The ACT Government is dawdling on planning services for the proposed NSW portion of the joint-venture Ginninderry development straddling the ACT-NSW border in West Belconnen, according to a new audit report.
ACT Auditor-General Michael Harris investigated the governance arrangements for services planning for the NSW component, Parkwood.
He found that the ACT Government had not prepared for NSW rejecting its preferred approach of moving the border so the new suburb could be part of the Territory.
The report also found that a steering committee involving both governments and Yass Valley Council had not met since March last year or developed a work program of activities.
There was no evidence of how the matters discussed in March 2021 had since progressed.
“The Steering Committee has not effectively progressed the planning of services in Parkwood as intended,” Mr Harris said.
The ACT Government and Riverview Projects are jointly developing Ginninderry.
Parkwood is expected to accommodate 5000 dwellings for about 13,500 people, with development set to start from 2032 when ACT development reaches the border and continue to 2055. The NSW Government approved the master plan in 2020.
The audit report said continuing uncertainty about the border posed several risks to the Territory that the government should be doing more to manage.
“The continuing uncertainty about the prospects of moving the border and the cost implications for the Territory increases the risks associated with this option and its cost-effectiveness for the ACT,” Mr Harris said.
“There is a need for forward planning to reduce and manage these uncertainties.”
This included developing a strategy for negotiations with the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Commonwealth so a border change could happen.
“This would also assist with identifying the critical timeframes and challenges for the Territory in relation to the service delivery model for Parkwood, should the border-move negotiations not succeed, and Parkwood remains in NSW,” the report said.
It found cross-border forums on services had been mainly at the request of NSW, apart from one in 2013.
Since then ACT Government has not convened any forums for its agencies specifically focused on the risks, challenges and opportunities of delivering services in Parkwood should it remain in NSW.
An ACT-NSW Memorandum of Understanding for Regional Collaboration established the Parkwood Governance Framework, which was finalised by the ACT and NSW Governments and Yass Valley Council in June 2020.
Its steering committee was supposed to develop an annual work program but this did not happen due to a diversion of resources to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means nothing has been done about service delivery options for Parkwood since the Framework was established.
“Agreeing on a model for cross border service delivery will be complex and challenging and there is a need for the committee to develop a work program that would enable the parties to agree, and validate with service delivery providers a model for infrastructure and service delivery in Parkwood should it remain in NSW,” the report said.
The report said the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD) should re-convene the steering committee so a work program could be agreed on and delivered each year.
In response to the draft proposed audit report, CMTEDD and the Office of the NSW Cross Border Commissioner said the committee’s work was on hold while discussions on the border move took place.
Water is a key issue and its supply will be crucial to the Ginninderry Joint Venture and possibly the Yass Valley as compensation for Parkwood becoming part of the ACT. However, the audit found the Committee had failed to make any progress on this issue.
A 2017 report on infrastructure and services offered a “base case” for an “existing legal, practicable and financially feasible option” for delivery through a combination of ACT and NSW government agencies, the Yass Valley Council and ICON Water, which would need a change to ACT legislation.
But the ACT Government has not formally endorsed or adopted the report.
The audit said the government needed to review the “base case” to see what further work is required for a service delivery model that met the needs of the ACT should the border stay where it is.
It also found a lack of public and community reporting about the ACT Government’s activities for the Parkwood cross-border development.
Neither the ACT-NSW MOU for Regional Collaboration nor the Parkwood Governance Framework had an expectation that their activities be formally reported or communicated to stakeholders outside government, the audit said.
“Community or public reporting on issues associated with the Parkwood development is produced by Riverview Projects for the Joint Venture,” it said.
“There is one report on the overall progress of the Ginninderry development and this is several years old.”