Barr’s pitch to Commonwealth for more APS offices in Gungahlin

Ian Bushnell8 April 2022
Gungahlin skyline

Gungahlin Town Centre has land for new offices, the ACT Government has told the Commonwealth. Photo: Damien Larkins.

The ACT Government has made an official pitch to the Commonwealth about a public service department or flexible work hub setting up in the Gungahlin Town Centre.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has sent a prospectus to Public Service Minister Ben Morton and a copy to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, selling the Town Centre as great place for the Australian Public Service (APS) to do business.

The Gungahlin Community Council has long campaigned for more employment opportunities in the Town Centre, fearing the district may be doomed to dormitory status if the APS or more private sector companies such as the big box retailers don’t set up shop there.

Last year, the council expressed its frustration to Mr Barr that the ACT Government was not doing enough.

It called for federal agencies to establish themselves in the Town Centre as “peppercorn land rental” and/or innovative approaches to new workspaces, such as the Smart Work Hub proposed in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

Mr Barr has responded, telling council the prospectus promotes the Town Centre as an attractive investment proposition for the APS.

“The prospectus also reiterates the ACT Government’s willingness and commitment to work with the Federal Government on the potential opportunities available in the Gungahlin Town Centre,” he said.

One APS agency has made the move. First announced in 2018, Defence Housing Australia and its 300 staff now occupy new premises in Hinder Street, with Liberal Senator Zed Seselja taking credit for its relocation from Barton.

About 780 ACT public servants also now work out of the ACT Government building, Winyu House.

But the council says more big employers are needed, especially before available land is snapped up for high-density residential development.

The prospectus highlights Gungahlin and Gungahlin Town Centre’s transport, land availability, existing APS workforce, regional, and skills and innovation benefits, without offering any direct incentives.

New Defence Housing Australia building in Gungahlin

The new Defence Housing Australia building in Hinder Street. Photo: Gungahlin Community Council.

With APS numbers increasing by about 5000, the time is right to consider siting an agency or flexible work hub in Gungahlin, according to the prospectus.

“The establishment of a flexible APS workplace hub in Gungahlin would present a cost-effective means of accommodating a local workforce,” it states.

“This would deliver financial benefits for the APS, benefit Gungahlin residents, and help to attract and retain talent in the Gungahlin region – potentially leading to the
Commonwealth strengthening its reputation as an ‘employer of choice’.

It states Gungahlin’s current population of 85,000 is forecast to grow to 100,000; there are already about 10,000 APS staff living there.

Gungahlin represents 19.6 per cent of Canberra’s population but only 6.3 per cent of employment opportunties.

The prospectus states about a third of the Town Centre is undeveloped, providing ample sites for office buildings that can be brought to market quickly.

READ ALSO: Second apartment building in revised Gungahlin Town Centre development

It argues it will also be cheaper for the Commonwealth to establish offices in the Town Centre, where office space is about $100 per square metre cheaper ($400 sqm) than the Canberra CBD ($500sqm).

The prospectus takes a regional perspective, highlighting Gungahlin’s proximity to the Yass Valley and Goulburn, and arguing that investing in Gungahlin will show Commonwealth leadership contributing to economic development in the Capital Region.

“A significant percentage of the working population in Queanbeyan-Palerang and Yass Valley travel to the ACT for work; 63 per cent and 50 per cent respectively,” the prospectus states.

“Gungahlin is the closest ACT location to growing populations in surrounding NSW including towns such as Murrumbateman, Yass and Goulburn, providing cost-effective commuting and employment opportunities both during construction and for future workforce fulfilment.”

Boosting the number of APS staff in Gungahlin will provide additional economic activity and support the Town Centre as a key regional work hub in the national capital, the prospectus states.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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