Liberal Senator Zed Seselja says the CSIRO land he’s pushing the Federal Government to release for housing has long been on the table and drawn interest from private developers and the ACT Government.
He’s keen to see housing, particularly stand-alone family homes, built at the 700-hectare CSIRO Ginninderra site, formerly known as Ginninderra Experimental Farm.
He says the 250 hectares available on the Barton Highway can provide thousands of new house sites in Canberra’s north to meet the intense demand in the ACT.
“Last year we saw 7500 people register for just 115 blocks of land released in Taylor. There is simply not enough land being released to keep up with the demand,” Senator Seselja says.
“The ACT Labor-Greens Government have a monopoly on land supply in the ACT and continue to make deliberate policy decisions to squeeze supply and profiteer off land sales – pushing the prices higher and higher in order to charge record land taxes and rates.”
Senator Seselja says he’s working with Housing Minister Michael Sukar and has written to Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price, who has responsibility for CSIRO, to request the surplus land in Ginninderra be made available as affordable housing as soon as possible.
But the ACT’s Suburban Land Agency said the government was already aware of the Commonwealth’s intention to divest the property, which had been the subject of a number of discussions and considerations over the past eight years with the private development industry and government.
A spokesperson said the site was not on the market but a number of ACT Government directorates had been advising CSIRO on development impacts and a number of planning and infrastructure matters to assist it in preparing the land for potential sale.
These include school provision, road network impacts, environmental management, and processes around its potential conversion from `National Land’ to `Territory Land’.
The SLA spokesperson said if the property became available, the territory would be strongly interested in its acquisition, pending the sale’s terms and conditions.
“A purchase by the territory would boost the supply of developable land and provide many affordable, public and community housing opportunities,” the spokesperson said.
Agricultural research at the property came to an end last year but ecological work continues.
In 2016, the site was reclassified as ‘Urban’ through an amendment to the National Capital Plan, paving the way for CSIRO to approach the market to identify interest in a sustainable urban development informed by science and innovation.
CSIRO says it will seek a suitable collaboration able to deliver this vision and continues to engage with the community and a wide range of stakeholders.
Senator Seselja’s lobbying over the CSIRO land coincides with a Canberra Liberals attack on the Barr Government in the Legislative Assembly over the way it manages the release of land for housing.
The Liberals argue the focus on infill is limiting the number of stand-alone family homes on the market, pushing up prices and turning people to townhouses and apartments.
But the government says there are many factors that influence house prices, and land as a finite resource needs to be managed carefully.
Senator Seselja also continues to argue for the release of land west of the Murrumbidgee River in Tuggeranong for new housing after working to remove Commonwealth restrictions. The ACT Government opposes development there on environmental grounds.