Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Commonwealth and Territories Section
Approvals and Wildlife Division
Department of the Environment and Water Resources
GPO Box 787
Canberra, ACT 2601
21 Dec 2007
Proposal to transfer 38.83ha to Canberra Airport Group
Your Department requested public submissions on the transfer of 38.83ha of land from the Department of Defence to the Canberra Airport Group to build a 2.3km road around the northern end of the airport. Friends of Grasslands (FoG) would like to make the following submission.
FoG is opposed to the construction of the road, as we stated in an earlier submission dated 18 October 2007, on the basis that it will destroy an important remnant of Natural Temperate Grassland (NTG). NTG is a threatened ecosystem now existing only as scattered remnants. Many of the suite of grassland species identified in the proposal are also threatened. In this case the road would cut through the middle of the remnant, with the following negative effects on the NTG:
- direct destruction of the habitat replaced by the road surface
- fragmentation of the remaining parts of the remnant, reducing their ecological viability
- possible weed invasion
The proposal does require CAG 'to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the area; in particular the ecological community – Natural Temperate Grassland and listed threatened species – prior to concluding the transfer of the lease' and the proposed conservation agreement does address many management issues. However, the proposal conditions are somewhat imprecise.
There are many aspects of this proposal which need to be subject to greater public scrutiny. CAG has been allowed to develop without the usual environmental scrutiny. In FOG’s view it has been a poor custodian of land with important biodiversity assets. It has progressively destroyed NTG and habitat for threatened species. Although FoG is not aware of the details of the transaction in this case, we are concerned that, by obtaining valuable commercial assets for less than market price, CAG is effectively being subsidised from the public purse. Furthermore, CAG offers no offsets for biodiversity destruction.
FoG considers the proposed land transfer unacceptable. We propose a moratorium on the transfer to allow scrutiny of the nature conservation issues in a more public arena. If it is deemed that the road must go ahead, FoG would like to see the non-road portion of the land parcel in question either remain in Defence hands, or pass to the ACT government for management as a conservation reserve.
Since we wrote our first submission, it has been announced that the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment has been directed to conduct an inquiry into grasslands. We would advocate that any decision be deferred until her investigation has been completed.
(Mr.) Kim Pullen