The extension of light rail to Woden through the Parliamentary Triangle will face the extra scrutiny of a federal inquiry.
Both the ACT Government and the Opposition have welcomed the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, although for different reasons.
The Committee will inquire into the parliamentary approval processes for works within the Parliamentary zone, the role of the National Capital Authority and possible impacts on the Parliamentary zone and Parliamentary precincts, including heritage values.
Chair of the Committee, Liberal Member for Tangney Ben Morton, said the land around the Federal Parliament was an important space for all Australians.
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“It is therefore appropriate that the Parliament has a role in ensuring that any proposals for change preserve this significance. The inquiry will also provide the ACT Government with an early indication of the Parliament’s view of its proposal,” he said.
Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT Government would cooperate with the inquiry and welcomed the opportunity to again demonstrate the benefits of a city-wide light rail network in Canberra.
She said planning and design for Stage Two are well under way with the City to Woden route that travels through Parkes and Barton now the ACT Government’s preferred route.
“The ACT Government is committed to building a light rail network for Canberra, and extending light rail to Woden. We will continue to work with relevant stakeholders, and welcome this opportunity to address the terms of reference of the Joint Standing Committee’s inquiry,” she said.
“It is my hope that this inquiry will provide all stakeholders with clarity about the approvals process, how we can best protect and enhance the heritage values and national importance of the Parliamentary Zone, and ensure all parties have a shared understanding of the huge benefit light rail will have for people in Woden, the Inner South and Canberra more broadly.”
Transport spokesperson Candice Burch said the inquiry meant Labor, which had refused to release a full business case for light rail, would be held to account.
“The Federal Parliament needs to sign off on any route that goes through the Parliamentary Triangle anyway. It’s entirely appropriate that the Federal Parliament gets to ask hard questions of the ACT Government,” she said.
“Light Rail Stage Two is a large project that presents significant infrastructure challenges. We welcome an additional layer of scrutiny to ensure that Canberra is getting value for money from this project.”
Ms Burch said Light Rail Stage Two would need significant infrastructure spending for possible new bridges over the lake, at Kings Avenue, and at Yarra Glen. “We want to make sure that this spending delivers value for money,” she said.
But Ms Fitzharris warned the Canberra Liberals not to be obstructionist or try to sabotage the project.
“While I fully expect the Canberra Liberals and [Senator] Zed Seselja to do everything in their power to oppose and criticise light rail through this process, I would urge them to remember that this should first and foremost be about how we plan for Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and enhance liveability,” she said.
“The people of Canberra voted for light rail and that is what this government is determined to deliver.”
The Committee will accept written submissions until Friday, 15 June 2018. For more information, go here.