The ACT Planning Strategy set the direction for a sustainable future Canberra. To establish a compact and efficient city, the Planning Strategy included the key target of providing up to 70% of new housing within the existing urban footprint, with the remaining 30% to be delivered as greenfield development. To provide for continuing greenfield development once Gungahlin and Molonglo Valley are developed, the Planning Strategy identified the need to investigate land to the west of Canberra’s metropolitan area – the Western Edge.
Specifically, the Planning Strategy’s Action 1.2.1 states:
Undertake environmental, infrastructure and planning studies for the western edge of the city to identify suitable areas for:
- potential urban areas (excluding Central Molonglo);
- nature reserves;
- environmental offset and potential environmental offset areas;
- the consideration of cultural and heritage values; and
- other uses, for example rural, broadacre, major infrastructure, transport and services.
Our city is growing by approximately 8,000 people per year. Investigations of the Western Edge are needed to provide greater certainty about where future greenfield settlement may occur in the future.
The Western Edge investigation area is approximately 9,800 hectares in extent. It is bordered by the Murrumbidgee River, and the existing urban areas of Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley and Belconnen, as shown on the map below.
The Western Edge area has not been subject to previous investigation. Through 2020 and 2021, the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) will be carrying out scoping and land suitability investigations including preliminary environmental, planning, heritage and infrastructure studies.
These initial studies will provide the opportunity to understand the values of the area and consider options for future uses of the area. This information will provide the basis for future conversations with the community and further detailed studies. This will include identifying areas that may be suitable for nature reserves, environmental offsets, heritage conservation, other uses (e.g. rural, broadacre, infrastructure, transport and services) and potential urban settlement. This current two-year investigation program does not involve any statutory approval process for rezoning or development.
This is the beginning of a long-term planning process for the Western Edge.
The Western Edge investigation project also commences a key action in response to the ACT Auditor-General’s Report Assembly of rural land west of Canberra (2018). The Auditor-General recommended that: "The Chief Planning Executive should undertake a planning study, to define the long term future urban form and identify the Territory’s future development fronts to guide the update of the ACT Planning Strategy (2012).”
The Government’s response to the above Auditor-General’s recommendation was: “Agreed. Studies underway as part of the current Planning Strategy Refresh will be used to determine the timing of a study into the long term future urban form."
The investigations are in response to an action item from the ACT Planning Strategy 2018 and to addresses a recommendation made by the ACT Auditor-General in ‘Report No 8/2018 Assembly of rural land west of Canberra’.
These are preliminary investigations into the Western Edge to assess the sustainability of the area for future development. Commonwealth and ACT statutory rezoning and environmental approval processes are not part of the current two-year program of investigations. These approvals would be required in the future before any development is to occur in the western edge area.
Funding of $1.15m, over two-years, was made available to EPSDD in the 2019-20 ACT Budget to undertake scoping and preliminary studies to assist in determining the long-term use of the land to the west of Canberra. Beyond this initial two-year program, further funding will be required to undertake more detailed studies. The nature of these more detailed studies will be determined through the current two-year program.