B1 - Organisation Overview

Our Purpose

The Directorate is responsible for a wide range of policies and programs within the Australian Capital Territory Public Service (ACTPS), including areas as diverse as climate change policy, energy policy, nature conservation, environment protection policy, strategic and statutory planning (including leasing), development assessment, building policy, housing policy, land policy and economics, heritage, water policy and environment and conservation research. The Directorate includes the ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS), which manages nature reserves, national parks, commercial softwood forests and rural lands to conserve and enhance ACT's natural and cultural values while providing Canberrans with places to enjoy nature and outdoor activities.

The Asbestos Response Taskforce and Public Housing Renewal Taskforce are within the Directorate, providing integrated policy development and implementation of two programs with a strong focus on positive individual and community outcomes.

The Directorate provides corporate and governance support for the Suburban Land Agency and the City Renewal Authority. When considered together, the Directorate, the Authority and the Agency are referred to as the Directorate Portfolio.

Our values

The ACTPS operates on a 'one government' service model. It is a values-based service with core values of respect, innovation, collaboration, integrity. The four service values guide the decision making and operations of the ACTPS. In addition to the ACTPS core values, the Directorate's vision is 'shaping Canberra's future' and our mission is to be informed, connected, innovative.

Our workforce

We have a dedicated team that covers a diverse range of functions. We are committed to attracting and retaining people with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to ensure we deliver on our vision and mission.

We support the ongoing education and development of all of our people. Our goal is to develop our people so they have the right skills to help us meet our vision and deliver on our mission for the community. We believe in supporting each member of our team to grow their own skills and knowledge, which they share with their team and the wider community that makes up the Directorate Portfolio.


Director-General, Ben Ponton

With the Directorate's portfolio responsibilities expanding from 1 July 2017, this year was focussed on consolidation and transformation. It has been an opportunity to identify how we can integrate previously separate functions and transform the way we do business. The addition of the urban renewal, housing policy and land strategy portfolios provided a more holistic base from which to progress our policy review and development work.

My philosophy of applying a people focus to the work of the directorate has been no secret. Our positive, productive engagements with the Canberra community will continue to drive key government initiatives and campaigns. The benefits will be seen across the breadth of work we do, from planning to climate change, sustainability, the environment and heritage.

My ambition is to create a city for the people that continues to be a city in the landscape. We have started thinking about built form structures as part of the broader landscape, including high quality public spaces. We are thinking about how our buildings might contribute, in a positive way, to the experience of people as they move through the city; as well as the experience of people living and working in them. And we are seeing how they fit with our ambitious goal to be a climate-friendly, sustainable city with zero net carbon emissions by 2045.

We have established—and will continue to maintain—productive and collaborative relationships with our colleagues across the ACTPS as we work together to develop government strategies that improve the liveability, sustainability and connectivity of our city. It's exciting to see the different strategies inform, interact with and complement each other.

These strategies will all feed into the review of the Territory Plan, which I announced earlier this year. I'm keen to develop a new Territory Plan that will be more people and outcomes focussed with strong local area character provisions that have been developed in partnership with local communities. I very much look forward to engaging with all sectors of our community and developing a plan that everyone can feel represents them.

We will also continue to engage the Canberra community and visitors in our natural environment, which is so important to our health and wellbeing. Our parks, reserves and wildlife are expertly managed by our people in partnership with dedicated volunteers from our community and guided by our environmental research and natural resource management.

Next year will see us enter the final stages of the Healthy Waterways project, which is cleaning our waterways while providing lovely recreational spots and reducing our environmental footprint—epitomising the holistic nature of much of our work.

I meet with many community groups, development industry peak bodies, professional associations and ACTPS colleagues on a regular basis and look forward to building these relationships even further in the coming year as the Directorate continues to deliver on its mandated outputs to improve the liveability, sustainability and connectivity of our territory.

Planning frameworks

The Directorate's Strategic Plan

The Corporate Plan 2015-17 translates the Directorate's diverse responsibilities into key result areas. The plan is guided by the ACT Government's Performance and Accountability Framework.

The full plan is available on the Directorate's website. The key result areas are:

  • deliver a planning and leasehold system that delivers quality spatial outcomes and urban design, integrated transport and development outcomes that contribute to economic prosperity and a sustainable Canberra
  • protect and enhance our natural environment, water resources and heritage values
  • deliver balanced and effective policies for safe buildings, effective environmental controls and optimal land use outcomes
  • lead the community to make Canberra a zero-net carbon emitter
  • demonstrate leadership, innovation and accountability.

