ACT News


Brodtmann queries embassy enclave at Yarralumla

Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann is sceptical about what is being described by some as an urgent need for a new diplomatic enclave located in Yarralumla.

She says while O'Malley and West Deakin still have space for foreign embassies, and other areas are coming on line for consideration, Yarralumla's Stirling Park should not be earmarked for new missions.

The Canberra Times has this week highlighted a looming battle between Yarralumla residents and the National Capital Authority, which is looking for more land to establish foreign embassies.

Up to 40 large new blocks will be needed and nine of them could come from the popular bushland at Stirling Park on Lake Burley Griffin's southern foreshore.

The stand-off comes amid reports some embassies wanting to move there from Africa and Europe come from countries with weak economies. Many foreign nations want their embassies to be linked to the already established diplomatic zone in Yarralumla.

But The Canberra Times understands at least one current ambassador from an economically struggling country has taken to mowing his embassy's lawns himself because his mission is broke.


Ms Brodtmann, who has used a number of parliamentary committee meetings to voice her concerns about the approach being taken, says she doesn't get the rationale behind Stirling Park as an option.

''We need to take a strategic and holistic view to our diplomatic enclaves; one that takes into account Canberra in its modern context,'' she said yesterday.

''I am quite sceptical about the urgent need for a Yarralumla diplomatic enclave, particularly given O'Malley is not full and West Deakin is not full, Molonglo Valley is coming on line and we have very good commercial opportunities in Civic.''

Ms Brodtmann, who lives in Yarralumla but insists she is certainly not a NIMBY (not in my backyard), said the notion that Canberra's so-called prestigious inner-south suburbs are where all embassies want to be doesn't stack up. The MP, who has previously served as an Australian diplomat in India, said internationally there was hardly ever a case where all embassies were located in the one area.

''There are a range of enclaves in most capitals throughout the world. You have the people who got there first and they are right in the middle of the city,'' she said.

''Then you have the second tier and then the third tier who are usually about 40 minutes away.''

Some Yarralumla residents have vowed to fight the NCA if it goes ahead with any plans to build new embassies at Stirling Park. Some have even promised to chain themselves to bulldozers if they have to.

The NCA insists no decision has been made and land is still being assessed for environmental, heritage and community values.

Tenure, serviceability and bushfire risk are also being considered in the NCA's decision making process.

But Ms Brodtmann said the European crisis should also play a factor as some embassies have no money.


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