Current Issues

The GNCA’s letter to the Chief Minister on the release of correspondence concerning the rejection of the proposal of Manuka Oval can be read here.

The GNCA’s letter to the ACT Government on the Urban Sounds Discussion Paper can be read here.

27 May 2016

The ACT Government should heed the call of inner south residents and reject the GWS/Grocon revised unsolicited bid to develop the Manuka Oval precinct, according to the Inner South Canberra Community Council (ISCCC).

A delegation from the ISCCC is to meet today with the Chief Minister, Mr Andrew Barr MLA, to present the community’s views on the revised bid. The delegation comprises:

–        Gary Kent, Chair, Inner South Canberra Community Council

–        Rebecca Scouller, President, Kingston and Barton Residents Association

–        John Edquist, President, Griffith Narrabundah Community Association

Mr Kent said that a packed public meeting of 400 people on 28 April had voted unanimously to ask the Government to reject the initial bid, and instead commence a master planning process for the Manuka Oval precinct and surrounding areas.

“Contrary to the Government’s claims, there has not been a proper master planning process for the precinct. So far no proper studies and consultation have taken place with regard to crucial urban planning issues of population density, transport, parking, green space and the valued and sensitive heritage nature of the Manuka Circle Park, Telopea Park and Telopea Park School.

“The Government must initiate a comprehensive planning process for this valued part of Canberra in full partnership with the community and relevant stakeholders. The fact that the proponents have scaled down their original bid in no way compensates for the fact that it has been developed in the absence of a master plan – in fact, in the eyes of the community, this doomed the proposal from the beginning”, Mr Kent said.

Ms Scouller said that she would ask Mr Barr to accept the call by the public meeting to review the current arrangements for all sporting events at Manuka Oval, including for parking, transport and access. “Sporting events at the oval are increasingly impacting on local families in terms of residential amenity and quality of life and a review of current arrangements, including options for developing a new ground elsewhere, such as Phillip, was urgently required”, she said.

Mr Edquist said that the Government has a golden opportunity in the next two years to develop a Master Plan before the Test Match in 2018/19. “It should seize the moment and do a proper job” he said.

“The Government should also address rising public concern about the transparency with which development proposals are considered by the ACT Government. In addition, community input should be sought as soon as possible and there should be a stop to the cynical sacrifice of valued public open space to solve short term budgetary issues”, he said.

The motions passed by the public meeting are shown below.

Contact:          Gary Kent 0419 854 211; Rebecca Scouller 0419 987 952; John Edquist 0402 301 036

Motions passed by public meeting hosted by ISCCC on 28 April 2016


1.         Ensure that any proposal restricts development to sporting facilities and other improvement of Manuka Oval, and not include shops, residential or other development.

2.         Reject the GWS/Grocon unsolicited proposal to redevelop the Manuka Oval precinct.

3.         Initiate a comprehensive planning process for the Manuka Oval precinct and surrounding areas, in full partnership with the community and relevant stakeholders. It would take into account adjacent heritage and precinct plans, and would seek to agree on:

(a) Objectives for any future development;

(b) Strategies for achieving those objectives; and

(c) Mechanisms for continuing community involvement.

4.         Review the current arrangements for any events at Manuka Oval, including for parking, transport and access.

5.         Revise the guidelines for unsolicited proposals with a view to strengthening transparency and to ensure the publication of reasons for decisions.

In addition to these motions about the Manuka Oval precinct, the continuing concern for the future of MOCCA was highlighted, which prompted another motion as follows:

6.         Ensure that MOCCA, a longstanding community based child care centre, is taken care of financially. [This motion was moved in the context of the Government’s proposal to move MOCCA from its current site in Manuka and MOCCA’s disinclination to be forced into debt as a consequence of any such move resulting from redevelopment of its current site.]


3 May 2016

The Wesley Uniting Church Hall is noted for hosting classical music concerts.  But on Thursday 28 April it was filled by about 400 angry residents.

They were attending the meeting organised by the Inner South Canberra Community Council and its member Associations the GNCA and The Kingston Barton Residents’ Group.  And they were angry, because of the way the government has handled the Greater Western Sydney/Grocon redevelopment proposal.  This involves building a 140,000m2 development including 1,000 new apartments, a 200 room hotel, 10,500 m2 of office and 10,100 m2 retail space, and a licenced club, on less than 2 hectares of land around the Manuka Oval (see the associated paper for further details of the proposal).