The Corporate Plan also recognises that people are the Directorate's most valuable asset and commits to ensuring our people have a supportive working environment that will enable the Directorate to fully realise the government's vision for the Territory.

In 2018, work on the Directorate's 2018-20 Strategic Plan commenced. This Plan reflects the Directorate's diverse responsibilities and set a framework for strategic priorities and actions, as we work to shape Canberra's future.

ACT Planning Framework

One of the Directorate's key areas of responsibility is strategic and statutory planning and development assessment. The diagram on the next page illustrates the components of the planning and development system of the Territory.

The Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (Cwth) establishes how this system operates. It vests responsibility for managing the planning and development of Canberra at a metropolitan level, and in its role as the national capital, to the Commonwealth Government. It vests responsibility for managing Canberra in its role as a capital city—a place where people live, work and play—to the ACT Government.

From an ACT Government perspective, this diagram reflects the whole-of-government approach to planning and urban development from legislation to policy through to regulation and compliance. The collaborative approach to planning, as articulated on the next page, ensures the delivery of community-focused, coordinated planning that increases Canberra's productivity, efficiency and—ultimately—its liveability.

The ACT Planning Strategy establishes the 'how, where and what' of the Territory's development and growth into the future. In 2018, the Directorate commenced the Planning Strategy Refresh. A lot of the 2012 strategy remains relevant - but we need to refresh the strategy to take into account the changes our city is undergoing, notably light rail, ongoing urban renewal and a growing population.

A refreshed 2018 ACT Planning Strategy document will also incorporate the progress made on key government priorities such as, achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the ACT by 2045, providing increased housing choice and affordability and delivering improved and integrated public transport and active travel.

Components of the planning and development system (in relation to activities undertaken under formal planning legislation)

Flowchart of the components of the planning and development system of the Territory
Click to view larger image

Summary of performance

Delivery of the government's strategies and priorities continued in 2017-18. The Directorate performed well against a number of strategic objectives, strategic indicators and output classes during the year. Further detail and analysis of this performance is detailed in section B.2 Performance Analysis, and includes the following key achievements:

  • Development of Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines, which will encourage developers to have meaningful engagement with the community prior to submitting a development application. The guidelines were developed in partnership with community and industry through consultations held in 2017.
  • Registration of 1390 land parcels (blocks), comprising 1232 greenfields blocks, 130 infill blocks, 12 rural blocks and 16 head-lease blocks by the Office of the Surveyor-General. The primary greenfield estates were the suburbs of Denman Prospect and Taylor.
  • Consultation on the City and Gateway Draft Urban Design Framework. The Draft Framework will inform future changes to the dual planning controls of the National Capital Plan (managed by the NCA) and the Territory Plan (managed by the ACT Government), and any infrastructure upgrades throughout the city and gateway corridor.
  • Commenced the ACT Planning Strategy Refresh, which will build on the direction set in the 2012 Strategy to better integrate with the key areas of climate change, transport and housing policy, all of which have strategies concurrently in development.
  • Delivery of the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival, which included 156 activities involving
    60 event organisers from government, community and private sectors.
  • Running public consultation on the review of the Fisheries Act 2000 that will ensure the legislation appropriately addresses contemporary fisheries management issues.
  • Completing the rollout of the first five year implementation plan for the ACT Water Strategy: Striking the Balance 2014-44, which guides the management of the Territory and region's catchments and water supply over the next 30 years.
  • Undertaking surveying and monitoring of a large number of threatened species (plants, terrestrial fauna and fish).
  • Continued roll-out of the H2OK Keeping Our Waterways Healthy stormwater education and behaviour change program.
  • Launch of the Actsmart Solar for Low Income program. The program provides eligible households with a partial subsidy of up to 60% (capped at $3000) for the supply and installation of rooftop solar panels. Participants can also access a three-year interest free loan to pay off the remaining costs. 221 low income households received solar panels through the program in 2017-18.
  • Release of a discussion paper, ACT's Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory, to inform the development of a new climate strategy to achieve 2025 emission reduction targets.
  • Supply of 24 Parks and Conservation Service staff for overseas deployment to British Columbia, Canada to help fight very large bushfires during the northern summer.
  • To better prepare the Territory for the upcoming bushfire season, over 700 specific activities were completed from prescribed burns to roadside grass slashing to stock grazing in strategic rural areas.
  • Completion of 96.9% of the actions required under the 2017-18 Bushfire Operational Plan by the Parks and Conservation Service.
  • In protecting our water supply catchment and securing the water future of Canberra, restoration works targeting water quality outcomes progressed in the Lower Cotter Catchment as it continues a transition from commercial pine plantation to native forest and woodland.
  • Publication of the Indicative Land Release Program 2018-19 to 2021-22.
  • Continued work with the community, building and development sectors in developing a new Housing Strategy, including the inaugural Housing and Homelessness Summit and the release of the discussion paper, Towards a New Housing Strategy.
  • Continued coordination of the Asset Recycling Initiative Program.


