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ACT Planning and Land Authority
Annual Report 2010–11

SBN 978-1-921117-10-7

© Australian Capital Territory, Canberra 2011

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from: Director-General, Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate, ACT Government, GPO Box 1908, Canberra, ACT, 2601

Telephone: (02) 6207 1923
Website: www.actpla.act.gov.au

Design by Papercut for the ACT Government Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Printed on recycled paper

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Transmittal certificate v

Section A Performance and financial management 1

A1 The organisation 2

A2 Overview 5

A3 Highlights 10

A4 Outlook 13

A5 Management discussion and analysis 15

A6 Financial report 21

A7 Statement of performance 104

A8 Strategic indicators 115

A9 Analysis of agency performance 120

A10 Triple bottom line reporting 140

Section B Consultation and scrutiny reporting 141

B1 Community engagement 142

B2 Internal and external scrutiny 152

B3 Legislative Assembly committee inquiries and reports 154

B4 Legislation report 164

Section C Legislative and policy-based reporting 165

C1 Risk management and internal audit 166

C2 Fraud prevention 167

C3 Public interest disclosure 168

C4 Freedom of information 169

C5 Internal accountability 173

C6 HR performance 175

C7 Staffing profile 177

C8 Learning and development 179

C9 Workplace health and safety 180

C10 Workplace relations 182

C11 Strategic bushfire management plan 183

C12 Strategic asset management 184

C13 Capital works 185

C14 Government contracting 187

C15 Community grants/assistance/sponsorship 190

C16 Territory records 191

C17 Human Rights Act 2004 192

C18 Commissioner for the Environment 193

C19 ACT Multicultural Strategy 194

C20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reporting 195

C21 Ecologically sustainable development 196

C22 ACT Women’s Plan 2010–2015 200

C23 Model litigant guidelines 201

C24 ACT Strategic Plan for Positive Ageing 2010–2014 202

Annexed reports 203

COLA annual report 204

Architects Board of the Australian Capital Territory, 2010–11 annual report 209

Glossary 212

Index 213

Compliance index 222

Transmittal certificate

Introductory note:

Following the Hawke review of the ACT Public Service, the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) became part of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate (ESDD) on 17 May 2011. The majority of this report reflects ACTPLA operations to 30 June 2011; however, some sections are reported to 16 May 2011 only, which is noted where relevant.

Section A

Performance and financial management

A1 The organisation


The ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) is an ACT Government statutory agency responsible for planning the future growth of Canberra in partnership with the community.

ACTPLA helps make the Australian Capital Territory a well-designed, sustainable, attractive and safe urban and rural environment. It takes a leading role in responding to current and expected social, economic and ecological change in the built environment in a way that reflects government policies and the community’s needs and aspirations, while considering the need to enhance the ACT’s amenity and maintain its unique planning heritage.

ACTPLA makes independent judgments when it performs its statutory functions. It is responsible to the government for delivering strategic planning initiatives consistent with government policy.


Under the Planning and Development Act 2007 ACTPLA:

  • prepares and administers the Territory Plan

  • continually reviews the Territory Plan and proposes amendments as necessary

  • plans and regulates the development of land

  • advises on planning and land policy, including the broad spatial planning framework for the ACT

  • maintains the digital cadastral database under the Districts Act 2002

  • makes land information available

  • grants, administers, varies and ends leases on behalf of the Executive

  • grants licences over unleased Territory land

  • decides development applications (DAs)

  • regulates the building industry

  • makes controlled activity orders and takes other compliance and enforcement action

  • provides planning services, including services to entities outside the ACT

  • reviews its own decisions

  • provides opportunities for community consultation and participation in planning decisions

  • promotes public education and understanding of the planning process, including providing easily accessible public information on planning and land use.

ACTPLA also participates in and contributes to relevant national administrative bodies.


In fulfilling its functions, ACTPLA delivers professional services, including:

  • planning for the future development and growth of the ACT

  • assessing development proposals and overseeing construction activity

  • maintaining land and geographical information

  • facilitating opportunities for input into shaping Canberra’s built environment.


A vibrant, sustainable city where people choose to live and grow.


Our mission is to promote, facilitate and achieve an enhanced living environment. We do this by:

  • facilitating an inclusive approach to policy development and implementation

  • acting with integrity and fostering open and accountable decision making

  • enhancing community understanding and awareness of planning and land issues through our education and consultation program

  • representing the ACT Government on national bodies that seek to achieve consistent best practice in planning and development

  • fostering productive working partnerships with other government agencies to deliver outcomes to the community

  • contributing to the coordination of infrastructure provision and sequencing of development for newly released land

  • actively participating in and implementing the government’s Affordable Housing Strategy.


