|Annual Report 2008 - 2009|
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The year in review
Australians enthusiastically embrace the commemoration and celebration of milestones and none is more significant than a centenary. For our National Capital, celebrations marking the Centenary of Canberra began in 2008 with the centenary of the selection of the site for Canberra and will continue until 2013 when we celebrate the centenary of the naming of the city itself.
Parliamentary interest in the National Capital remains high. On 16 July 2008, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories tabled The Way Forward – Inquiry into the Role of the National Capital Authority. The report contains 22 recommendations. The former Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Bob Debus MP, responded to the report with immediate agreement to the first recommendation – that the government affirm its direct and enduring commitment to the future of the National Capital on behalf of all Australians.
On 11 December 2008, the government tabled its formal response to the Joint Standing Committee’s report, in which it accepted 13 recommendations in full, in part, or in principle; it did not accept four recommendations and noted the remaining five. The government has convened an inter-departmental committee to examine the extent and delivery of Commonwealth responsibilities in the National Capital and an inter-governmental committee to review planning and land management responsibilities in the Territory. At the time of writing, the inter-departmental committee’s work was nearing completion. The inter-governmental committee has recently commenced work and is scheduled to report to government by the end of 2009. A key recommendation of The Way Forward report was that the Authority Chairman be required to appear before the Joint Standing Committee twice each year. Agreeing this was an important part of the Authority becoming more transparent and accountable, Acting Chairman Professor Don Aitkin and I appeared before it for the first hearing on 17 June 2009.
Through the Joint Standing Committee, local media and other fora, the public continues to maintain a high level of interest in the Authority’s future. While the outcomes of the inter-departmental committee and the inter-governmental committee are not yet known, the Authority still has clear statutory responsibilities and it is committed to delivering them.
The Authority is maintaining a pragmatic approach to its responsibilities; it has a clear focus on separating core functions from discretionary activities to enable best allocation of budget resources. The important role of the Authority as custodian of the national interest in Canberra is foremost in our minds as we plan, promote, enhance and maintain this great national asset for all Australians.
As part of our planning responsibility, we released two new draft heritage management plans and one draft amendment to the National Capital Plan during 2008–09. We also finalised three Urban Design Guidelines and six development control plans, and granted 289 works approvals. Our Section 63 Urban Design Guidelines received a commendation in the category Urban Design – Built Ideas and Achievement from the Planning Institute of Australia (ACT Chapter). In the coming year, we will continue our program of preparing heritage management plans and will also make a strategic contribution to the inter-governmental committee examining planning arrangements in the Territory.
One of our core functions is to foster awareness of Canberra as the National Capital. Our greatest asset in delivering this function is the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point. As we move towards the centenary of Canberra in 2013, the National Capital Exhibition will host a number of special exhibitions to mark specific milestones. The first is a temporary interactive display called A Capital Choice: The Selection of Canberra as the Site of our National Capital 1908–2008.
As custodian of more than $700 million of public assets in the heart of our National Capital, the Authority has invested in updating its asset management capability. During 2008–09, we replaced our financial and asset management information systems with an integrated system to enable us to standardise and optimise our asset management processes. Our two most important guides when allocating budget resources for asset management are public safety and asset protection.
We subjected all bridges and roads under our management to a condition assessment during 2008–09 and, based on the assessment outcomes, updated our program of road and bridge maintenance works. The highest priority major works were completed during 2008–09. We will continue to examine and test work methods to prolong the useful life of our assets and, whenever asset replacement is necessary, will investigate new technologies and methods to ensure we achieve best value for money.
The Authority is also responsible for managing some of our most scenic and significant landscapes, including the areas surrounding Anzac Parade, Commonwealth Park, Kings Park and the Parliamentary Zone. One of the greatest challenges the Authority faces is maintaining the cultural value of these landscapes over time in a manner that responds to predicted climate change.
