Strategic Planning Projects

National Capital Open Space System (NCOSS) Review


On 29 May 2010 at the NCA's second annual public forum, the Chief Executive of the NCA, Gary Rake, announced a review into the National Capital Open Space System (NCOSS). The NCOSS review will determine what role the NCOSS should play and whether the existing delineation of open space is appropriate in terms of efficient land use, meeting national sustainability objectives, and maintaining it's role in providing a landscape setting for the National Capital.


The NCOSS covers over 70% of the ACT, and includes the hills, ridges and buffers between urban areas, the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee River Corridors, Lake Burley Griffin, and extensive areas of mountains and bushland to the south of the city. Its importance in defining the natural setting of Canberra is recognised by the formal adoption of the NCOSS into the National Capital Plan.

Since 1988 the NCOSS has formed a key part of both the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan. It has stood the test of time and today we can take for granted that the city has withstood the pressure to develop the hills, ridges and corridors of landscape that knit the city's spatial structure together. However the reports prepared in the past have raised a number of issues that remain unresolved and need to be reconsidered in light of contemporary social political and environmental challenges faced by the citizens of Canberra.

Today the NCOSS is the central structural element of this landscape character and is a legacy of a number of decisions of the early planners and developers. The landscape setting of Canberra and the NCOSS are interconnected but distinct concepts. In order to review the NCOSS, the concept of landscape setting and the NCOSS need to be examined concurrently.

The areas designated in the National Capital Plan as part of the NCOSS represent a significant variety of landscape typologies from formal ceremonial iconic scenes of little apparent ecological value to endangered endemic vegetation communities that to many appear to have little symbolic value. The landscapes of the NCOSS are not an undifferentiated mass, they carry differing cultural symbolic and emotional ties to the Canberra community. These should be acknowledged and represented accordingly in strategic planning decisions.

Project Purpose

The aim of the NCOSS review is to establish principles for guiding land use and management for the NCOSS.

The review will report on the following areas of investigation:

  • The existing role and function of the NCOSS;
  • Community expectations of the role and function of the NCOSS;
  • The statutory frameworks affecting land administration in the NCOSS; and
  • How the NCOSS is incorporated into the National Capital Plan.

Public Consultation

The NCOSS review has been shaped by early stakeholder consultation. Understanding the community's interest in the NCOSS and providing the opportunity to articulate landscape values is an essential component in the process of reviewing the NCOSS objectives set out in the Plan.

On 17 September 2011, a discussion paper was released on the NCA's 'Have your Say' community engagement website. Consultation closed on 28 October 2011. The consultation report is available on the NCOSS resources page.

The NCOSS reference group

A reference panel was convened between may and December 2012 to assist the NCA develop priorities for incorporating changes to the NCOSS in the National Capital Plan, to reflect contemporary landscape values. The panel considered the findings of the consultation report, and advised on the appropriate mechanisms for achieving the aspirations of the landscape objectives in the National Capital Plan.

Final Report

The NCOSS review report provides a series of recommendations describing ways to establish a framework for future reviews, greater promotion of the NCOSS, and better engage stakeholders in managing the values of the NCOSS. In December 2013, the Authority endorsed the report and its recommendations.

The National Capital Open Space System Review Report can be found below.

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