The GCC welcomes the report of the Inquiry into Draft Variation 364 undertaken by the ACT Assembly Standing Committee on Planning, and strongly recommends the ACT Government adopt all of the Committee’s recommendations as a matter of urgency. It should be noted that the members of the Committee represent all three political parties in the ACT Assembly – we thank them for their work and report.
The report acknowledges the concerns that have been raised by the GCC as part of our Call to Suspend Land Sales campaign, and its recommendations are broadly inline with the actions proposed in our petition, our requests to the Minister for Planning (Example 1, Example 2), and the motions proposed by Suzanne Orr and Andrew Braddock passed by the ACT Assembly.
The current planning and development settings and processes are not facilitating the development of a Town Centre with all the employment, retail, community, and entertainment services Gungahlin residents expect of a town centre. To improve the outcomes of any further land sales within the Town Centre, it is imperative that the ACT Government action the recommendations of the Inquiry urgently, as further land releases are expected in the ACT budget to be announced on 6 October 2021.
The GCC notes in particular the following comments of the Committee (our emphasis):
The committee is of the opinion that the Draft Variation is not fully formed and that the technical documents don’t serve to realise the objectives of the town centre plans. The committee also questions how the DV will shape the town centre and interact with the indicative land releases to lead to the stated outcomes. [4.10]
The Committee is concerned by the methodology used to determine the demand for commercial land within the town centre and the subsequent decrease in land reserved for commercial use. Most concerning is that a commercial needs assessment was not undertaken to inform the decision that demand had in fact decreased. … [5.13]
It was clear from all evidence before the Committee that mixed use development and the planning settings are very broad and not necessarily achieving the outcomes the Government, community or developers are wanting. The testimony highlighted the obstacles to achieving a mixed use precinct when developers only have responsibility for one single block and how a precinct scale development has more potential to achieve the outcomes sought. [5.26]
To inform the Territory Plan planning regulations a thorough investigation be completed by the ACT Government that:
identifies retail, community and commercial activity that can prosper in the town centre including activities that can anchor further growth;
identifies options for the ACT Government to support potential commercial activity through appropriate land provision and complementary policy settings; and
the findings of the investigation be used to inform the sale and development requirements of future land releases in the town centre.
The Committee recommends the ACT Government remove criterion 43 and the new R44 from DV364 in order to reserve priority commercial space.
In order to realise the objectives of the planning provisions, the ACT Government amend the indicative land release program so that the unsold blocks in Gungahlin East precinct:
be sold as a precinct rather than as individual blocks;
have contractual and lease requirements applied to the sale to deliver a precinct that includes retail, business, and community facility developments;
apply a maximum number of residential dwellings allowable so that residential dwellings are not the primary or majority use;
apply a minimum square metre requirement for commercial development; and
be designed in consultation with the community.
If the remaining blocks in the Gungahlin East Precinct are sold as individual blocks, the Committee recommends the ACT Government maintain a commercial zoning for these blocks and apply a maximum number of residential dwellings and a minimum square metre requirement for commercial development permitted for each block to ensure that residential dwellings are not the primary or majority use.
The ACT Government apply the provision for an additional two storeys of building height to all blocks with height limit provisions in the town centre.
The Committee recommends active travel and vehicle and parking arrangements are reconsidered following the completion of the traffic and transport assessments being undertaken by Transport Canberra and City Services.
The Committee recommends active frontage placements are reconsidered with priority to having active frontages in areas identified as pedestrian throughfares.
The Committee recommends the study area for the Gungahlin Town Centre Draft Variation be extended to incorporate Yerrabi Pond recreational and commercial area and the key connections of Gungahlin Place north of Anthony Rolfe Ave and Nellie Hamilton Ave as well as Camtamessa Avenue.
Since 1996 the Gungahlin Community Council has issued a periodic newsletter/magazine. In the early days it was one of the few ways of promoting local events and activities. In recent times Social Media has taken over that role and Gunsmoke has become a record of local issues.
Mixe-use developments in the Gungahlin Town Centre – mostly spaces For Lease
On 7 July 2021, the GCC wrote to the Minister for Planning, Mick Gentleman, citing the approval of “The Establishment” development as an example of the poor outcomes that the planning system is deliverying in the Gungahlin Town Centre:
Draft Variation 364 has utterly failed to make any impact, despite being initiated by the community in 2016. It is obvious that the Planning System Reform is going to be equally ineffective in the relevant timeframe.
This is further evidence that:
– the ACT government needs to acknowledge that the planning system has failed to enable the development of a viable Gungahlin Town Centre, and
– specific and immediate action needs to be taken to adopt a different approach for the Gungahlin Town Centre that will have immediate and positive impact.