Integrity: be open, honest, transparent and accountable, consistent with the stated values and principles of the ACT Public Service.

Trust: rely on each other.

Respect: value and consider others at work; be courteous and acknowledge diverse views.

Professionalism: be fair, understand and act within our authority.

Customer focused: anticipate and be responsive to the needs of our customers.

Organisational structure (as at 16 May 2011)

Clients and stakeholders

ACTPLA operates in a complex environment with some sectors of the community taking a keen—and sometimes passionate—interest in planning and development. ACTPLA fosters stakeholder input on planning and land policy through consultation.

Major clients and stakeholders are:

ACT Government: ACTPLA policies and actions reflect overall policies of the government and the social, environmental and economic needs of the Territory.

Minister for Planning: although ACTPLA performs its functions independently, free from day-to-day political influences, it is subject to direction by the planning minister, and must take into account the Minister’s Statement of Planning Intent.

Land Development Agency/Department of Land and Property Services: the Department of Land and Property Services aligns and coordinates land release and development, property management and major projects. ACTPLA is responsible for strategic planning for the release of land to enable the Land Development Agency (LDA) to meet market demand.

National Capital Authority: the National Capital Authority (NCA) is the Commonwealth agency responsible for looking after the national aspects of Canberra. It administers and reviews the National Capital Plan, which ensures Canberra and the ACT are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance.

Community: ACTPLA informs and educates the community about planning and land issues. Informal and formal consultation between ACTPLA and the community helps develop effective policy. Community councils and the Planning and Development Forum play an important role in maintaining effective community consultation. As part of its statutory obligations, ACTPLA notifies all development applications so the community has the opportunity to comment on them. Anyone affected by a proposed development may comment.

Development and building industry: planning and development policies affect the development and building industry. ACTPLA works closely with these stakeholders in areas like sustainable urban planning, architecture and solutions for urban improvement.

Utilities: ACTPLA works closely with regulated utilities to fulfil its technical regulation responsibilities.

Peak industry groups: many industry groups have an active interest in planning and land management policies. They include the Master Builders Association, the Housing Industry Association, the Planning Institute of Australia and the Property Council of Australia. Industry groups are also members of the Industry Monitoring Group.

Government agencies: other government agencies, such as Housing ACT and the Department of Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS), deliver a broad range of services to ACT residents. ACTPLA works closely with other agencies to ensure the effective management of the ACT. TAMS is also part of the Industry Monitoring Group.

A2 Overview

Agency performance

ACTPLA performed strongly in 2010–11 in relation to its financial and performance targets.

Master plans

A number of master plans were completed, including the Gungahlin town centre and the Kingston and Dickson group centres. ACTPLA also started master plans for the Tuggeranong town centre, Erindale and Kambah group centres and Pialligo rural village, all of which will be completed in the 2011–12 financial year.

Review of Territory Plan

Another government priority for ACTPLA was to continue the review of the Territory Plan’s land use policies. This included an examination of submissions to the original revisions to the residential and estate development policies, and led to the release of draft variation 306, which includes new provisions for the RZ2 areas and solar access.

Legislative change

A range of legislative changes were designed to ensure unreasonable impediments to development were removed, whilst maintaining an appropriate level of review over those that may generate community interest.

The Building Quality Forum, incorporating the Government’s response to concerns over the quality of construction in new multi-unit developments in particular, was initiated under ACTPLAn2, which followed from the success of ACTPLAn1. This led to a number of budgeted policy and resource initiatives being included in the 2011–12 Budget.

Development assessment

ACTPLA has continued to meet its accountability indicators for development assessment, having determined a range of complex applications with a construction value well in excess of $2 billion. Internal and national benchmarking ranks development assessment in the ACT as one of the most efficient in the country.

The investment in ACTPLA’s eDevelopment platform has proven worthwhile, with close to 50% of all development applications now being lodged online, and a targeted increase to 80% of all lodgements being on line over the next 12 to 18 months. The electronic referral of development applications and all building approvals are being tracked using the same platform.

Mechanisms for planning framework and setting direction

Diagrams 1 and 2 show the planning framework and direction-setting mechanisms that apply to ACTPLA’s operations.

Diagram 1: The planning/reporting framework

Diagram 1 reflects that ACTPLA, as a public sector organisation in receipt of government funding, is required to regularly report on outcomes, activities and expenses in delivering services under the terms of the Ownership Agreement with the ACT Government. The Chief Planning Executive has daily operational responsibility for the efficient and effective administration of ACTPLA, including service delivery and organisational and resource performance, in accordance with the Ownership Agreement.

