Changing the ACT-NSW border would be a significant and historic decision, but it makes sense for both jurisdictions when it comes to development in the northwest of the Territory.
Exactly what the strength is of the commitment NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet may have given to Chief Minister Andrew Barr about moving the border is up for debate.
Mr Barr says the move is on. Mr Perrotet, or at least the NSW Government spokesperson, says we’ll talk about it.
Either way, it opens the way for a solution to the obvious planning problems emerging in West Belconnen and across the border in the Yass Valley as the joint venture Ginninderry development, of which the ACT Government is a partner, evolves.
There is time, with the development of the cross-border suburb of Parkwood not expected to begin until 2032.
Hopefully, by then, we will have an answer.
If the border does not move in the ACT’s favour so that the entire project comes under the Territory’s jurisdiction, NSW and the Yass Valley Council will have the unenviable challenge of having to service the NSW side of the development.
That means schools, roads, garbage collection and levying rates. Or paying the ACT to deliver the services.
Currently, there is not even a road into the area from NSW.
It would make much more sense to redraw the border so the ACT can include all of the joint venture in its bailiwick.
Not that common sense has had anything to do with interstate relations in Australia’s often parochial federal history.
From differently gauged train lines to border closures during the COVID pandemic, self-interest has trumped common cause many times.
States are generally loath to give up territory, even if it is remote and difficult to access.
Parkwood will have 5000 homes and could be home to as many as 13,500 residents.
Yass Valley Council understands the challenges if it tries to service such a suburb and welcomes and wants to be part of talks on a potential border change.
Under a master plan approved by the NSW Government in 2020, the $1.89 billion Parkwood project is not likely to be finished until 2055.
In December last year, the ACT Government purchased two blocks of land in the Yass Valley adjacent to Ginninderry. The Suburban Land Agency said at the time it had plans to purchase more blocks.
With land a finite commodity in the ACT, it is easy to see why.
The government is under constant pressure to provide more land for housing, particularly standalone blocks, but its options are limited by typography.
Ginninderry/Parkwood offers an expansion corridor that can alleviate that pressure, but the government needs to secure jurisdictional coverage to avoid a planning and governance mess that would bring uncertainty, delay the project and dwarf the service delays that have blighted other new areas such as Molonglo and Gungahlin.
Mr Barr’s comments on Friday that Mr Perrottet had provided him with a verbal “tick of approval” for the border move and “it’s going to happen” may have been overreach, but it shows how eager he is for this deal to be sealed.
Whether a possible change of NSW government next year will alter the equation remains to be seen. Labor mates don’t agree on everything.
But hopefully, the practicality of a new border will be accepted so living space for the growing ACT population can be secured.