Belconnen retains its 4000 strong workforce at Immigration

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The Department of Immigration and Border Protection today announced that the 4000 Immigration employees working in the Town Centre will remain in Belconnen. Office accommodation arrangements have now been finalised, and although its Civic workforce will be relocating to the Airport, its Belconnen employees will remain in the Town Centre.

Some will relocate to the underutilised ABS Building on Benjamin Way, across the road from their main Belconnen building.

This is a tremendous result that the BCC, under former Chair Tara Cheyne, worked hard to achieve, with strong bipartisan political efforts at local and federal levels.

Todays announcement provides certainty to the workers and their families that faced enormous dislocation, and to the many small businesses that relied on the 4000 workers. The department employs around one third of the full time workforce located in the Town Centre and remains Belconnens largest employer.

This decision was almost certain following last years decision by the Finance Department to take local factors into consideration when contemplating relocation of departments.

The decision was advised to all staff via an email on 5 May 2016:

Belconnen retains its Immigration workforce

Belconnen retains its Immigration workforce

The media covered the decision here and here.

Senator Zed Seselja commented on the decision by saying:

“Along with the Belconnen community I fought to ensure the [department] remained in its current location with the same staffing footprint, and I’m pleased that we won that fight,”

“Our government is the first ever to take into consideration local impacts on Canberra before making a decision regarding departmental accommodation and today’s announcement shows just how important this was.

“We now have certainty for businesses and staff located at the Belconnen town centre.

“We all know that the presence of government departments in our town centres is critical to maintaining the viability of many local small businesses. This is how Canberra was designed and we need to protect that.

“A move of the DIBP from Belconnen town centre would not have been in the best interest of the Belconnen community. It was vital to ensure this did not happen.

Immigration Department likely to remain in Belconnen – Community council celebrates dumping of plans

Read the full ABC Online Story here.

ABC Online reported on October 3 2015 that the headquarters for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will likely remain in Belconnen in Canberra’s north after the Federal Government cancelled its tender for a new office building.

bcc imm belcoBelconnen Community Council member Damien Haas said the decision delivered certainty and relief to town centre businesses and residents.

“It was an enormous issue. That department has been there for 30 years,” he said.

“People have built their lives, life, around where they work and where they live.

“Uprooting 4,000 people and moving them somewhere else … that’s about a third of the Belconnen Town Centre’s workforce. So many local businesses would have been really impacted.”

Mr Haas praised strong bi-partisan lobbying for the backflip.

“Senator Zed Seselja has worked very hard. Andrew Leigh has been absolutely dogged in trying to hold the Government to account on the decision,” he said.

“At Senate estimates Katy Gallagher asked some very probing questions which meant that the department knew that this wasn’t an issue that was just going to be, you know ticked off and the department would move.”

BCC welcomes news that Department of Immigration is to stay in Belconnen

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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.”

Smart parking trial commences

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The BCC are glad to see the ACT Government is about to commence its smart parking trial. It is being trialled in Manuka.

The BCC were the only community council or organisation to put a submission in on smart parking, and were invited by the team conducting the research to a meeting to discuss our ideas.

That submission is here.

We asked that any trial commence in Belconnen, as it had well researched parking issues and parking pressures.

With the introduction of a Canberra wide wifi network, and smart parking apps on peoples smartphones, the opportunity exists for smarter management of existing parking.

We look forward to further expansion of the trial into Belconnen.

 

ACT Government gives green light for University of Canberra retail, residential development

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The ACT Government approves plans for the University of Canberra to develop its campus, which could include commercial, retail and residential projects.

Belconnen Community Council chair Tara Cheyne said with students increasingly studying remotely or taking classes online, the university was finding ways to attract people to the campus.

“University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker wants to create a precinct where people can live and work,” she told 666 ABC Canberra.

“But probably one of the biggest things, and something that we’ve received quite a lot of questions about, is this proposal for quite a lot of housing on the site.”

Ms Cheyne said while some Belconnen retailers had criticised the proposal, commercial development was not the primary motive for the development.

“What’s more important for the retailers in the technical town centre at the moment is how we can connect UC and the Belconnen Town centre in a better way,” she said.

“Making those retailers even more viable than they already are.”

read the ABC Online article here

ACT Policing on theft hotspots from cars in Belconnen

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There has been an 80% increase in thefts from cars in several parts of Canberra, according to ACT Policing.

“Belconnen Community Council chair Tara Cheyne, who lives in the town centre, said the increased number of high-rise apartments with underground parking was likely fuelling the increase in thefts from cars.

“Once thieves gain access to these, it also gives them access to a significant number of cars at once, which could point to that increase,” she said.

“Certainly anecdotally, and as a resident of the town centre, people are concerned but that also leads to heightened vigilance and people, as far as I’m concerned, are behaving a lot more carefully when they’ve seen someone in their carparks they haven’t seen before. And I think behaving in that neighbourly way is an important way to help address these incidents.”

The Canberra Times article is online here.

BCC Chair Tara Cheyne talks to ABC radio about UC development proposals

BCC Chair Tara Cheyne spoke to Genevieve Jacobs on ABC 666 radio today about the recently approved University of Canberra development plans.

UC and the BCC will continue to liaise as the development moves from planning to fruition, with the aim that UC and Belconnen Town Centre mutually benefit from the multi-decade development.

Diversifying the ACT economy is important, and increasing employment through making UC a precinct where students and faculty can live and work, will benefit all of Belconnen.

The interview is online here.

BCC Chair Tara Cheyne talks to ABC radio about the Kippax master plan and future development in West Belconnen

Genevieve Jacobs spoke to BCC Chair Tara Cheyne on ABC 666 radio today, about the Kippax master plan and development in West Belconnen. Planning Minister Mick Gentleman is interviewed first, with Tara appearing at the 3.22 minute/second mark.

The BCC are keen that West Belconnen is connected to the rest of Belconnen by good planning and public transport. We also want Kippax to remain a lively and friendly centre of the community.

The interview is online here.