Diagram 2: Components of the planning and development system

Diagrams 1 and 2 show that the Planning and Development Act and the Statement of Planning Intent strongly influence ACTPLA’s actions for the following reasons:

  • The object of the Act is to provide a planning and land system that contributes to the orderly and sustainable development of the ACT, consistent with the social, environmental and economic aspirations of the people of the ACT and in accordance with sound financial principles.

  • The Act sets out the functions of ACTPLA.

  • The Act provides that the Minister for Planning may give written direction to ACTPLA about the general policies ACTPLA must follow or may require ACTPLA to revise the plan or a provision of the plan.

  • The Act provides that the Minister for Planning may give ACTPLA a written statement that sets out the main principles that are to govern planning and land development in the ACT; the Statement of Planning Intent.

Acts of the Territory and related regulations govern ACTPLA’s roles and responsibilities. This legislation covers the regulation of building, development, utilities and leasehold administration.

Organisational environment

ACTPLA’s operating environment is complex and dynamic, reflecting the constantly and, at times, rapidly changing face of the city and the growth in its population.

Staff make hundreds of decisions daily on issues ranging from strategic policy to development and compliance-related matters. This affects some part of the community every day and, in many instances, requires staff to balance often polarised interests.

While all sectors of the community are major stakeholders, ACTPLA works closely with other ACT Government service agencies and Commonwealth organisations, particularly the National Capital Authority, to fulfil its roles and responsibilities. This includes strategic and regional planning and planning for greenfield and brownfield urban development, new schools and other community facilities.

Organisational change

The most notable organisational change for ACTPLA for 2010–11 was the merger with the Department of Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water, heritage from the Chief Minister’s Department, transport planning and some nature conservation functions from the Department of Territory and Municipal Services. Together these functions will create the new Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate (ESDD).

ACTPLA will remain a statutory authority within ESDD, but the policy development, land and infrastructure planning, urban design and construction occupation functions will report separately within the ESDD organisational structure.

Role in administration of legislation

ACTPLA administers the following Acts and regulations.

Architects Act 2004

This Act:

  • establishes a board to regulate the provision of architectural services by architects

  • ensures architects provide services to the public professionally and competently

  • provides ways to discipline architects who are found to have acted unprofessionally or incompetently

  • ensures the public has access to information about the qualifications and competence of architects

  • establishes a register of architects to provide that information.

Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988

This Act sets out the dual Commonwealth and Territory responsibilities for the planning of the ACT and management of land. It dates back to the start of self-government in the ACT, when the National Capital Development Commission was replaced. The Act establishes the NCA and the National Capital Plan, and similarly provides for the establishment of a Territory planning authority and Territory Plan. It addresses the management of national and Territory land.

Building Act 2004 and Building (General) Regulation 2008

This legislation regulates buildings (residential and commercial structures) and building work (work in relation to the erection, alteration or demolition of a building, including disposal of waste materials generated). It deals with plans and associated approvals, inspection processes, offences, statutory warranties, codes, standards and insurance.

Common Boundaries Act 1981

This Act deals with Crown lessees’ obligations in respect of basic fences, including basic rural and urban fences, as well as obligations in relation to party walls.

Community Title Act 2001

This Act concerns each Crown lessee’s respective rights and obligations under a community title scheme. It also deals with the endorsement and registration of a community title scheme, the transfer of property title under a registered community title scheme, the amalgamation and termination of registered community title schemes, and the setting up, functions and by-laws of a body corporate.

Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act 2004 and Construction Occupations (Licensing) Regulation 2004

This legislation provides a framework for:

  • licensing and regulating construction occupations

  • investigating and imposing sanctions upon licensees who act in a manner contrary to that proscribed by legislation

  • issuing rectification orders in cases of work undertaken in contravention of the relevant legislation.

The Act regulates the occupations of asbestos assessors, asbestos removalists, builders, building surveyors (also called building certifiers), drainers, electricians, gasfitters, plumbers and plumbing plan certifiers. The Act also establishes the statutory position of Registrar of Construction Occupations, which is responsible for administering the Act and its operational Acts, these being the Building Act 2004, the Dangerous Substances Act 2004, the Electricity Safety Act 1971, the Gas Safety Act 2000, the Utilities Act 2000, and the Water and Sewerage Act 2000.

Districts Act 2002

This Act allows the Minister to subdivide the Territory into blocks, sections, divisions (suburbs) and districts. ACTPLA, in conjunction with the Commissioner for Surveys, allocates a street number to each block and maintains a database of information about land.