Senior executives


Ben Ponton: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Dave Peffer: 11 July 2017 to 8 August 2017; and 26 August 2017 to 10 September 2017

Deputy Director-General

Land Strategy and Environment

Erin Brady: 18 October 2017 to 30 June 2018

Geoffrey Rutledge: 10 July 2017 to 31 October 2017

Sustainability and the Built Environment

Geoffrey Rutledge: 1 November 2017 to 30 June 2018

Gary Rake: 29 August 2017 to 31 October 2017

Brett Phillips: 17 July 2017 to 13 September 2017

Chief Operating Officer

Craig Simmons: 14 May 2018 to 30 June 2018

Christopher Reynolds: 1 July 2017 to 6 May 2018

Executive Director

Climate Change and Sustainability

Stephen Bygrave: 1 July 2017 to 27 November 2017


Ian Walker: 1 March 2018 to 30 June 2018

Daniel Iglesias: 23 December 2017 to 4 March 2018

Annie Lane: 1 July 2017 to 12 April 2018

Daniel Iglesias: 1 July 2017 to 21 July 2017

Planning Delivery

Brett Phillips: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

George Cilliers: 31 July 2017 to 13 September 2017

Planning Policy

Fleur Flanery: 4 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Urban Renewal

Bruce Fitzgerald: 3 July 2017 to 30 June 2018


ACT Parks and Conservation Service

Daniel Iglesias: 1July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Margaret Kitchen: 8 February 2018 to 4 March 2018

Alexandra Kaucz: 1 August 2017 to 30 August 2017

Asbestos Response Taskforce

Jayne Reece: 9 August 2017 to 13 May 2018

Clint Peters: 1 July 2017 to 23 July 2017

Energy Markets and Renewables

Daniel Harding: 18 December 2017 to 30 June 2018

Jonathan Sibley: 1 July 2017 to 12 January 2018

Daniel Harding: 1 July 2017 to 26 July 2017

Engagement and Executive Support

Karen Wilden: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Karen Stewart-Moore: 23 April 2018 to 30 June 2018

Finance, Information and Assets

Gary Spencer: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Governance, Compliance and Legal

Carolyn O'Neill: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Land Development Projects

Simon Tennent: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

People and Capability

Jaime Elton: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Public Housing Renewal Taskforce

Paul Lewis: 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018

Executive remuneration

All executives employed by the Directorate were paid in accordance with the Determinations of the ACT Remuneration Tribunal and relevant laws and instruments including the Public Sector Management Act 1994 and the Public Sector Management Standards 2016.

Significant committee list

Committee nameRole
Executive Management Board This peak decision-making body is responsible for significant operational, policy and resourcing decisions and approvals. The Executive Management Board establishes and reviews the Directorate's strategic direction and monitors performance in key areas, including financial performance.
Information Communication Technology and Digital Transformation Committee The Information Communication Technology and Digital Transformation Committee is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring the Directorate's strategic direction for ICT business systems including medium to long term planning and policies and recommending the development of funding proposals for Executive Management Board consideration where necessary.
Directorate Consultative Committee The Consultative Committee aims to promote cooperation, improve communication, encourage greater productivity and job satisfaction and provide input into matters of concern to staff at all levels. The committee operates with formal terms of reference agreed between the Directorate and the unions and under the provisions of the relevant enterprise agreements.
Audit Committee The role of the Audit Committee is to oversee the Directorate's governance, risk and internal control environment on behalf of the Director-General and in accordance with the ACT Government Internal Audit Framework 2007.
Performance and Business Management Committee The Performance and Business Management Committee provides whole-of-directorate advice and direction relevant to management and oversight of the Directorate's operations and performance to the Executive Management Board. The aim of the committee is to oversee organisational strategy and operational policy matters (including decision making, planning, implementation of directorate initiatives and policies) and to monitor and identify improvements in organisational performance (including business performance, budget management, service delivery, people management and risk management).

