Liberal Senator Zed Seselja's quest to expand Tuggeranong has taken a step forward with the National Capital Authority now looking at changing the National Capital Plan, Canberra's principal planning document.
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs asked the NCA on Wednesday for a brief on the process needed to change the plan.
"Senator Seselja is very keen to look at it; obviously we do not make the final decision on developments but there are restrictions on the National Capital Plan on where the ACT government can go, and if we can loosen those restrictions because there is demand, that is something we would be happy to look at,'' Mr Briggs said.
"The National Capital Authority has responsibility for ensuring the uniqueness of Canberra and in that respect, whether the ACT government wants to open up additional land or not is not really in our ambit.
"It is more whether the National Capital Plan which has been in place for some time needs amendments to allow traditional growth.''
Senator Seselja proposed in April allowing Tuggeranong to expand to the west side of the Murrumbidgee River to bring more people to the region, as identified in the original plan for Canberra.
He said on Wednesday he would like to see the change happen quickly, but carefully in consideration of environmental impacts on the river corridor.
"I don't see it as a 10- or 15-year project, I would see it as a three-to-five-year project potentially if we could get it off the ground,'' he said.
He said expanding Tuggeranong would provide critical mass to help the town centre overcome challenges of a small population.
"This is actually a strong budgetary opportunity for the ACT government. And remember, we are seeing growth on the south side of Canberra, but it is not in the ACT. We are seeing a lot of growth in (NSW) places like Googong and of course Tralee is coming up.
"I think that development certainly should have a competitor in the south and much of that development would be happening in the ACT if different decisions had been taken years ago.''
He said long-time Tuggeranong residents understood expanding would provide more opportunities in their southern suburbs.
"It is not just about more affordable land, but that is very important. It is also about having better facilities for the people of Tuggeranong, if you get more of that critical mass.
He rejected expansion would create more urban sprawl, because Tuggeranong was longer and narrower than it was meant to be in the original plan. This development front would be close to the town centre, giving opportunities for people to be close to where they worked.
Senator Seselja said all Canberrans would like to see a good buffer between the river and development, and nature and recreational areas set aside.
He said that in estimates hearings on Wednesday the Department of Social Services had confirmed keeping its Tuggeranong location and expected work to begin on its new building at the end of 2014. He said employees were expected to move in to the new accommodation at the end of 2016.