The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has announced that it is looking forward to “continuing its relationship with the Belconnen community” after cancelling the tender for its headquarters project. The tender had opened the possibility for up to 4000 workers to be moved out of Belconnen to the city or Canberra Airport.
Victory has been a long time coming. The tender was first announced over twelve months ago, leading to a protracted time of worry for workers and local businesses.
The long-term location for DIBP employees in Civic remains uncertain. However, it is possible that they may either obtain new accommodation in Civic or Belconnen through a new tender process, or take up surplus government accommodation in nearby buildings (for example, at ABS House).
The biggest win for Canberra is the acknowledgement that local impacts need to be taken into account when the Commonwealth changes its accommodation arrangements. For the first time ever, there are now formal processes to evaluate local impacts when a proposed move represents more than 10% of the available jobs in a locality.
This has shown the power of an active local campaign to effect change. Many individuals and groups have contributed to the campaign. Most notably, local pollie Andrew Leigh was tireless in his efforts to organise petitions, bus stalls, and promote awareness of the situation, aided by Chris Bourke, Katy Gallagher, and Zed Seselja. The CPSU has also run a very active campaign in cooperation with a number of other local community groups.
This is a genuinely great outcome for the Belconnen community and for the ACT that protects the viability of our town centres into the future.