Canberra’s urban forest is ageing. Trees, like all living organisms, have a finite life. Unfortunately, trees of a like-type that are planted at the same time will generally start declining at around the same time. Canberra was developed and planted in clear stages and many of the early tree plantings are reaching the end of their lives. Without a deliberate and cohesive strategy, we risk losing many of the best landscape qualities of the National Capital. The Authority has formed a strong partnership with the ACT Government to renew the ageing urban forest. During 2008–09, an expert reference group was established to help formulate key renewal criteria and decision models. The Authority will use this work early in 2009–10 to guide a significant number of tree replacements on National Land.
It is important that the public record reflect the transition of leadership in the Authority that occurred during 2008–09 and to thank all those who have departed for their contributions to the Authority and to Canberra. Mr Michael Ball AM and Ms Annabelle Pegrum AM left the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive respectively on 8 August 2008. Their service as members of the Authority was acknowledged in the 2007–08 Annual Report. Professor Don Aitkin was appointed Acting Chairman on 2 September 2008 and I was appointed full-time Chief Executive on 1 May 2009.
Mr Christopher Doogan AM was Interim Chief Executive between 18 August and 4 December 2008. At a time of uncertainty for Authority staff, Mr Doogan brought a personable approach to the challenge of such an important short-term engagement. His steadying influence, sound judgment and strong leadership contributed positively to maintaining staff morale, operational delivery and ongoing strategic focus across the organisation.
Mr John Murray’s term as a member of the Authority expired on 8 May 2009. Mr Murray brought a strong urban planning perspective to the Authority. He worked closely with his peers and staff to develop and implement a number of significant planning reforms that will leave a lasting mark on our National Capital – including the Griffin Legacy Amendments.
On 6 June 2009, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, announced the appointment of Mr Peter Core as a new member of the Authority. I welcome Mr Core to the Authority and look forward to his contribution to the National Capital.
Mr Todd Rohl resigned from the position of Managing Director Planning and Urban Design on 24 October 2008. Mr Rohl played a leading role in the development and passage of the Griffin Legacy Amendments to the National Capital Plan. These amendments aroused a level of debate about the future form of Canberra as our National Capital that continues today. To the extent that it demonstrates the level of passion we have for our National Capital, that debate should be encouraged. Mr Rohl deserves recognition for his role in forming the future shape of Canberra. Mr Andrew Smith has filled the role of Acting Executive Director, National Capital Plan, since Mr Rohl’s departure.
Managing the important functions of the National Capital though this difficult economic period will be a challenge for the Authority. While it would be possible to find a valid use for an infinite stream of funding, the Authority has developed, and will implement, a clear strategy to enable delivery of all core functions within the allocated budget resources.
Over the coming year, the Authority will reinforce its commitment to protecting the National Capital’s heritage. A number of heritage management plans will be progressed or finalised and we will start implementing those plans. We will redouble our efforts to engage in genuine and meaningful consultation with key stakeholders, with Australians generally and with the residents of Canberra. I encourage everyone to make the most of the opportunities presented to them to share their memories of the past as well as their visions for the future of our great city. That is not to say that our decisions will be made on a populist basis, but it is essential that our decisions take account of a wide array of views and that we demonstrate a willingness to be publicly accountable for our decisions.
I admire the efforts and commitment of Authority staff and volunteers and thank them for their hard work, loyalty to their mates and keen sense of purpose; this dedicated group of people truly reflects Australian ideals. There is a great deal of work yet to be done, but with their skills and passion I am confident we will succeed.
Professor Aitkin often says, ‘Canberra is unfinished business’. That is a sentiment most of us share. The great challenge for each subsequent generation of Australians is to ensure our contribution to that ‘unfinished business’ is delivered in a way that befits Canberra’s special significance as our National Capital. To borrow a few final words from Sir John Sulman (chairman of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, 1921–24), an early ‘architect’ of Canberra in every sense of the word, ‘If we can all be imbued with the spirit ... the future capital city will be worthy not only of Australia, but will be an example to the world’.
I look forward to making my contribution to this ideal.
|Last Updated on Friday, 23 October 2009 10:53|