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Shopping in the triangle? It's a private matter

The federal government says it is up to the private sector to breathe commercial life into Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle.

But the Commonwealth has agreed to a get-tough policy on foreign embassies that allow valuable land in the capital’s diplomatic precinct to sit empty, sometimes for decades.

The government has responded to committee recommendations on the management of the triangle and Canberra's diplomatic estate, pledging no new money but plenty of reports. It says there will be no funding to "develop retail services" in the triangle and it is up to retailers, landlords, childcare operators and other private players to make decisions about locating in the precinct.

The national precinct’s "lack of amenity" has been raised as a problem by local politicians as tens of thousands of public servants prepare to begin later this year to pay for car parking in the area.

Parliament’s National Capital Committee examined the issue and recommended the government provide cash and resources to boost retail and other commercial services, parking and public transport in the “central national area”.

But the government in its response made clear it believed commercial development in the triangle was the preserve of the private sector.

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“There are no legislative or planning obstacles currently in place which prevent amenities operating in the CNA, and in some precincts planning frameworks mandate that amenity space be provided,” the response said. “…It is the role of retailers, services suppliers and building owners to make commercial decisions regarding the viability of setting up businesses.”

But there is plenty of work to do for the National Capital Authority, with the government agreeing it should work on “a strategy for the provision of amenity within the CNA, including timelines and responsibilities”.

The National Capital Authority will also be expected to produce a “comprehensive audit to identify any shortfalls in the CNA precincts in order to prepare a baseline needs analysis for services”.

The authority is also expected to explore the possibility of a park-and-ride service that would allow public servants to leave their cars away from the triangle, completing their journey to work by public transport.

Money to pay for the authority's extra work will be considered as part of the budget process, according to the government’s response.

The government also responded on Friday to another report of the National Capital Committee calling for action on the shortage of land in the capital for diplomatic missions for overseas nations.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development will develop a policy to tackle the shortage of embassy land.

The government also says it will back the NCA in getting tough with foreign nations that leave valuable blocks in the diplomatic estate undeveloped for more than three years.

Four new diplomatic missions are in the process of being established and another seven nations want to open embassies in Canberra.

The shortage of suitable land has grown critical after a plan to build embassies on Stirling Ridge at Yarralumla was defeated by the upmarket suburb’s anti-development activists.