Aboriginal people have been visiting the Canberra region for at least 21,000 years.
It is a component of the arboretum and nursery landscape of the new national capital.
The former Australian Forestry School building, the former Office of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, Forestry House and the modern Headquarters building reflect a 20th century design aesthetic.
There are some heritage listed buildings and significant trees.
It has lived experience for Yarralumla residents and Canberrans more broadly.
1 - Where is Forestry Place?
Forestry Place is the name we have given to the next evolution of the 11 hectare CSIRO Yarralumla site (Block 7 Section 4 Yarralumla) that is bounded to the east by Banks Street, and to the south by Bentham Street. The name and branding reference the physical and social history of the site as a centre for forestry education and research.
2 - What is the site currently used for?
A Federal Government decision in 2012 to consolidate CSIRO activities at Black Mountain, has left the Yarralumla site, as well as many others, excess to their requirements.
3 - Who owns the site?
CSIRO sold the site to Gunyar Pty Ltd in June 2002, with a twenty year lease allowing CSIRO to continue to occupy the property. The Crown Lessee of the site is The Trustee for Gunyar A.C.T. Properties Trust. The beneficiary of the Trust is The Shepherd Foundation, a Registered Charity whose primary purpose is to assist children with hearing loss. The Shepherd Foundation is head quartered in Sydney and has a local presence in Canberra. Oakstand has partnered with The Shepherd Foundation to deliver the evolution of the CSIRO site to become Forestry Place, Yarralumla.
4 - Are you aware of a recent survey undertaken by the Inner South Canberra Community Council to ascertain community priorities?
Yes we are, and the timing couldn’t have been better. We particularly noted the contribution of the 14.7% Yarralumla residents. Overshadowing neighbouring properties, building scale, rezoning impacts on traffic and suburban amenity, and retaining green space appear to be of particular interest to Inner South residents. We have also reviewed other recent consultation outcomes in the area. This community feedback is the starting point of our understanding as we plan future uses for Forestry Place, Yarralumla.
5 - There was an Auditor General’s report about the sale of CSIRO sites. How does this affect the Yarralumla site?
There is no effect on the ownership of the site. The Auditor General’s report canvassed issues relating to the 2012 Government decision to centralise CSIRO operations and the sale of CSIRO’s Australian properties. The CSIRO’s response to the enquiry is publicly available.
HERITAGE BUILDINGS AND TREES
6 - The site has some significant items including heritage buildings and tree plantings. How do you intend to protect them?
The CSIRO Yarralumla site is currently included in the Commonwealth Heritage List. In 2017 Environmental Resources Management Australia Pty Ltd (ERM) was commissioned by the CSIRO to update the 2008 Heritage Management Plan for the site.
The April 2018 ERM Heritage Management Plan.
Any further use or development of the site will be undertaken with consideration of the current Heritage Management Plan. This includes 20 metre curtilages around the heritage buildings. The location and condition of all heritage and significant trees have been documented and inform the design of the draft master plan.
7 - What are the proposed uses for the three listed heritage buildings on the site? Will there be opportunities for uses that can be enjoyed by the wider community? Will these uses compete with the local Yarralumla shopping centre?
A variety of uses have been explored for the different heritage buildings including commercial, cultural or possible future community uses. The opportunities will become more apparent as master planning proceeds, but a key goal is to respect the heritage use of the buildings and their façade as well as their interior significance. A key aim is to have a project that is sufficiently economically viable to maintain the heritage buildings and sustain a tree renewal program.
8. Will there be changes to the existing trees and vegetation on the site?
Our goal is to work with the natural landscape integrating with the site’s topography. The draft master plan has been informed by a location and condition survey of all trees on the site, and incorporates landscaping that will respect the site’s history and the significant trees.
There has been close consultation with the Institute of Foresters and Friends of ACT Trees who advise that a program of tree renewal would be appropriate as many plantings require thinning and are reaching end of life. They have generously offered to advise the project’s landscape architect on appropriate tree species as the project progresses.
9. What land use is currently permitted on the site?
Under the current National Capital Plan, the site is a ‘community facility’, which permits:
- Educational establishment
- Scientific research establishment
- Cultural facility
- Hospital, Health Centre
- Institutional use
- Church use
- Social/community facility.
