Canberra Times: NCA faces roasting over ASIO HQ

Artist's impression of the ASIO building on Constitution Avenue (Source: ASIO)

Tonight, 26 November 2009 the National Capital Authority will hold a public forum (at Parliament House) to provide an opportunity to begin a continuing dialogue about planning in Canberra and ensuring Canberra’s “place” as the national capital.

The Canberra Times is reporting that despite the issuing of a formal order of proceedings, the ASIO building is likely to be the main topic of discussion at the meeting with many angry Campbell residents intenting to demand answers from the NCA about its overall involvement in the project.

The Canberra Times article has been reproduced below:

NCA faces roasting over ASIO HQ

The National Capital Authority will be grilled tonight on why it allowed the controversial ASIO headquarters to go ahead in Parkes, even though the $606million monolith clashes with planning guidelines.
Campbell residents say the NCA was steamrolled by the headquarters’ proponent, the Department of Finance, into approving the project and will ask the NCA when it first knew of the size of the building, and whether it objected.

While the NCA has called tonight’s meeting to explain its role, the ACT Property Council says the agency is so under-resourced it cannot do basic work such as ground maintenance, or fulfil its core function of championing Canberra as the national capital.

Property Council executive director Catherine Carter said Canberra was overlooked when new agency headquarters, such as Infrastructure Australia and the National Broadband Network, were established outside the national capital.

Reviews announced last year were to look into the functions of the NCA and simplifying the territory’s planning system by removing duplications, were stuck in a bureaucratic bottleneck.

”The number one issue is about harmonising the National Capital Plan and ACT Territory Plan,” Ms Carter said.

”The property industry needs a well-resourced agency for information on the sequence of land release and for timely works approval.”

Ms Carter said the NCA was attached to the Attorney-General’s Department which was engaged in pressing issues around the country, while its planning agenda for Canberra in the national interest was rudderless at the Commonwealth level.

An NCA spokesman said 180 people had responded to the invitation to today’s forum, to be held at Parliament House at 6pm.

He said most questions raised were on the ASIO headquarters and proposed new Immigration Bridge over Lake Burley Griffin.

Former acting chairman Professor Don Aitkin revealed in The Canberra Times on Monday he had recently been appointed chairman for two years.

Professor Aitkin, members of the authority’s board and chief executive Gary Rake will respond to questions.

Mr Rake said this was the first public forum of its kind for the agency, which was making a bigger effort to explain its decisions.

Campbell residents, Canberra politicians and architects say ASIO’s five-story building on Constitution Avenue is bigger than intended in the Griffin Legacy, a planning blueprint for the city’s centre for the next 50 years.

Under original architect Walter Burley Griffin’s design the landscape was to dominate, but critics say this building will make architecture dominant. The NCA has dismissed claims the building is inconsistent with the National Capital Plan and impedes views of the lake and significant heritage views of Parliament House.

In its annual report, ASIO notes residents’ complaints and says it will continue confidential briefings with the Public Works Committee.

The Order of Proceeding for the 26 November for the NCA public forum at Parliament House is reproduced below:

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Note: copyright of the material in this clipping resides with Fairfax Media. Usage permitted in accordance with the Australian Copyright Act 1968, Section 42: Fair dealing for purpose of reporting news. Source: The Canberra Times – 26 November 2009.

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