We again ask that you provide a specific response to these two issues.
The GCC received a response to this email on 14 September 2021, that clearly indicated the Minister believed everything that could be done had been done, and no further action was required – he has given up on Gungahlin. The text of the letter is included below.
blames the lack of any susbtantial commercial employment in the town centre on the Federal government for not moving a government agency there (beyond the ACT govermnet staff in Winyu House)
ignores the obvious requirement to create incentives/obligations to encourage the establishment of employment in the town centres, since this is what happened in the other Canberra town centres
suggests “the ACT Government’s thinking” rather than its actions will create a thriving town centre, despite the clear evidence that mixed-use in the town centre in its current form HAS NOT AND IS NOT WORKING
This is an utterly underwhelming response. If you agree, please leave a comment and/or share your views with one or more ofthe Yerrabi Memmbers of the Legislative Assembly (MLA):
Mixed-Use Developments In the Gungahlin Town Centre – Mostly Vacant Leases
Text of Minister’s Response:
Dear Me Elford
Thank you for your email of 7 July 2021 on behalf of the Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) regarding concerns for the viability of the Gungahlin town centre and the outcome of the development application (DA 201732666) relating to ‘the Establishment’.
As you are aware, the independent nature of the planning and land authority (the authority) means that politicians, including Ministers, are unable to interfere in decisions of the authority.
I have been in strong agreement with you for a long time about the need for more commercial development in Gungahlin Town Centre. I have written to you in the past about the ACT Government’s actions in providing office workers to Gungahlin Town Centre and also our shared disappointment that there is no appetite from the Federal Liberal Government to locate a large Government Department in the Gungahlin Town Centre.
From a planning perspective, the ACT Government has done all that it can to enable commercial development in the Gungahlin Town Centre. The ACT Government also wants to see more commercial activity and it’s clear that continuing to do what we have always done is unlikely to get this outcome. The Property Council of Australia reinforced this in their contribution to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services hearings into Draft Variation 364. Planning levers can only go so far, and without the interest from a significant Federal Government Department, it will be difficult to drive commercial activity in the Gungahlin Town Centre.
The changes proposed in Draft Variation 364 attempt to drive commercial activity through demand provided by residents in the Gungahlin Town Centre. The ACT Government’s thinking is that the Gungahlin Town Centre can be a genuine mixed-use area, which has a thriving commercial life throughout the daytime, into the evening, and also on weekends. I appreciate that Gungahlin Community Council does not agree with this approach; however, simply keeping the land reserved for commercial activity has not successfully led to large-scale commercial investment in the Gungahlin Town Centre to date and the ACT Government is actively working to find solutions. The ACT Government is not able to force people to open a business or dictate locations to people wanting to open a business.
The ACT Government needs to find 100,000 homes for Canberrans over the next 25 years as our population continues to grow. Canberrans are also ageing, and living in smaller households, so I am mindful that these homes must be suitable for older people and close to shops, services, community facilities, and public transport. This is not confined to Gungahlin – all town centres are seeing greater residential development as we build a city that is compact and efficient. Building ‘up’ rather than ‘out’ protects our bush landscape including Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve. I know that Gungahlin residents enjoy having such great access to nature reserves, and I’m proud that we have been able to continue to expand our parks and reserves in Gungahlin.
The ACT Government already has substantial work underway to make thoughtful planning decisions in Gungahlin in addition to the Planning System Review and Reform Project. The Community and Recreational Facilities Analysis, which was commenced due to strong advocacy from the Gungahlin Community Council, will provide valuable information about what community facilities are wanted and needed by the Gungahlin community. The investigation into mixed-use zoning will assist Gungahlin Town Centre to be a place where people will want to not just live and work, but also visit for community, shopping, and recreation. I am aware that you are after immediate action in the Gungahlin Town Centre but I am of the view that a considered approach will deliver the best outcomes for Gungahlin and the broader ACT community.
I look forward to continuing to work with you on making Gungahlin Town Centre a thriving hub of commercial and community activity.
Gungahlin Smoke Signals is for the Gungahlin community and continues to evolve. It started in 1995 with Roma Hoskins as the first editor. Roma produced 100 editions until early 2007. The first issues were one double-sided A4 page that became two double-sided pages. By edition 100, it was 20 pages and a distribution of 8000 delivered by Auspost to every household in Gungahlin. Advertising covered the cost of printing and distribution until Auspost increased its charges. At the same time, social media took over the newsletter role, and advertising dollars went to Google and Facebook.
