Chapter 4 Proposed development and construction of housing for Defence
members and their families at Weston Creek, ACT
Defence Housing Australia (DHA) seeks approval to construct dwellings
for Australian Defence Force (Defence) personnel at a site at Weston Creek,
DHA will develop 73 allotments for single dwelling lots and three
multi-unit sites for the provision of housing, and intends to construct houses
for Defence families on 50 of those lots.
The purpose of the project is to maintain or reduce the number of
Defence personnel and their families residing in private rental accommodation
in the Canberra area. It also aims to replace housing returned to investors at
end of lease and replace existing housing that no longer meets Defence
The cost of the project is $39 million.
This proposed development and construction project was referred to the
Committee on 9 May 2012.
Conduct of the inquiry
Following referral, the inquiry was advertised in The Australian
on 30 May 2012 and the Southside Chronicle and the Canberra Times
on 22 May 2012.
The Committee received four submissions to the inquiry, from DHA, local
stakeholders and residents. DHA also provided a confidential supplementary
submission detailing the project costs. A list of submissions can be found at
The Committee conducted a site inspection, public hearing and an
in-camera hearing on the project costs on 9 July in Canberra.
A transcript of the public hearing and the submissions to the inquiry
are available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
Approximately 2,800 Defence personnel with dependents reside in the ACT
area. The majority of these personnel work in or close to the Russell Offices
complex or at the Australian Defence College (ADC) in Weston Creek.
Rent Allowance (RA) is the provision of an allowance to assist members
in sourcing their own accommodation in the private rental market. The
proportion of families in the ACT receiving RA is 13 per cent (240 families),
below the Defence and DHA target of 15 per cent. This project will assist DHA
to ensure that the proportion of Defence families in private rental
accommodation and receiving RA does not increase above 15 per cent.
DHA must also factor in the ‘churn’ created by leased houses reaching
end of lease requiring replacement. DHA stated that the Weston Creek proposal
would provide 50 dwellings and would contribute significantly to maintaining
the RA level in the ACT below 15 per cent.
In the ACT, there are limited opportunities to construct housing on-base
and other regular DHA development options are not feasible or have not been
able to keep up with the Defence housing requirement and the churn created by
end of lease. DHA stated that the purchase and development of the well-located,
‘broadacre’ Weston Creek site is DHA’s preferred delivery method and would
assist in meeting the need for Defence housing in the ACT.
The Committee is satisfied that there is a need for the works.
Scope of the works
The project involves the construction of road and civil infrastructure
for a housing development comprising 73 single dwelling lots and three
multi-unit sites (for up to 47 dwellings), followed by the construction of
approximately 50 single dwellings for Defence use.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, civil construction will commence in
January 2013, with dwelling construction planned to commence in January 2014
and be completed by December 2014.
The Committee finds that the proposed scope of works is suitable to meet
Cost of the works
The overall project cost is $39 million, including GST but excluding the
cost of the land.
The cost will be met by DHA and will be recovered through the sale of
individual lots, dwellings and the sale of DHA constructed dwellings through its
Sale and Lease Back program.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to
it have been adequately assessed by the proponent agency.
DHA stated that it engaged in consultation with various community and
educational entities when preparing the Estate Development Plan, and met with
relevant statutory authorities from February 2010.
The Orana Steiner School (Orana) made a submission to the inquiry,
stating that DHA had failed to consult with the school, formally or informally,
concerning the proposal.
Orana submitted that it had concerns about the likely turnover of
residents, the impact on traffic in the area, and the commissioned social
The Principal of Orana added:
… I reiterate that our school community is not opposed in
principle to this development and it may be that the issues we have raised in
this submission are either misconstrued or resolvable.
DHA stated that the development complies with the relevant codes and
that two traffic studies have been undertaken, one of which will be provided
publically as part of the development application public notification period.
DHA stated that Orana would have been involved in consultation by the
ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) regarding the rezoning of the land in
… the north-western concept plan and deed of agreement … were
developed by ACTPLA after extensive consultation with the local community as
part of the rezoning of land in the greater Molonglo and north Weston areas in
2008. We understand that, through the rezoning consultation phase from 2006 to
2008, ACTPLA had many meetings with the Orana school to discuss this site and
the broader rezoning.