The anger was threefold, because:

  • The government has kept the proposal secret for nearly two years;
  • The proposal to construct such a large development on such a small area of land is so unrealistic it should never have been entertained; and
  • The Government has never produced a Master Plan for the whole of the Manuka Precinct which reflects input from the community.

Gary Kent addresses the angry crowd at the overflowing meeting

The meeting was addressed by Gary Rake, Deputy Director General and Chief Operating Officer, Environment and Planning Directorate, and Tony Harris, a former NSW Auditor-General.  Mr Rake outlined the processes the government is using to deal with this un-solicited bid and admitted that the ACT Government had first received the bid in August 2014, earlier than had previously been admitted by the Government (the date of lodgement was initially reported as November 2015, and then changed to November 2014).  Mr Harris described his experiences with un-solicited bids and the risks, both to their own integrity and the prospects of optimal outcomes for the public at large, when public servants find themselves up against determined and experienced commercial negotiators.

The meeting passed motions calling on the government to:

1. Ensure that any proposal restricts development to sporting facilities and other improvement of Manuka oval, and not include shops, residential or other development;

2. Reject the Greater Western Sydney Football Club and Grocon unsolicited proposal to redevelop the Manuka Oval precinct;

3. Initiate a comprehensive planning process for the Manuka Oval precinct and surrounding areas, in full partnership with the community and relevant stakeholders.  It would take into account adjacent heritage and precinct plans, and would seek to agree on:

  • Objectives for any future development;
  • Strategies for achieving those objectives; and
  • Mechanisms for continuing community involvement;

4. Review the current arrangements for any events at Manuka Oval, including for parking, transport, access, and concerts, particularly in respect of parking and road closures;

5. Revise the guidelines for unsolicited proposals with a view to strengthening transparency and to ensure the publication of reasons for decisions; and

6. Ensure that MOCCA, a longstanding community-based childcare centre in Manuka, is taken care of financially in any redevelopment of its current site.


The next step will be to persuade the government to implement these resolutions.

11 April 2016


You are encouraged to attend a meeting at the Wesley Uniting Church Hall, 20-22 National Circuit, Forrest at 7pm on Thursday 28 April 2016.  It is being organised by the Inner South Canberra Community Council, together with its constituent associations, like the GNCA, and will consider the Manuka Green proposal generated by Grocon and the Great Western Sydney Giants.

Put this event in your diary and aim to be there.  The Manuka Green proposal is a major pitch to intensify further the Kingston, Griffith and Barton suburbs and we need a good turnout to show that the community is concerned and also to obtain information as to how the proposal can be evaluated.

One of the speakers will be Gary Rake, from the ACT Government.  He has been asked to outline the process for dealing with unsolicited bids and this one in particular; including identifying the key decision points and issues such as heritage, traffic/parking and open space.

What we know now

So far all we know is that the proposal includes:

  • 4750 new seats and a roof covering 80 percent of all seating at the oval;
  • A running track from Manuka Oval around or through Telopea Park to the Kingston Foreshore and a landscape upgrade around the oval;
  • A 160 bed hotel/hospitality centre (based on the block where the old services club was) together with commercial space retail space and a licensed club;
  • 1000 apartments in two areas (a) between the old services club and the arts centre along Manuka Circle and (b) between the Manuka Circle/Canberra Avenue intersection and the swimming pool; and
  • Up to 450 additional parking spaces and

The proponents have stated that the Heritage areas associated with the Manuka Oval, the Caretaker’s cottage and the Manuka Swimming Pool and gardens will be preserved.

It is difficult to see how a development incorporating all these facilities can be successfully accommodated on the site to say nothing of the effect on the traffic and parking.  Furthermore, we do not know what the financial arrangements will be or the time-frame involved if the proposal goes ahead.

If you are concerned and likely to be affected – come to the meeting!


David Denham




The GNCA’s submission on DV346 relating to Residential Solar Access is here


4 April 2016

With the construction of the Amaya apartments in Austin St Griffith, there have been some reconstructions in the street of water drainage for improved drainage of water off the road.

