Page 4851 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (4.26): The government does not support this bill. It is ill-conceived and in some parts unworkable. As I have announced today, the government has already accepted the recommendations of the expert financial consultancy report, which has called into question both the wisdom of and justification for establishing a development authority for this part of the city centre.

The Canberra central task force which the government established to look at these issues considered the option of a development authority similar to the one proposed by the opposition’s Civic Development Authority Bill but concluded that this approach was not appropriate for Canberra central. Given the size of the territory jurisdiction, current institutional arrangements and the potential market in the foreseeable future for this scale of development, the government agrees with the task force’s approach. The approach proposed by the Liberal Party is to establish another layer of bureaucracy which will have nothing to do—no land to release, no development to proceed with—for at least three to five years.

The key issue here is one of demand—demand for this scale of development and whether our city can absorb it at this time. The independent financial analysis commissioned by the Canberra central task force and prepared by Hill PDA, widely recognised and respected experts in their field, concluded that the development of the City Hill precinct is a 27 to 30-year project and, to use their words, is not viable as a commercial venture at this time. That was not the government’s view—not even the task force’s view—but the view of independent consultants commissioned to assess the financial feasibility of this development project.

The challenge for the Liberal Party is to demonstrate what their analysis shows in relation to demand that would justify an ill-conceived bill such as this. A project exclusively focused on the City Hill precinct, concluded Hill PDA, could not realistically commence until 2010-11 at the earliest, and the cost of establishing a new statutory authority simply cannot be justified. The reality check provided by the Hill PDA report and backed up by the observations of the task force itself meant that another statutory authority, which would be costly in itself to establish, would have little to do, certainly in the first five years. It also fails to recognise all the precondition work that has been and continues to be carried out so that when the market is right a future government can act on implementing the development of City Hill in a well-considered and financially responsible manner.

I welcome in this regard the comments of the Master Builders Association of the ACT, which in a media statement today has indicated that it supports the government’s decision not to establish a statutory authority at this time and supports the argument that establishing another level of bureaucracy would do nothing to improve planning administration in the city. Those are views of a body which is not always aligned with the government, but the Master Builders Association of the ACT have come out today and said that the proposal for a dedicated statutory authority is flawed, and that they, as the peak body representing builders in the ACT, do not support it.

The government has decided to continue with the existing task force until the establishment of a new advisory body as a permanent body, which will be announced

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