10 November 2023

Federal Government looking for a visionary, problem-solving NCA boss

| Ian Bushnell
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Outgoing NCA chief executive Sally Barnes’s successor will likely face a number of challenges. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The search is officially on for a “visionary” but pragmatic new chief executive of the National Capital Authority (NCA) following the announcement last month that Sally Barnes will resign early next year.

The Federal Government has announced the start of a merit-based selection process for the role, described as being responsible for the strategic management of the NCA and helping to maintain and develop Canberra as a national capital that all Australians can be proud of.

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The public face of the NCA in both local and national media, the chief executive will lead, direct, coordinate and manage the operations of a small but fast-paced Commonwealth agency, with direct responsibility for the stewardship of the national capital and related assets.

As well as providing advice to the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories on planning, management, maintenance, development and promotion of the national capital, the chief executive is expected to work collaboratively and effectively with the ACT Government, ACT residents, and industry and community interest groups.

The government is looking for someone with impressive business acumen who will need to find innovative solutions to complex problems with a clear focus on delivering outcomes.

“You will have the capacity to develop strategies and deliver outcomes that are both visionary, practical and environmentally sustainable,” the job description reads.

When Ms Barnes leaves the role at the end of February, she will leave behind a number of big-ticket items to be negotiated by her successor, including the ACT’s proposed light rail project across Lake Burley Griffin and through the Parliamentary Zone to Woden, the Acton Waterfront development and a planned refresh of Commonwealth Park.

All of these will require working with the ACT Government, which at times has been at odds with the NCA over planning matters.

It will be interesting to see if Ms Barnes’s successor builds on her legacy of fostering greater use of the lake such as the coming seaplane services, the summer aqua park and the planned floating sauna.

Before she announced her departure, Ms Barnes also outlined her vision for a great tourist walk around the lake accompanied by accommodation and hospitality options along a 40 km route.

The new chief will also have to contend with Canberra’s heritage and environmental activists for whom the NCA in recent times has become a villain, especially over the $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial and to a lesser extent the redevelopment of West Basin.

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Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Kristy McBain said the new chief executive would oversee the NCA’s role in developing and maintaining the national capital for current and future generations.

“This agency is diverse in its operations – from maintaining the characteristics set out in the National Capital Plan as the Territory continues to grow, to managing local government functions on NCA land – where people enjoy some of Canberra’s best experiences,” she said.

“Our ideal candidate will have the necessary experience in government administration, strategic engagement and communication, and strategic leadership to deliver on important projects and help nurture Canberra’s unique culture and heritage.”

Applications close at the end of Sunday 19 November.

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