This is one good result which has led to other drainage problems:

The water channels coming from under the road into the drainage system around Griffith Park have been poorly designed so that water sits in large stagnant pool rather than flowing on.



GNCA reported this to TAMS and received the following response


To get a water truck around to suck up the stagnant water ASAP; this is a temporary fix and that to achieve a permanent solution there will need to be a detailed costing to evaluate the work required.

There should be funds to do this in this financial year but we will have to wait until the next financial year before the work can be done.

Anyway, they would like the GNCA to let them know when there is a problem with stagnant water

One of our members walks quite regularly in the area and reported:

“I have just done one of my walks around the Amaya, particularly to look at the storm water channels and took my camera.

More than a ‘water truck’ and even before any ‘evaluation’, what is needed is some good old fashioned urban maintenance, namely some good old fashioned storm water channel maintenance of the type that uses hard yakka and a bobcat!

The main channel running down from Red Hill and the sub channel running alongside the oval have had no maintenance for some years. Everywhere there is a build up of rubbish, broken branches, weed growth.

I suggest we go back to our TAMS contact and propose that some timely clearance and maintenance be done, then the effects can be monitored and evaluated”.

GNCA reported this and consequently a bobcat removed large branches from the main storm water channel and there was a flurry of surveyors at work taking photos for the engineers.

GNCA wishes to express its thanks to TAMS for taking speedy remedial action on the matter of the drain, and looks forward to a more permanent solution in the next financial year.


23 March 2016

Important changes to the ACT solar access provisions are now open for comment.

Under DV346 Canberra homes owners could have their solar access seriously compromised if the block on their northern aspect is ever redeveloped, so no home owner could ever be sure that their current solar access would be permanent.

The Government is proposing to weaken rules that extended protection of the solar access of neighbours (ie preventing a development next door from depriving a resident of access to sunlight) and facilitated and encouraged the introduction of passive solar design features in new buildings and redevelopments.

Draft Variation (DV) 346, now being considered, allows a larger building envelope and will increase the amount of shadow a house can cast on its southern neighbour.  Despite the impact on the southern neighbour the proposal claims ‘it achieves better solar access than prior to Variation 306”.

There may be some benefits for greenfield sites and for so called “compact blocks” (250m2 or less) where the solar rules have led to higher costs, some perverse design outcomes (wedding cake houses) and compromised solar access (associated with digging in).  The introduction of entire subdivisions of such excessively small blocks has exacerbated this.  Any solution should be restricted in applicability to small blocks.

The variation (DV346) now being considered delivers reduced not better solar access for established homes on moderate (so called “midsize blocks between 250m2 and 500m2) and large blocks (greater than 500m2).

The current proposal gives the northern neighbour’s new development privileged access to sun while permitting more shadow on the established southern neighbour’s home.  Giving better solar access to new homes or simplification of solar rules is not a compelling argument to take away significant sun from established homes.

The southern neighbour’s access to sun through north facing glass could be effectively removed or reduced without redress.  A southern neighbour’s house, which currently has a 6+ star energy rating and meets the current BCA, could find that rating effectively reduced by a neighbour’s overshadowing following a redevelopment.  For established homes, DV346 could deliver a worse solar outcome than before the 2013 solar rules came into effect.

Apart from undesirable impacts on the amenity of the overshadowed house, this will act as a major disincentive to invest in improvements which require solar access whether these be solar hot water and photovoltaics, or passive solar features like winter heating through sun exposed concrete floors.

The design and cost issues which DV346 addresses relate to a modest number of suburbs and sites.  It is not appropriate for all residents of Canberra to suffer disadvantage as a consequence of a (possibly short sighted) policy decision to create such small and difficult blocks.

An animation accessible here provides a stark summary of the likely outcome.

The case for removing the benefits of the V306 solar access reforms from everybody has not been made.  Any change should be restricted to small blocks, whether existing or green fields.

In addition setback concessions allowing building closer to the fenceline introduced with V306 in 2013 (as a quid pro quo for the improved solar access changes) remain under the current proposed variation and will permit both larger, more intrusive buildings (in the rear zone) and hence more shadow on neighbours’ properties.  These concessions should be wound back if any change to the V306 rules goes ahead as the current setbacks permitting bulkier buildings were a trade off or compensation for the improvement in solar access..

