NSW-ACT border to change to place Ginninderry development in the Australian Capital Territory

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ABC Online 16 Sep 2022, Antoinette Radford

The NSW section of the Ginninderry development can only be accessed from the ACT.
The NSW section of the Ginninderry development can only be accessed from the ACT. (Supplied: ACT Suburban Land Agency)

The border between New South Wales and the ACT will change for the first time in more than 110 years to allow the territory to expand.

Key points:

  • The ACT wants to expand to encompass a housing development that crosses its north-west border
  • The ACT Chief Minister says the NSW Premier has agreed that the change will happen
  • The shared state-territory border has not changed since it was created in 1911

For years, the ACT had been seeking a change to its north-west border to allow it to contain Ginninderry, a planned housing development that lies in both NSW and the territory.

The NSW section of land — 330 hectares of farmland called Parkwood, plus some adjacent reserves — is surrounded by waterways and can only be accessed from the territory side.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed today that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had agreed to the change.

"Premier Perrottet has personally contacted me to give it the green light," Mr Barr said.

"We've crossed the threshold of 'will it happen?' — yes it will.

"We're now working through the relevant details to make it happen. Those meetings will be underway in the next few weeks."

Mr Barr added that Canberra ratepayers would not need to further compensate NSW for the change, as the ACT government had already bought the land.

"Ultimately, I think it's best to view this as correcting an historic anomaly where, for most of the western edge of the territory, the border follows a river corridor," he said.

"For one reason or another, a straight line was drawn through the middle of a paddock here and all we're seeking to do is … move the border to a river corridor effectively for this parcel of land that the territory owns."

ACT bought adjacent state property last year

An artist's rendering shows an aerial shot of buildings and roads overlaid on hills and bushland.
An artist's depiction of what Parkwood, currently in NSW, may look like. (Supplied: Ginninderry)

The border between NSW and the ACT has remain unchanged since 1911.

Mr Barr wrote to Mr Perrottet late last year seeking further negotiations on the border change.

Around that time, the ACT government also bought the rural land on the NSW side of the Ginninderry development.

The Yass Valley Council, which currently governs the NSW land, has a cross-border memorandum of understanding with both the ACT and NSW to provide services and infrastructure for the area.

Pandemic highlighted importance of borders

Parkwood is not scheduled to be developed for housing for at least a decade.
Parkwood is not scheduled to be developed for housing for at least a decade. (ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Changes in state and territory borders are rare, and far from simple.

Macquarie University lecturer Andrew Burridge, a political geographer, said governments were usually loath to cede land.

"Territories and state governments are reluctant generally to give up any territory, but for the greater good of those communities … those discussions can certainly take place," he told the ABC.

But Dr Burridge said a lack of housing was challenging governments to find different ways to improve affordability and supply.

"What we do know is that the need for housing [is] ever-expanding …" he said.

"Canberra needs to go somewhere."

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic had heightened the significance of state and territory borders.

"Some of the parochialism that developed over the last two years, we see some difficult conversations even for temporary measures — shifting the border during the pandemic and development of differing border bubbles, and so forth," he said.

"As we've seen with COVID … closures, all of a sudden we've had to rethink our relationship and understanding of borders, and the kind of headaches that are created when you can't cross a border."

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