DHA stated that it is not involved with local planning, rather the
execution of such plans. DHA indicated that it is yet to consult with Orana as
the school is not a direct neighbour and so will not be affected by the
development in the way that direct neighbours would be:
… we have not yet consulted with them and have no need to
consult with them at present because the discussions to date have been around
planning, which we have not been involved in. They have had a lot of
discussions with the ACT authorities, and we have been speaking with those
authorities about the discussions which they have had with the Orana school. So
we are quite understanding of what those discussions have been about, and they
have all been to do with planning. We are not involved with planning; we are
involved with the execution of the plan. When the time comes to execute the
plan, we intend to meet with the Orana school, as we have always planned.
DHA stated that consulting with Orana at this point would not be
… we do not want to waste their time or our time. Any
consultation we did with them at the moment would only be to do with how the
road will occur in the future, and we plan to do that when the time is right.
We do not have the information on that road yet because our DA is not approved,
so it would be a pointless exercise at the moment.
DHA also stated that Orana could have contacted DHA at any time as any
other person in the public could have. DHA did agree that it
could have been more proactive in notifying Orana of the proposed development
and the consultation process.
DHA confirmed that there will be a proper process for the school to be
consulted in an ongoing way, and will approach the school once the DA is
DHA accepted that it would be a good idea to have a policy that all near
neighbours are consulted from the outset so that those neighbours do not feel
as though they have been ignored or their concerns disregarded.
Another submission, from neighbouring residents Helen Lucy and Andrew
Shepherd, raised concerns that community issues had not been addressed in DHA’s
submission to the inquiry. These issues included overshadowing or overlooking
of local residents, increased traffic, and restricted access to services such
as schools and supermarkets.
DHA explained that local residents had been directly consulted about the
… the reason for that is that some concerns came back to us
that they had with our site overshadowing and being able to look into it. We
were aware that they had a concern with us. They approached us, so we set up a
meeting and had a meeting with those people.
DHA stated that they had met with these residents at a community
information session on 14 May 2012, following a letter box drop to 39 adjoining
residents in Heysen Street. Twelve groups attended the session:
The majority of their concerns raised at that community
information session was the information with Heysen Street and the setback of
the multi-unit sites. The residents were concerned about the size and scale of
what was going there. When we took them through our estate development plan
design and also, cross-sections that we had formulated, the knowledge that the
sites are capped at a two-storey height limit above natural ground level and
the setback from front to front between Heysen Street and our site is in the
order of 60 metres with vegetation in between and supplementary plantings,
everyone became fairly comfortable with what we were proposing.
DHA reiterated that the multi-unit sites would be approved under different
processes, allowing residents to raise concerns through those processes.
The Committee received subsequent correspondence from other local
community groups that contended that DHA did not engage in adequate
consultation with local residents and community groups.
The Committee recognises positive consultation processes and outcomes in
other DHA projects and commends DHA’s focus on being a ‘good neighbour’.
However, the Committee suggests that it would be to DHA’s advantage to
engage in initial notification to all near neighbours, followed by widespread
and ongoing consultation, on all current and future projects, regardless of
whether such neighbours might have anticipated concerns or not. A more
inclusive approach may lead to more effective relationships with local
The Committee was concerned about the quality and veracity of evidence
provided by DHA relating to consultation for this project, particularly as
subsequent correspondence from local stakeholders raised concerns that
community consultation had not been adequate. Not contacting Orana was a
serious omission in the consultation process.
Further, the Committee suggests that DHA monitor closely the feedback
from the consultation process and respond immediately to any concerns raised by
||The Committee recommends that Defence Housing Australia
engage in widespread, pro-active and ongoing consultation with all relevant
local stakeholders that are likely to be directly or indirectly impacted by
any proposed development, irrespective of the stage of the town planning
process. A more inclusive approach, particularly during the project design
stage, is likely to foster effective relationships with relevant
stakeholders, including individuals and community groups.
Final Committee comment
The Committee was satisfied with the evidence provided by DHA regarding
the proposed development and construction of housing for Defence at Weston
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public
Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this project
signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which
is fit for purpose, having regard to the established need.
||The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives
resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,
that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Proposed
development and construction of housing for Defence members and their
families at Weston Creek, ACT.
Ms Janelle Saffin MP
20 August 2012