The Government is refusing to release its "value capture" report on the Gungahlin tram, which looks at ways to maximise the amount of money the government can make on the light-rail route down Northbourne Avenue.
The report, Value Capture Options: Capital Metro Light Rail Project, is dated June 2014. A freedom of information request has been rejected on the grounds that it would disclose deliberations and decisions of Cabinet.
"Value capture" assumes that land in the area of a new transport project will increase in value and looks for ways for the government to "capture" that increase through taxes and charges.
The rapid business case for the $783 million tram line, never publicly released but obtained by The Canberra Times in May 2014, listed the value capture options being considered.
It says the highest priorities for capturing revenue are the large tracts of land that could be sold to local, national and international development as "super lots".
"The large government-owned areas allow the government to sell down the land parcels via offering "super lots" within the zones," it says. "This encourages the developers to take a long-term view, and therefore investment, within the corridor."
But it points to the need to "push through planning reforms" so developers can make their plans without the uncertainty of objections and time constraints.
It also points to indecision of the future of Exhibition Park and the racecourse as stumbling blocks that could compromise the government's ability to maximise value capture in the area.
Exhibition Park and the racecourse "dissect the corridor and also offer the greatest potential for land use change and intensification", it says.
Among value capture options listed in the rapid business case are rates, land taxes, stamp duty and lease variation changes.
It also lists new taxes, including a district levy or direct levy, development impact fees, the sale of "air rights", tax increment financing, negotiated exactions and development impact fees.
The Government has since ruled out a special levy, although is unclear what the value capture study might have concluded on that option.
Development impact fees are paid by developers but they are strongly opposed by developer groups. Air rights refers to the sale of the right to develop areas above tram stations. Tax increment financing refers to declaring a special area to benefit from the tram and directing future increases in taxes from rising values in the zone towards paying for the project. Negotiated exactions are requirements on developers to help pay for public areas and public infrastructure.
Other than the government ruling out a levy, it is not known which of these value capture options in the tram corridor – typically 400 metres on each side of the line but up to 800 metres or 1 kilometre – are being considered.
The rapid business case said an analysis of the options would be included in the full business case but, when the full business case was released in October, the subject was almost entirely omitted. It simply recommended the Government consider value capture matters separately, noting that the main beneficiaries of the transport projects were property owners nearby, users of the transport, others on the roads who benefited from less congestion, land developers, businesses and the general public.
The Canberra Times requested the Value Capture Options report under freedom of information laws but was knocked back on the basis that it would disclose decisions of cabinet. Another document was identified as relevant to the request, a 2013 report with the title Capital Metro Funding and Finance: Principles, Framework and Model. But that document, too, was judged exempt from release not only because of cabinet confidentiality but because it would "disclose commercially sensitive information about the amount and type of development that may be required over the medium to longer term along the Northbourne corridor".
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