At the same time as any changes to the solar access rules, the Planning and Development Regulations should be amended to reduce building tolerances to a maximum of 50 mm projection beyond the solar envelope, as the current tolerances allow additional compromise of the solar access of southern neighbours.  The current regulations, relaxed relatively recently, allow a projection of up to 340mm (or more than a foot) for building measurement errors.  In an age of ever increasing precision this is ridiculous.  The extraordinary laxity of the currently required accuracy in building dimensions means all established Canberra home owners could have their solar access compromised unnecessarily.

In summary

  • The current solar access rules are not a significant problem for medium and large blocks. Special provisions should only be introduced for compact blocks whether existing or green field so that the minimum number of residents have their  solar access impacted by this change.
  • At the same time as any changes to the solar envelope, the setback variations for side and rear boundaries should return to the pre V306 settings and building tolerances should be reduced to 50mm.

If solar access is important to you, too, please take the time to make a submission. The deadline for comments is 7 April 2016.  Submissions should be:

emailed to;

or mailed to   Territory Plan Section

Environment and Planning Directorate

GPO Box 158

Canberra  ACT 2601

or hand delivered to

Access Canberra

Environment, Planning and Land Shopfront

Ground Floor South

Dame Pattie Menzies House

16 Challis Street


Copies of the Draft Variation; and background papers relating to the Draft Variation are available for inspection online at until 7 April 2016.  Environment and Planning Directorate (EPD) also asks that comments make reference to the Draft Variation and also provide your name and contact details to assist in the assessment of the comments provided and to enable EPD to contact you in relation to your comments, if required.


19 March 2016

Shown below is a letter sent to the Chief Minister of the ACT on 9 March 2016:


Mr Andrew Barr

Chief Minister

GPO Box 1020


Dear Mr Barr

Manuka Oval: ACT Government approach to Grocon proposal

Following the recent disclosure of an unsolicited proposal for the development of Manuka Oval and its surrounding precinct, the Inner South Canberra Community Council (ISCCC), the Kingston and Barton Residents Group (KBRG), and the Griffith Narrabundah Community Association (GNCA) welcome your comments on talkback on ABC 666 on 25 February saying you would meet with interested stakeholders in relation to this proposal.

Consequently, we are writing now to request a meeting with you or a Government official who can speak on your behalf.

Many questions are being raised about the Grocon proposal, including:

  • How and when will the Government assess the proposal?
  • How will the Government ensure that the bid represents value for money?
  • What form will the consultative process take?

The background to these questions is provided in the Attachment.

We would be pleased to discuss with you these and other issues associated with the proposal as soon as practicable.


Yours sincerely




Gary Kent                                  Rebecca Scouller                                  John Edquist

Chair ISCCC                              President KBRG                                   President GNCA


9 March 2016



Manuka Oval: ACT Government approach to Grocon proposal

  1. 1.     How and when will the Government assess the proposal?

For several years our community groups have sought information on the 2009 Draft Master Plan and asked for meetings with you, several MLAs and ACT Government officials.  These requests have been uniformly unsuccessful.  We note however that the Manuka Green website states the proposal was developed in response to the Manuka Oval Master Plan.  You can understand that this lack of access to the Master Plan has been frustrating since even basic information such as the light and noise management plans were only made available to the public in response to FOI requests.

Community groups in the inner south have been disappointed at their lack of access to you, as both their local member and Chief Minister, to discuss their ideas and concerns in relation to Manuka Oval and the surrounding precinct.  This lack of access and consultation was particularity evident during the recent land swap proposal that is directly linked to the Manuka Oval redevelopment.

The Grocon proposal has generated significantly more community interest in the fate of the precinct, and we therefore seek your assurance that best practice consultation with key stakeholder groups is undertaken, particularly those with longstanding presence near the oval.  We would expect that these consultations would include a program of formal meetings with you, as both our local member and Chief Minister.

We note your statement that ‘There is a robust process to assess such bids and there will be ample opportunity for the community to have their say’ and we would appreciate your early advice on the timing and form and degree of transparency of this assessment process.

  1. 2.     How will the Government ensure that the bid represents value for money?

We consulted the former NSW Auditor General, who is perhaps the most experienced and respected national commentator on PPPs and unsolicited proposals to Government in Australia, and he has provided the following advice.