Electricity Safety Act 1971 and Electricity Safety Regulation 1971

This legislation ensures electrical safety, particularly in relation to:

  • the installation, testing, reporting and rectification of electrical wiring work for an electrical installation and its connection to the electricity distribution network (the Wiring Rules are the relevant standard)

  • the regulation and dealings associated with the sale of prescribed and non-prescribed articles of electrical equipment

  • the reporting, investigation and recording of serious electrical accidents by responsible entities

  • enforcement by ACTPLA and its electrical inspectors (including inspectors’ identification, entry powers, seizing evidence, disconnection of unsafe installations and articles, powers to collect verbal and physical evidence and respondents’ rights)

  • the appeals system

  • miscellaneous matters such as certification of evidence.

Enclosed Lands Protection Act 1943

This Act relates to the protection of enclosed lands from intrusion and trespass.

Gas Safety Act 2000 and Gas Safety Regulation 2001

This legislation establishes a framework to ensure the safety of gas appliances and consumer piping systems and, in turn, consumer safety. The Act:

  • addresses the legal responsibilities of gasfitters, gas appliance workers and consumers

  • contains reporting requirements and deals with serious gas accidents

  • establishes ACTPLA as the regulator with powers to direct gas fitters, consumers and traders; the regulator has the ability to test appliances, to cancel approvals of appliances and to ensure that traders sell only approved appliances.

Lands Acquisition Act 1994

This Act deals with the acquisition of leased land by the Territory for a public purpose. It also covers the Territory’s powers of entry and occupation of land to be acquired for that public purpose and outlines the acquisition procedures and the scope of the compensation payable for such acquisition of interests in land.

Planning and Development Act 2007 and Planning and Development Regulation 2008

This legislation deals with planning and development in the ACT, including the Territory Plan, environmental assessments, approvals, building regulation and land administration.

Public Place Names Act 1989

This Act concerns the naming of divisions and public places. In consultation with the Public Place Names Committee, ACTPLA recommends names for suburbs, streets and other public places. It maintains a database of public place names.

Public Roads Act 1902

This Act deals with the opening, closing and surveying of roads and streets. It provides for the Minister to call for a survey of the boundaries when their location is in doubt. ACTPLA maintains a record of all road openings and closings and prepares notifiable instruments on behalf of the Minister.

Recovery of Lands Act 1929

This Act provides for the recovery of possession of lands on the determination of leases.

Surveyors Act 2007

This Act regulates the practice of land surveying. ACTPLA provides administrative and technical support to the Surveyor-General, who develops standards for and regulates surveying.

Unit Titles Act 2001

This Act deals with the requirements for the approval, registration, amendment and cancellation of unit title applications. It deals with the variation, expiration and termination of unit leases. It also covers the establishment, membership and general functions of owners’ corporations.

Utilities Act 2000—Part 5 only, Utility Networks (Public Safety Regulation) 2001 and Utilities (Telecommunications Installations) Act 2001

Part 5 of the Utilities Act sets out the requirements for the technical regulation of utilities, the use of a technical code, enforcement actions and the role of inspectors. The regulation concerns network facilities of utilities. The Utilities (Telecommunications Installations) Act covers installation of telecommunication facilities on utility network facilities.

Water and Sewerage Act 2000 and Water and Sewerage Regulation 2001

This legislation governs plumbing and drainage work in the ACT. It covers plan approval, plumbing plan certifiers, hydraulic plan approvals, offences, enforcement and plumbing inspectors and their powers.

Subsidiaries, joint ventures and partnerships

The ACT Government (through ACTPLA) and CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) have endorsed a collaborative partnership agreement for a project on East Lake. The objective of the partnership is to best use national and local expertise to achieve an Australian showcase sustainability project, embracing social, economic and environmental sustainability principles, technologies and practices.

The project is being conducted by the CSIRO Urban Systems Program, under the banner of the Sustainable Communities Initiative. This initiative creates partnership projects between CSIRO and participants from business, government and non-government organisations to develop innovative and integrated solutions to local-scale sustainability issues. The partnership is in its third and final year, to conclude on 30 June 2011. The partnership will conclude with a peer review of the process and methods used in the preparation of materials by consultants developing the East Lake Planning and Design Framework. Recommendations will be used to inform the next steps of work in preparing East Lake for development.

A3 Highlights

Operational achievements for 2010–11

In the 11 months to May 2011, ACTPLA was in the process of completing, or had completed, substantial pieces of work in conjunction with the discharge of its statutory decision-making responsibilities. This work was consistent with its budget indictors, the Statement of Planning Intent and various decisions taken by the government and Legislative Assembly during the year.

