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Research Guides

Government Records about the Australian Capital Territory

National Capital Authority

Following the introduction of self-government, in 1989, the National Capital Planning Authority was established to represent the Commonwealth's interest in planning and developing the national capital. Its principal task was (and is) to administer and review the National Capital Plan, ensuring that Canberra and the ACT are developed in accordance with their national significance.

At the same time, a number of planning and development functions were transferred to the ACT Government. It was a requirement of the ACT (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 that a Territory Planning Authority be established. It is known today as the ACT Planning and Land Authority.

In accordance with its mandate, the National Capital Planning Authority released the National Capital Plan in 1990. It was a strategic document, recognising the role of Canberra as the capital. The plan develops and enhances a central national area, including the Parliamentary Zone and its setting, as the heart of the national capital; emphasises the national significance of the main approach routes and avenues; respects the geometry and intent of Walter Burley Griffin's formally adopted plan for Canberra; maintains and enhances the landscape character of Canberra and the Territory as the setting for the national capital; protects the undeveloped hill tops and the open spaces that give form to Canberra's urban areas; and offers flexibility and choice to enable the ACT Government to fulfil its functions properly.144

On 1 July 1996, the agency's name changed to the National Capital Authority in recognition that it had a role beyond just planning. In March 2003, the House of Representatives Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories began a review of the authority's activities. The committee presented its report in 2004. It noted that there were tensions between the authority and the ACT Planning Authority, partly caused by a lack of clarity in the authority's direction, and recommended the adoption of a more integrated approach to the authority's planning activities.145 The committee undertook a second inquiry into the authority's activities in 2008.

In December 2004, the authority released the Griffin Legacy.146 Work on the project had begun in September 2002 by which it was intended to appraise Griffin's Plan and the continuing relevance to planning and development in the 21st century, extend the legacy to restore the spirit and intent of the plan, provide an integrated framework between the Commonwealth and ACT governments for planning initiatives in the central area and approach routes to the capital, and protect the integrity of the Griffin Plan.147

Over the past 20 years, the authority has conducted a range of activities, including the refurbishment and expansion of many national institutions. Like the National Capital Development Commission before it, the authority has played a key role in Canberra's development. The authority's activities have been summarised in a series of annual reports, printed in Parliamentary Papers, which provide a wealth of information about its activities.

National Archives
Correspondence, reports and maps relating to variations to the City Plan of Canberra, 1925–87 A7503
Sketch plans of memorials and designs of areas of national land used for preservation purposes, 1989– A9567
National Capital Plan Inquiry, 1989–90 A8679
Inquiry into the role of the National Capital Authority, 2004 A13087


Chapter notes | All notes

143 The Canberra Times, 8 July 1988, p. 1.

144 National Capital Authority, Annual Report 1990–91, pp. 5–10, Parliamentary Papers, 1991, volume 36, paper 392.

145 'A National Capital, A Place to Live, Inquiry into the Role of the National Capital Authority', July 2004, Parliamentary Papers, 2004, volume 23, paper 188.

146 National Capital Authority, The Griffin Legacy: Canberra, the nation's capital in the 21st century, Canberra, 2004.

147 National Capital Authority Annual Report, 2004–05, pp. 26–27, Parliamentary Papers, 2005, volume 53, paper 441.


Chapter 6
Changes in the wind, 1972–89