The Belconnen Community Council welcomed the Department of Finance announcement on Friday 2 October that the Department of Immigration employees working in the main Belconnen office would not be relocated to another part of Canberra.
Belconnen Community Council Committee member Damien Haas said:
“This announcement is an enormous relief to the 4000 employees and the local businesses in the Town Centre that would have faced an uncertain future with many thousands of customers leaving.”
The Belconnen Community Council has played a leading role in coordinating local organisations and businesses and liaising with elected representatives to ensure that community views on the possible move were made known to decision makers.
“As well as writing to all the politicians and bureaucrats, we organised a community forum so people could actually have a say in the process. Senator Zed Seselja and MP Andrew Leigh spoke to local residents, business people and immigration department employees about their concerns, the process, and what they were doing to see that the department did not relocate from Belconnen.“
Mr Haas added:
“Senator Seselja and MP Andrew Leigh certainly took the message away that the move would devastate local businesses. “
“The disruption to the employees lives would have been tremendous. Many employees live in Belconnen suburbs and have children in local schools. Adding an hour a day to travel times to and from the airport, and high airport parking fees, would add considerable costs to the employees. These very real impacts on people were something we didn’t feel the Department was concerned about.“
Since the possible relocation was announced, the BCC has worked hard behind the scenes with Territory and Commonwealth politicians on strategies to keep the employees in the Belconnen Town Centre.
“The ACT Government has been very supportive, and rightly so. Many of their urban renewal policies have brought about a rise in commercial and residential development, and the whole Belconnen town centre has a real vibe today that didn’t exist five years ago.”
Mr Haas added that the Assembly took the impacts of the move very seriously, noting that all the Ginninderra electorate Assembly members except Alistair Coe attended the public forum to listen to peoples concerns.
“Moving the Department from the Belconnen town centre would be very damaging. It would be frustrating to see hard work on urban renewal and transport policies start to take effect and then a Commonwealth Department head decides to move closer to Parliament House, and take 4000 people with him. The move is an option that never should have been considered.’ Mr Haas said.
The Belconnen Community Council is relieved that there is now some certainty and people can start to plan their lives. Coming on top of a merger where many jobs were lost, the whole process has been quite stressful for local residents and business. On a more positive note, Mr Haas added that he would welcome the relocation of the Departments employees from Civic to Belconnen, saying that “there is ample commercial space in Belconnen, and developers have indicated they are keen to construct new accommodation.”