Since edition 100, there has been another 50, along with a substantial change in the purpose and format. Gungahlin Smoke Signals is now an occasional magazine that records issues and developments in Gungahlin. It is no longer a newsletter or a way for businesses and community organisations to advertise.
The magazine needs your help. It needs ideas on its role. It needs writers, editors, and the community to assist with distribution. It needs to know what articles you find interesting.
If anyone has some of the early editions, please let us know, and we will arrange for them to be digitised.
The Environment and Planning Forum (EPF) “provides strategic comment on planning and development policy to the ACT Government and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate” (EPSDD). The Minister for Planning attended the meeting on 28 June, 2021 and asked for questions to be provided ahead of the meeting. The GCC was encouraged to raise our concerns as detailed in the Call to Suspend Land Sales in this forum.
The questions the GCC provided, and the written responses received are included below. Please note that the GCC would not normlly raise matters specific to a district in the EPF (which is an ACT-wide forum), but was explicitly asked to do so. These questions are extracted from this attachment to the EPF meeting minutes.
The responses from the Minister feel well short of acknowledging there is any problem, or articulating any actions to address the issues.
The Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) believes that Draft Variation 364 (DV364) should be abandoned. It includes changes to the Gungahlin town centre precinct code that are strongly opposed by most Gungahlin residents that will adversely impact the viability of the town centre and the Gungahlin district. The changes to building height, although welcomed, are mute as most blocks of concern to the community already have developments approved that exceed the proposed height limits.
The Refresh experience further undermined the already low level of trust that Gungahlin residents have with the planning system and processes. The Refresh took too long, the feedback from the community was selectively picked at, feedback was ignored, and the final conclusions and proposed actions were at odds with what the community had expressed. Moreover, the late introduction of new proposals (reducing the amount of commercial space, more mixed-use, new mechanisms for handling community space, etc.) which were not exposed to the community for discussion, came as a complete shock and appear not to be evidence based.
Questions Tabled in EPF
Two motions have been passed by the ACT assembly, and the ACT Assembly will receive a petition signed by over 650 residents next week, regarding the development of the Gungahlin Town Centre. This is strong evidence that the current planning processes are failing to deliver a viable town centre for Gungahlin. You have committed to respond to Suzanne Orr MLA’s motion (passed on 10 February 2021) by the last sitting day in 2021 (2 December). Andrew Braddock MLA’s motion (passed on 3 June 2021) calls for a response by October 2021.
What specific actions is the ACT government taking to inform and develop a response to the call to “support the further development of the Gungahlin region and town centre, ensuring that there are additional employment opportunities in Gungahlin” ? How will the Gungahlin community be engaged in the process of developing a response ?
The two motions, now resolutions of the Assembly, are being considered. Responses to the Assembly resolutions will be provided by the stated timelines.
There has been ongoing planning for Gungahlin and it continues to be updated to address changes in market, global impacts and ongoing changes in best practice and communities (including planning for the future Gungahlin community). Through various forms of consultation and engagement the Gungahlin community has and continues to provide input and feedback on planning and development in Gungahlin.
It is not only planning that is responsible for the viability of centres – noting it is considered that the planning has provided strong foundations for a liveable and viable Gungahlin town centre. There has been considerable investment in Gungahlin as the town centre and district grows and changes.
Draft Variation to the Territory Plan 364 (DV364) incorporates the recommendations of the Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh into the Territory Plan to provide guidance on the desired built form and character of the centre as it develops. An inquiry into DV364 is being held by the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services. The Government will in due course respond to the Standing Committee inquiry.
Many of the planning (poor development), transport (traffic congestion/parking), and lack of facilities (community, sport, recreation) issues in Gungahlin are the result of disconnected incremental investments and projects without a clear and enforced overall strategy.
Will the ACT Government commit, as a matter of urgency, to establishing a cross-directorate place-based approach to completing Gungahlin with all the services residents would expect of a Canberra district? This approach would require active participation from (at least) EPSDD, TCCS, CMTEDD, CSD, SLA, and JCSD, with occasional input/involvement from Education and Health.
The Government’s approach to planning is an integrated approach which includes collaboration across Government agencies and Directorates. At both the strategic level and the statutory level there is ongoing sharing of information and input. The district planning work being undertaken is an example of how at a spatial scale, the government is taking an integrated approach to strategic planning.
What processes (policies, initiatives, incentives, metrics) does the ACT government have in place to encourage the equitable distribution of sustainable economic development, facilities and services across all of Canberra’s districts?
