of the National Capital.

Design policies are concerned with achieving awareness of this special significance through the following:

  • marking the boundary of the ACT
  • establishing a clear and identifiable route from the boundary to the symbolic centre of the city, by providing visual cues and strong structural links eg. avenue planting
  • building up expectations by progressively formalising the design character as travellers approach the Central National Area
  • enhancing views to recognisable and popular images of the National Capital so as to further build expectation and define the approach
  • ensuring that the structure, detailing and signage is consistent along each approach route into the National Capital.

Main avenues and approach routes were identified as ‘Areas of Special National Concern’ in a 1964 Cabinet decision and subsequently incorporated in the gazetted planning policies for Canberra. It is important that development within the road reservations, including signs and landscaping continues to be subject to high standards of design and landscaping, and continues to recognise the importance of these routes as introductions to the National Capital.

Main Avenues and Approach Routes encompasses the land within the road reservation as identified in the above map and the full list can be found in the National Capital Plan.

Development Adjacent to the Main Avenues and Approach Routes

Special Requirements apply to certain land in the ACT because they front these important roads. The NCA has an interest in the quality and character of these areas even though they may not be within the Designated Areas.