This committee ceased operation on 18 June 2018. The Executive Steering Committee and Finance Committees have been created to replace it.
Portfolio Project Governance Committee Provides business level advice and collaboration on the development of key governance deliverables and dependencies required to enable the effective operations of the Directorate, the City Renewal Authority and the Suburban Land Agency.
Work Health and Safety Steering Committee This committee meets quarterly to provide leadership, support and direction to the Directorate's management of workplace health and safety systems and processes.
The committee's primary objectives are to provide overarching support for the Directorate's work health and safety strategies and responsibilities including:
  • providing a forum for employers and workers to consult on work health and safety concerns
  • providing information, ideas and feedback to employers and managers on how to implement work health and safety best practice
  • assisting with the development of standards, rules and procedures relating to work health and safety that are to be complied with in the workplace
  • encouraging workers to take an interest in the prevention of a range of work health and safety matters, reviewing circumstances of injuries, diseases and serious incidents in the workplace and making recommendations to employers
  • undertaking other activities agreed between the Executive Management Board and the Work Health and Safety Steering Committee.
Asbestos Response Taskforce Eradication Scheme Steering Committee The Asbestos Response Taskforce Eradication Scheme Steering Committee is the tier-one governance committee for the Head, Asbestos Response Taskforce, to oversee the effective delivery of all elements of the ACT Government Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication Scheme.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reporting

ACT Heritage

ACT Heritage works closely with Representative Aboriginal Organisations (RAO), as declared under the Heritage Act 2004 (Heritage Act), and with heritage consultants, development proponents and ACT Government agencies to ensure that Aboriginal places and objects throughout the Territory are appropriately protected and managed.

ACT Heritage, in conjunction with the Heritage Council, has facilitated numerous heritage projects, as detailed below, to recognise and promote the Aboriginal culture and history of the ACT, including coordinating and producing Aboriginal heritage interpretive sites throughout the ACT

Aboriginal projects funded by the ACT Heritage Grants Program 2017-18

The Southern ACT Catchment Group received $9240 to protect and restore the canoe scar trees located in the Lanyon Homestead Precinct, which have been nominated to the Heritage Register. The Aboriginal community was consulted about appropriate Aboriginal cultural heritage interpretation for the Cultural Facilities Corporation education program at Lanyon. Graffiti was professionally removed and protective fencing around the trees replaced.

The Friends of the Pinnacle received $1000 to conduct Aboriginal guided walks, led by members of the local Ngunnawal people, through the Pinnacle Nature Reserve during the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival. These walks aimed to increase community awareness of the local Aboriginal heritage values of the reserve and deepen community understanding of the need to protect and preserve those values.

Aboriginal events in the 2018 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival

A record 18 events in the 2018 Canberra and Regional Heritage Festival celebrated our local Aboriginal heritage. The theme 'My Culture, My Story' celebrated local Aboriginal culture as well as multicultural groups within the region. Aboriginal events included guided tours by Ngunnawal Traditional Custodians, an exhibition of art and crafts at Burunju Gallery, children's activities such as throwing and decorating a boomerang, and bush food walks and tastings.

Conservation works

Work continued on the conservation and interpretation of an Aboriginal cultural tree. This project continued as part of the 2016-17 Capital Works program and involved the relocation of the tree from Tharwa to the Namadgi Visitor's Centre, where on-site interpretation will share the history and significance of the tree and, more broadly, the Aboriginal history and heritage of the ACT. Conservation works were undertaken to stabilise and preserve the remaining sections of the cultural tree. Funding for this project responds to RAO views on appropriate management of the cultural tree. All stages have been guided by RAO views on conservation works and the heritage interpretation outcome.

The ACT Government allocated funding through the 2017-18 capital works program for the development of a Cultural Heritage Management System for the ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) that will create a system to manage Aboriginal places in partnership with Traditional Custodians and in accordance with Heritage Act obligations. The initial stage of this project included a review of the PCS management estate and current heritage management practices, scoping of the Cultural Heritage Management System and its governance, and the development of draft standard operational procedures for Aboriginal cultural heritage management.

ACT Place Names

The Directorate considers the vocabulary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criteria for determining public place names under the Public Place Names Act 1989. Two members of the ACT Place Names Committee represent Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Before having regard to the commemoration of words from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander vocabulary, the committee refers the proposal to an appropriate cultural group.

In 2017-18, a pedestrian bridge was named in Gungahlin to commemorate a word from the Ngunnawal language; Wagi Bridge commemorates the word 'Wagi', which means 'dance' in the English language. The name is consistent with the musical nomenclature theme in the adjoining Division of Moncrieff. The proposal was endorsed by the United Ngunnawal Elders Council.

