Canberra is famously laid out as a collection of “satellite towns”. A primary goal of this distributed-district design was to minimise commuting for work and to provide most of the education, health, community, sporting, recreation, retail, and entertainment services and facilities for the district’s residents within the district concentrated in a district’s town centre. Planning controls (enforced by the NCDC) drove the development of commercial office space occupied by Federal government agencies in all the town centres developed before Gungahlin, but these planning controls were removed in the transition to ACT self-government and not replaced with any form of substantive or concrete incentives, investments, or other mechanisms to attract large-scale employment (or employment alternatives) to the Gungahlin town centre (more here).

If it’s not going to a be a Federal department providing employment, perhaps a future northside hospital, vertical aged-care facilities, unique retail/entertainment/tourism offerings, or some form of working hub or collaborative environment will bring people to the town centre ? More importantly, what work is being done to explore what options might be possible ?

On 10 June 2021 the GCC wrote to the ACT Chief Minister in response to a media report indicating that the ACT government was actively pursuing a city deal with the Federal government and in particularly that “the territory would also push for more Commonwealth employment in the Gungahlin town centre”.

The GCC wrote:

The Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) welcomes and strongly supports this initiative and encourages the ACT government to explore options beyond simply a “push” to expand the employment base in the Gungahlin Town Centre. The GCC believes explicit and concrete incentives need to be extended to Federal agencies to establish themselves in the town centre such as “peppercorn land rental” (eg. as provided to the University of NSW for the former CIT Reid site), and/or innovative approaches to new workspaces, such as the Smart Work Hub proposed in the lead up to the 2016 Election

The Chief Minister provided a response earlier this week which (in part) reads:

I have recently provided a copy of the attached document, Gungahlin Town Centre – A Prospectus for APS [Australian Public Service] Investment, to the Minister for the Public Service, the Hon Ben Morton MP, for his consideration. I have also provided a copy of the document to the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, and all ACT Government Ministers, for information.
The Prospectus promotes the Gungahlin Town Centre as an attractive investment proposition for the APS. The Prospectus also reiterates the ACT Government’s willingness and commitment to work with the Federal Government on the potential opportunities available in the Gungahlin Town Centre.


The Prospectus highlights the transport, land availability, existing APS workforce, regional and skills and innovation benefits of Gungahlin and the Gungahlin Town Centre. It includes some interesting statistics:

  • Gungahlin population is 85,000, forecast to grow to 100,000
  • Gungahlin represents 19.6% of Canberra’s population but only 6.3% of employment opportunties
  • There are approximately 10,000 APS already living in Gungahlin (ACT Treasury estimate)
  • Cost of office space in Canberra CBD is ~$500/m2 compared to ~$400/m2 in Gungahlin (Knight Frank)
  • Between 2021-2026 there will be 4,000 new dwellings in Gungahlin
  • The Capital Region is home to 750,000 people – 63% of the working population in Queanbeyan-Palerang work in the ACT, and 50% of the Yass Valley
  • Gungahlin is the closest ACT location to NSW towns including Murrumbateman, Yass and Goulburn

… Suggests …

“The establishment of a flexible APS workplace hub in Gungahlin would present a cost-effective means of accommodating a local workforce. This would deliver financial benefits for the APS, benefit Gungahlin residents, and help to attract and retain talent in the Gungahlin region – potentially leading to the Commonwealth strengthening its reputation as an ‘employer of choice’.”

… And concludes with a committment from the ACT government to “making ongoing investments in Gungahlin to develop a thriving local community”.

What do you think ?

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