Canberra residents concerned about a proposed new diplomatic estate have questioned why the city needs any more embassies than it already has, a parliamentary committee has been told.
The National Capital Authority (NCA) has given evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and external Territories at a recent public hearing to provide updates on several issues in the territory.
The authority’s appearance at the hearing coincided with the announcement that an inquiry will be held into the allocation of land for future diplomatic missions in the ACT.
The NCA has been holding a consultation process into the issue and there has been considerable public debate over the suitability of land in Stirling Park for new embassies.
NCA chief executive Gary Rake told the committee it is receiving submissions on a range of issues from environmental concerns to other practicalities surrounding development like parking and building heights.
However he also said that some people are questioning the need for further diplomatic land at all.
“It has to be said that some of the comments that are being made I find difficult to accept and particularly if they are being made by people who are not willing to be publicly identified or have their name attached to their comments,” he said.
“I have been accused of sitting at a public meeting two weeks ago and telling 80 residents that I was not interested in their opinions. That is simply not true.”
The committee will inquire into the role of the NCA, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and other relevant agencies into the allocation of diplomatic land.
It will also look at options for future diplomatic estates and examine forecast levels of demand and supply.
At present there are around 100 diplomatic missions in Canberra in the three estates of Yarralumla, West Deakin and O’Malley.
The land to the west of Stirling Ridge is managed by the NCA on behalf of the Federal Government.
The proposal has proven controversial due to environmental and heritage concerns raised by residents.
The committee is taking submissions until January 25 2013.