Opposition Leader Alistair Coe says Kowen Forest should remain an option for future residential development, as he foreshadowed plans to open up more land for housing on Canberra's fringes if the Liberals win next year's election.
Mr Coe used an address to the National Press Club on Friday to attack the ACT government for "strangling" the supply of land for stand-alone houses, a policy he claimed was driving up prices and forcing Canberrans to move across the border.
He said there were large swathes of rural land which could be used for housing, including on the outer fringes of Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Weston Creek and Molonglo Valley.
The option of redeveloping Kowen Forest should also not be "dismissed", he said.
"For all this talk that land is running out in the ACT, you only need to fly in or out of Canberra to see that there is plenty of land," he said.
Mr Coe's stance marks a clear point of difference with Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who in May ruled out any residential development on the sprawling pine forest northeast of Canberra.
Mr Barr's declaration came after ACT planning officials suggested at a parliamentary hearing that Kowen could one day be developed.
The Opposition Leader's vision for more detached housing in Canberra's outer suburbs also conflicts with the ACT government's broader planning strategy, which calls for 70 per cent of new dwellings to be built in urban areas.
The government has insisted that prioritising urban infill is the best way to accommodate Canberra's growing population, while also shielding the region's natural environment from development.
In a speech to mark 12 months until the next ACT election, Mr Coe told the audience at the National Press Club that the Liberals were every chance of ending Labor's near 20-year hold on power.
In somewhat of a surprise, Mr Coe did not use the address to make any policy announcements, choosing instead to focus on the broad themes he hopes will frame the coming election campaign.
He said Labor had "abandoned their [support] base", leaving the Liberals to "stand up for the working poor" and the "aspirational".
Mr Coe once more took aim at Labor's "harsh rates regime", while again claiming the Barr government's tax policies were forcing Canberrans over the border, in particular to Queanbeyan.
Reaffirming previous pledges to freeze residential rates and simplify the territory's complex planning system, Mr Coe also promised to "elevate the status" of vocational education if he won government.
He suggested creating a dedicated trades school in the nation's capital, saying that "not everyone should be on a path to university".
Mr Coe acknowledged that the Civic to Gungahlin light rail was working well for those who used it, and again committed to honouring contracts for the extension to Woden if they were signed before the election.
But he stressed there was still "a lot of water to go under the bridge" before those deals were struck.
"We are open to light rail, but it has to stack up," Mr Coe said.
"We have an obligation to all the ratepayers of Canberra who are doing it tough to make wise decisions based on evidence."
Mr Barr claimed that Mr Coe's economic policies would not support the community or grow the ACT economy.
"Canberrans want a government that will guarantee more services as our city grows - more nurses, more teachers, more police officers, more firefighters, more city rangers and more people to support the most vulnerable in our community," he said.