The family, or relevant cultural community, is consulted about any proposal to commemorate the name of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person through the public place names process.The names of three Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were commemorated during the year: Bamblett Rise and Hoolihan Street, Division of Denman Prospect, and Yoornie Way, Division of Strathnairn. The three road names commemorate people who advocated for the advancement of Aboriginal people: Dr Alf Bamblett; Mr Richard Hoolihan and Mrs Vivienne Karahoutis (Yoornie is the traditional Noongar name of Mrs Karahoutis).

ACT Natural Resource Management

Natural Resource Management Facilitator

The Directorate continued to employ an Aboriginal Natural Resource Management Facilitator within ACT Natural Resource Management (ACT NRM), funded under National Landcare Program funding. The facilitator works with Traditional Custodians and the broader Aboriginal community to support the ongoing engagement of Aboriginal people in NRM in the ACT and to support the capture and application of traditional knowledge in land management in the ACT.

The key outcome of this program in 2017-18 was the inaugural 'Cultural Burning: Evolving with Country and Community', South-east Australia Aboriginal Fire Forum held at the University of Canberra from 10-12 May 2018. More than 130 participants attended the forum, including Traditional Custodians, representatives from land councils and Aboriginal fire non-government organisations as well as representatives from rural and national fire agencies.

The three-day forum facilitated knowledge sharing between First Nations people, fire practitioners and professionals. A planned field trip was cancelled due to inclement weather.

Themes brought up by participants and speakers included listening to Country, sharing knowledge, community and partnerships, training, making it genuine and measuring success. This event was organised in a partnership between ACT NRM, PCS Fire Unit and the Murumbung Yurung Murra network and others within the Directorate. Key note speakers included author Bruce Pascoe, fire practitioners Victor Steffensen and Oliver Costello and PCS Indigenous Fire Officer, Dean Freeman. Participants and speakers came from as far away as Cape York, Queensland in the north to Lake Condah, Victoria in the south. Forum outcomes will be used to review current cultural fire programs and identify new cultural fire programs working with Traditional Custodians and the broader local Aboriginal community on Country.

Kickstart My Career Through Culture program

The Kickstart program (2016-20), now in its second year, is designed to re-engage young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and at-risk youth in their education through a connection to Country. The program is based on conservation and land management principles and has a strong Aboriginal cultural engagement component. The program is delivered through schools as a 'Vocational Learning Option' (VLO) - short vocational education courses that provide recognised qualifications. Learning is delivered outdoors or 'on Country', where students are able to learn more about Aboriginal culture, conservation, preservation of cultural sites and traditional uses of plants. Participant numbers and programs were narrowed this year so that longer programs and engagement for students could be offered. As requested by students, a cultural art program with Yurauna Centre was included.

Programs delivered:

  • 1 x CIT VLO in Certificate III Conservation and Land management - Semester 2 2017
  • 1 x CIT VLO in Certificate III Conservation and Land management - being delivered
  • 1 x CIT VLO in Certificate II in Cultural Arts - being delivered
  • 2 x VLO (non-competency) with Greening Australia - Term 4 2017 and Semester 12018

Forty students participated, some taking part in two VLOs, with 29 students identified as Aboriginal. The focus was on engaging with some of the high risk students, which had mixed results. Emphasis for 2018 is also on career development with year 10 and 12 attainment.

Aboriginal projects funded by the ACT Environment Grants Program 2017-18

Lend A Hand Pty Ltd received $24,447 to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement in native seed collection and propagation. This project is working with Indigenous detainees and ex-detainees from the justice system in native seed collection and propagation, to support revegetation work undertaken in the ACT.

Healthy Country Program

The PCS Healthy Country Programs (HCP) Section acknowledges the interconnected relationship between the health of the environment and cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and builds on the government's long-term commitment to its Aboriginal Ranger programs.

The team has six positions dedicated to delivering educational and conservation activities within the cultural landscape and building a meaningful engagement of local Traditional Custodians and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to better manage Country together.

In collaboration with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, HCP works in partnership with the Directorate business units, Aboriginal organisations and agencies on a range of activities across the ACT parks and reserves, rural lands and waterways. HCP also coordinates the delivery of Ranger Guided Activities, the Namadgi Rock Art Working Group and community engagement in many cultural interpretation, heritage, fire, water and land management programs.

HCP also coordinates the Murumbung Yurung Murra (meaning Good Strong Pathways in the Ngunnawal language) network, a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in affiliated programs within the Directorate and other agencies who meet regularly to provide ongoing mentoring support and work on specific projects together.