In terms of policies, a clear hierarchy of centres applies in Canberra and this influences the spatial structure and distribution of activity throughout the city. The centres distributed across Canberra include: the city centre, four district town centres, 19 group centres and 93 local centres. This hierarchy is recognised in the ACT Planning Strategy, the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan. Beneath this, the Territory Plan provides a system of zoning that is implemented in all centres across all districts to provide for and support economic development, facilities and services to be located at accessible locations. While planning can facilitate and respond to change it is not solely responsible for development and activities that occur throughout the districts. Market forces and industry play a role eg, locational decisions of the private sector to take up the opportunities presented under the land use zoning for centres and in districts. Employment areas and activity areas might also occur in other areas and provide further differentiation of services and competition of economic development opportunities.
The government plans for a range of uses and facilities based on population projections, comparative analysis, engagement, monitoring of changes over time (locally and in other jurisdictions). As Canberra has grown not every centre is the same or serving the same type of population and the needs, opportunities and challenges change.
The ACT Planning Strategy outlines the Government’s clear vision of planning for a compact, efficient, diverse, resilient and accessible city and outlines a number of actions toward achieving this. Further the Strategy identifies an opportunity to undertake a district planning approach to develop a better understanding of district attributes and needs and proposed planning directions for districts (page 93) including (see action section 1.1.4, page 43): https://www.planning.act.gov.au/act-planning-strategy/strategic-directions/compact-and-efficient-city
The development of the suburb of Kenny was briefly covered in Gungahlin Land Releases 2020-21 but due to the development of the Kenny High School, Gungahlin residents have recently shown renewed interest in what’s happening with Kenny. In response to questions from the GCC at the Environment and Planning Forum, EPSDD have provided this summary.
KENNY – FUTURE URBAN AREA (FUA)
The identified future urban area of Kenny comprises a total area of approximately 170ha.
In May 2020, the Government approved a site of 7.2ha in the western portion of this area for an education precinct, allowing a high school to be planned, designed and constructed to open at the start of the 2023 calendar year.
A development application has been lodged for the high school project
The site servicing and associated works at Well Station Drive are subject to concurrent development approvals.
The 7.2ha site is intended to accommodate the future high school as well as a separate primary school that would open at a later date determined by Government.
The remaining area of the Kenny future urban area (FUA) (once the education precinct is discounted) is about 163ha and is shown on the Kenny Basic Layout plan.
Kenny Basic Layout plan
Under the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment (2013), the Government is required to establish the Kenny Nature Reserve prior to any urban development in the area commencing. This requirement was met through Territory Plan Variation 379, which established the Kenny Nature Reserve. The Reserve bounds Kenny to the south and west, reducing the remaining future developable area of Kenny. This includes the loss of a group centre and some residential development. Despite this, it is expected that around 1,200 to 1,500 dwellings across a range of dwelling types, can still be delivered.
Road access to Kenny will be from Horse Park Drive with two intersections, and Well Station Drive with a further two intersections, aligning with existing intersections adjacent to Harrison.
Kenny, while smaller in comparison to other Gungahlin suburbs, will accommodate residential, commercial (local centre), limited community facilities and public open space.
Prior to any land releases in Kenny, all statutory planning process and required technical studies will need to be completed.
The conclusion of the required statutory process may result in a Territory Plan variation and possibly an amendment to the National Capital Plan. This would contemplate the requirement for the Territory Plan and the National Capital Plan to reflect the outcomes of the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment (2013).
The first release of land in Kenny was forecast to occur in 2020-21 with subsequent releases in the following years.
The 2021-22 to 2025-26 Indicative Land Release Program is currently before Government for consideration prior to publication with the 2021-22 ACT Budget.
For reference, this is the existing Territory Plan for the suburb of Kenny:
The next public meeting of the Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) will be held on Wednesday 11 August 2021 starting at 6:30pm. We will be running both a face to face meeting at the Gungahlin Club 51 Hinder St, Gungahlin and a Zoom session. As usual the meeting will be live streamed on Facebook via the GCC Facebook page.
If you wish to attend using Zoom please REGISTER HERE and you will be emailed the link needed to join the Zoom meeting.
CORE development recently acquired two blocks on the eastern side of the Gungahlin Town Centre at the corner of Camilleri Way and Manning Clark Crescent. This site is zoned for mixed-use (CZ5) and the conditions of sale requires 331 dwellings to be constructed, of which 57 must be affordable and 8 are allocated to public housing.
Sites sold recently in East Gungahlin – two sites purchased by CORE Developments highlighted in green (two sites purchased by the Canberra Business and Technology College highlighted in blue)