10. The site is gazetted as National land. What is the approvals process for development?
Because the current use by CSIRO is as a scientific research facility, the land is gazetted as ‘National’ land. The block is ‘Designated’ land subject to the requirements of the National Capital Plan. Where a variation to a Crown lease is sought for blocks identified as ‘National’ land, the process is undertaken through the Commonwealth Department of Finance. Typically, when land ceases to be used for Commonwealth purposes, the ‘National’ land status of a site is revoked under Commonwealth legislation. It will however continue to be ‘Designated’ land under the National Capital Plan. Approvals for development will be required to be sought through the National Capital Authority regardless of the National land status of the site.
Once the National land status is revoked, any variations to the block’s Crown lease will be required to be sought through the ACT government Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.
11 - Will a future proposal be presented to the National Capital Design Review Panel?
Any future proposal will be presented to the National Capital Design Review Panel on the advice of the NCA.
Although the land is ‘Designated’ and not a prescribed development that is required to be presented to the Panel, the Project Team would welcome their advice.
12 - Does the owner of Forestry Place, Yarralumla pay any Lease Variation Charge (LVC), and if so, who receives the payment?
Yes, if a proposed Crown Lease variation is deemed to increase the land value for the site then an LVC charge is payable to the Commonwealth Department of Finance, as the site is ‘National Land’. The charge is based on 75% of the value uplift excluding the value of improvements.
13 - What are the proposed uses for the site?
Forestry Place could be many things. Because of its size, history and location, the site could host educational, residential, commercial, cultural or community future uses… or a combination thereof. Developing a draft master plan was the first stage and included collaboration with the National Capital Authority and the community to progress and develop this exclusive site.
We explored all these possibilities in developing a draft master plan in consultation with key stakeholders and the broader community. An application to amend the National Capital Plan has now been lodged with the National Capital Authority (NCA).
14 - What height and density do you propose?
The topography of the site is undulating, and in places by as much as 15 metres. This allows for buildings of between 2-5 stories to sit snugly into the landscape below the tree line. By planning the site to achieve the best urban design outcomes, a density of about 250-300 residential dwellings, assisted living, aged care and commercial adaptive reuse of the heritage buildings can be accommodated while still retaining at least 60% of the site as open space.
The residential dwellings proposed are single level, dual aspect, oversized apartments providing the spaciousness of a home with large courtyards or generous balconies. The majority of apartments will be 2-3 bedrooms catering to the owner occupier market, offering the liveability of a home and the low maintenance benefit of an apartment.
15 - What is your timeframe?
We took the time through July to October 2020 to develop a draft master plan with input from key stakeholders during an extensive consultation process, prior to taking the draft to the broader community for consultation in November 2020.
An application to amend the National Capital Plan has now been lodged with the National Capital Authority (NCA).
16 - Will I still be able to walk my dog through the CSIRO site like I do now?
We recognise the community has enjoyed access to the site and that is something we have incorporated into the design of the master plan.
17 - Will the proposed development have any impact on the use of the oval?
The oval is not within the boundary of the site and is managed by ACT Government.
18 - What will be the impact of increased traffic on the local streets?
Traffic impact will depend on the final mix of uses. Further traffic studies will be undertaken as the master plan is developed. There has been close consultation with Yarralumla residents with local traffic knowledge to inform the draft master plan.
The project’s traffic consultant is engaging with ACT Government agencies to be informed of the Central Canberra Signalisation project so they can model the impact of the improvements to traffic flow, capacity and safety to inform the Forestry Place project.
19 - What car parking arrangements are proposed for the site?
Car parking for the site will be provided consistent with the planning requirements that correspond with the final determined uses that are developed in the master plan.
20 - How will you engage with the community?
Our approach has been to take the time to develop a draft master plan with input from key stakeholders, prior to taking the draft to broader community consultation. We have developed the draft master plan through multiple workshops and roundtable discussions with key community stakeholders from July to October 2020. We then sought feedback from the broader Yarralumla and surrounding communities in November 2020, prior to refining and finalising the master plan.
21 - There were recent questions about Indigenous consultation on another CSIRO site. Have there been consultations with Indigenous groups?
Recent consultation with Indigenous groups has been undertaken by Heritage Consultant ERM and no Aboriginal heritage values have been identified.