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Government Records about the Australian Capital Territory

National Capital Development Commission

In a departmental paper, 'The problems of Canberra – its future', Ronald Mendelsohn (from the Prime Minister's Department) noted that Canberra's development was split between two departments, Interior and Works. They were not functioning together and seemed unable to manage development, particularly with respect to land and housing. The current situation was 'chaos', Mendelsohn wrote, and there was a need for a single authority that would have overall developmental responsibility.99

The government supported the recommendation and established the National Capital Development Commission in September 1957. The first Commissioners took office in March 1958 under the direction of John Overall. The commission had four objectives: to complete the establishment of Canberra as the seat of government; further the development of Canberra as an administrative centre; give Canberra an atmosphere and individuality worthy of a national capital; and further the growth of the national capital as a place in which to live.

At the time of the commission's establishment, Canberra's population was 39,000 and rising at 5,000 a year. Over the next 30 years, before its demise in 1989, the commission played a leading role in the development of Canberra and the Territory. Its activities were summarised in a series of 32 annual reports presented to its Minister and Parliament. These reports, printed in Parliamentary Papers, provide a wealth of information about the commission's activities.

One of the commission's first tasks was to review the Holford Report, which Cabinet referred to it in May 1958. The commission supported Holford's recommendations to establish the lake and locate Parliament House on the lakefront, believing that Capital Hill would be 'inappropriate' and the building would be 'almost invisible from the central areas of the city'.100 The commission added a third recommendation, to establish a central Defence complex at Russell, near the Australian–American Memorial, otherwise 'the plan of the city will remain unbalanced and incomplete'.101 Cabinet approved the recommendations on 23 July 1958.

ACT Heritage Library
Commission member Oskars Pumpur's papers, 1925–2000 HMSS274
Statutory planning files, 'SP', 1958– A6987
Landscape paintings by Lawrence M Daws, 1960 A7765
Functional review, specific inquiries from Committee of Review of NCD NC–82/01172
National Capital Development Commission Coordination Committee meeting, 16 August 1972 NC–72/01437
Addresses and speeches by commissioners to outside organisations NC–81/01235#1
Forward construction program, 1983–84 and 1985–86 NC–83/00107#1
Special project meetings, 1982 NC–82/00099#1
Government of Canberra and ACT financial principles and accounts NC–73/00368#5
ACT self-government NC–74/00378#1
Radioactive waste policy NC–76/00754#1
National Capital Development Commission – Canberra city centre – Policy Plan, 1980 NC–78/01683#1
Construction program, 1982–83 NC–82/00009#1
Land development program, 1982–83 NC–82/00040#1
Five-year economic plan for Canberra NC–83/01269#1
National Archives
Commission member Oskars Pumpur's papers, 1950–82 A13312
Minutes and papers of meetings of the National Capital Planning Committee, 1958–83 A8839
Minutes of commission meetings, 1958–88 A8840
Contract documents, project series, 1958– A1701
Correspondence files, 1958–89 A1340
Plans relating to CRS A1655, contract documents, 1959– A8158
Contract documents, 1959–64 A1655
Minutes of Coordination Committee meetings, 1959–75 A8841
Plans relating to CRS A1655, contract documents, 1959– A8158
Design and order files, 1963–65 A1653
Design and order files, 1963–68 A1654
Contract documents, 1964–67 A1829
Design and order files, 'KO' (Kommission Order), 1965–74 A2158
Minutes of Sculpture Committee meetings, 1966–75 A8844
Minutes of Artworks Committee meetings, 1975–78 A8845
Minutes of Program Committee meetings, 1975–89 A8842
Minutes of meetings of the Planning Committee, 1975–89 A8847
Minutes of Special Project meetings, 1977–88 A8846
National Library
National Capital Development Commission, 1973–75 (Tom Uren) MS 5816, series 7, multiple folders, box 78

National Capital Planning Committee

The National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 also created a National Capital Planning Committee. The committee first met on 16 April 1958, replacing the former National Capital Planning and Development Committee. The role of the committee was to review major development and planning proposals generated by the commission.

NCPC – minutes of 10th–18th meetings NC–70/00266
NCPC – minutes of 19th–26th meetings NC–70/00267
NCPC – minutes of 27th–34th meetings NC–70/00268
NCPC – minutes of 35th–50th meetings – Part 1 NC–70/00269#1
NCPC – minutes of 51st–58th meetings – Part 2 NC–70/00269#2
NCPC – minutes of 59th–61st meeting – Part 3 NC–70/00269#3
NCPC – minutes of 62nd–66th meeting – Part 4 NC–70/00269#4
NCPC – minutes of 67th–80th meeting – Part 5 NC–70/00269#5
NCPC – minutes of 81st–89th meeting – Part 6 NC–70/00269#6
NCPC – minutes of 90th–101st meeting – Part 7 NC–70/00269#7
NCPC – minutes of 100th–104th meeting – Part 8 NC–70/00269#8
NCPC meeting 109, 29–30 October 1970 NC–70/00836
NCPC meeting 179, 20 August 1981 NC–81/01296
NCPC meeting 181, 18–19 February 1982 NC–81/01606
NCPC meeting 202, 12 December 1986 NC–86/01976
171st NCPC meeting, 17–18 April 1980 NC–80/00701
172nd NCPC meeting, 19–20 June 1980 NC–80/00892
173rd NCPC meeting, 21–22 August 1980 NC–80/01123
174th NCPC meeting, 27–28 November 1980 NC–80/01540#1
174th NCPC meeting, 27–28 November 1980 NC–80/01540#2
175th NCPC meeting, 12 December 1980 NC–80/01694


Chapter notes | All notes

99 NAA: A4926, 382, paper dated 8 October 1956.

100 NAA: A4926, 1284, 'Report on Sir William Holford's Observations on the Future of Canberra, 30 June 1958', p. 3.

101 ibid., p. ii.


Chapter 5
Suburbs still searching for a city, 1957–72