While this section of the annual report provides scope to highlight some of ACTPLA’s recent achievements, the report in general characterises a highly productive and capable multi-disciplinary agency.

Planning strategy

As a priority for this financial year, the government established the evaluation of the Canberra Spatial Plan and the development of a revised planning strategy for the ACT. This work represents the culmination of three years of building an evidence base for the new strategy. It will also provide the basis of the ACT’s response to COAG’s decisions on city strategic planning systems.

The revised planning strategy, to be known as the ACT Planning Strategy, is being developed on the basis of the Sustainable future program, which included analysis of opportunities for residential development, urban form analysis, planning principles for urban redevelopment and a climate change vulnerability analysis. The strategy will respond to the views expressed by the community through the Time to Talk Canberra 2030 conversations and provide a contemporary platform for integrating a number of key government policy directions.

Master plans

Public consultation was a cornerstone of the development of a number of master plans completed during the year, including the Gungahlin town centre and the Kingston and Dickson group centres. ACTPLA acknowledges the important contribution to the Dickson centre master plan by more than 400 people who participated in the various forums run during the project.

ACTPLA began master plans for the Tuggeranong town centre, Erindale and Kambah centres and Pialligo rural village, all of which will be completed in the 2011–12 financial year. An infrastructure capacity study for the Oaks Estate was undertaken in anticipation of commencing a master plan for this community in the 2011–12 financial year. Following discussions with the Hall community, the current master plan (developed in 2002) will be converted into a new precinct code.

Molonglo Valley planning

ACTPLA progressed the land and infrastructure planning work for the accelerated land release program in Molonglo Valley stage 2. This included development of a planning and design framework, with ‘important planning requirements’ for the first release of 3000 lots; substantial completion of the Strategic Assessment’s Matters of National Environmental Significance for referral to the Commonwealth; commencement of the Molonglo River Park concept plan; forward design for the next stage of John Gorton Drive, bridge crossings, sewer and other infrastructure; and completion of a triple bottom line study for stormwater quality management into the lower Molonglo River.

East Lake planning

The preparation of a planning and design framework and transport hub feasibility study for East Lake is aimed at determining the broad land use planning principles and key performance indicators for this showcase sustainable development precinct. Completion of the PDF and draft variation to the Territory Plan to enable the next stage of development, however, is dependent on resolving how best to deal with significant amounts of geotechnically unsuitable/contaminated material and the future of rail facilities in the area. Geotechnically unsuitable and contaminated soil, have been determined based on thorough testing over the site over a number of years in accordance with national standards.

Eastern Broadacre planning

The Eastern Broadacre study’s public consultation was completed following the release earlier in the year of a discussion paper. The study identified areas unsuitable for employment related development, with a number of residual investigation areas being considered suitable for more detailed investigation. Consultation enabled the public to have their say on the future of these areas. The government will determine its approach to subsequent work with public comments in mind, which will look to provide opportunities to diversify Canberra’s economy along an employment corridor that takes advantage of some unique infrastructure options. Infrastructure studies including the Symonston arterial road study is integral to the future land use proposal in the Eastern Braodacre area.

Review of Territory Plan policies

Another government priority for ACTPLA was to continue the review of the Territory Plan’s land use policies. An examination of submissions to the earlier draft variations (301, 303) to the residential and estate development policies led to the release of draft variation 306, which includes new provisions for the RZ2 areas and solar access. Changes to the RZ3 and RZ4 areas in the inner north of Canberra were introduced as draft variation 310, a discussion paper on the commercial code was released and draft variation 302 for community facilities land use policy was also completed.

Other legislation and reforms

Legislative changes during the year were designed to ensure unreasonable impediments to development were removed while maintaining an appropriate level of review over those developments that may generate community interest. Changes related to the triggers for environmental impact statements, concessional leases and the change of use charge (on behalf of Treasury).

Through its involvement in the Australian Building Codes Board, ACTPLA contributed to the on-going response to measures contained within the National Strategy for Energy Efficiency, the transition to the National Construction Code and the adoption of the new access standard to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Following the success of ACTPLAn1 in 2009–10, the Building Quality Forum, incorporating the government’s response to concerns over the quality of construction in new multi-unit developments in particular, was initiated under ACTPLAn2. This led to a number of budgeted policy and resource initiatives being included in the 2011–12 budget. This builds on the significant auditing and inspectorial work of the Construction Services section, resulting in a number of successful actions against illegal work and poor practice.

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