His view is that each of the six ACT Government preferred commercial tender models described in the Government’s publication Guidelines for Unsolicited Proposals, March 2015, has its problems.

  • the Swiss Challenge, for example, allows the original proponent to appropriate the work of what would otherwise be the preferred proponent without any investment or commensurate effort.
  • the Bid Premium model is weakened by the absence of any sound basis for estimating the efficient bid price.
  • Compensating a proponent for an unsolicited bid, the Developer Fee model, requires an accurate, auditable trail of the developer’s costs.
  • the Open Book approach allows the original proponent to set the rules by which all proposals would be assessed.
  • using the Development Manager approach would be unlikely to attract interest from proponents not versed, or interested, in managing other developers.
  • adopting the Negotiation Exclusivity option places far too much value on the ability of Governments to negotiate successfully when faced by proponents who are rewarded and penalised on the basis of their negotiating skills.

In short, none of these approaches is able to provide the benefits obtained under open tenders where contestability and actual competition will deliver superior results.  If the Government wanted improvements to Manuka Oval’s seating and covering, the only sure way to determine value for money is to put the matters to tender.  Such improvements are not intrinsic to the other features in Grocon’s proposal and should be stripped from the advanced development proposal(s).

If the Government wished to determine the value of land it would sell for an approved purpose, a tender process is the best option to maximise price, given that all tenderers would face the same planning restraints and opportunities.  If the Government wished to promote developments around the oval, not itself a unique idea, that need not meet existing planning requirements, the Government could allow a competitive tender.  This would elicit the best proposal (that is the proposal that meets the Government’s planning requirements specified for the site in advance) and the best price for the land.  The Government could adopt an open transparent process for trading-off price considerations for other benefits allowed by the best proposal.  This process should involve all of the key representative bodies concerned with the immediate vicinity.

Our view is that this advice has considerable substance.

  1. 3.     What form will the consultative process take?

David Dawes recently stated that “community consultation is an evolving art” and that “urban renewal is a partnership with the community”.  He also noted that community consultation was of crucial importance to major developments in Canberra.[1]

We feel that there are several models that can be engaged for this proposal.  The Yarralumla Brickworks Advisory Group may provide a suitable model for community consultation once the fundamental issues of governance and potential conflict of interest in relation to the unsolicited bid have been satisfactorily resolved and public concerns about the process allayed.  Alternatively, the ACT Government could immediately commence with early community engagement.

However, whatever consultation path the Government chose to pursue would need to be a truly independent community consultation, paid for by either the Government or shared with the proponent.  One approach could be an expert panel of three people, none of whom have any declarable interest in the development or the decision.  At least one expert should have a background in running community/public consultations or inquiries.


[1] David Dawes: Urban Renewal – A partnership with the community. Albert Hall, 16 February 2016.


Many people will be aware that during the Assembly debate on Tuesday 18 November the Chief Minister Andrew Barr questioned the value of community councils.  He is reported to have stated that community councils are not representative because family people are not easily able to attend meetings during dinner time or during putting-children-to-bed time.  Because they are not elected by the community at large, the Legislative Assembly is far more representative than Community Councils will ever be.

Mr Barr stated that “We (ie the Barr Government) will push ahead with a variety of other consultation mechanisms, including with people who are not represented in these forums.  This government will engage in a much broader range of consultation.  Time To Talk has much stronger engagement with people under 50 and under 30.”

In response to these comments, Radio 2CC 1206 is now conducting a survey on their website homepage:

We encourage all interested parties to take advantage of this opportunity to provide feedback.

The GNCA executive believes that the loss of community councils would effectively eliminate any organised presentation of residents’ views to the government.  If the government were to rely exclusively on internet surveys to gauge community thinking, it would disadvantage those residents who do not regularly obtain their information by accessing government websites.  An over reliance on surveys can mean that the Government only hears what it wants to hear, or what its pollsters think it wants to hear.  The wording of surveys can be written so as to limit responses – this is a real problem for complex issues that require consideration from several different perspectives and may not have simple solutions.  Gauging the public’s view by survey can also preclude the advocacy of alternative policies and solutions.

I urge you all to participate in the 2CC poll at as soon as possible.  We do not know when it will close.


John Edquist