Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

 

PO Box 987

Civic Square ACT 2608

Phone: 02 62.. ....

 

Mr Jon Stanhope MLA
Chief Minister
ACT Legislative Assembly
GPO Box 1020
CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

Dear Chief Minister,

 

ACT Government implementation of recommendations from the Native Grassland Investigation

 

I write on behalf of Friends of Grasslands (FOG) to communicate our requests for your consideration in responding to the “Report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation” by the Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment (CSE) and dated 12 March 2009.

 

FOG is a community group based in Canberra and region that aims to promote the conservation of grassy ecosystems through awareness, on-ground restoration and advocacy. We are aware that you are supportive of grassland and woodland issues, and commend you and your government for directing the CSE to investigate native grasslands. FOG participated in the investigation and we welcome the CSE’s report and recommendations.

 

FOG understands that the Government has acted on many of the immediate issues raised in the report and we very much appreciate its prompt action. We are especially grateful that you and your government have acted so decisively to control excessive kangaroo numbers that were degrading key native grassland sites, as recommended by the CSE.

 

1.      Meeting request

 

We write now to request a meeting with your government to discuss your response to the CSE’s full set of recommendations. FOG would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you and Minister Corbell at an early opportunity to discuss these matters. Your staff may contact Naarilla Hirsch (FOG advocacy coordinator) on 6288 2413 to arrange an appropriate time. FOG also proposes to meet with other parties in the Assembly to urge their support to implement the CSE’s recommendations.

 

2.      General response

 

The CSE’s report makes 32 recommendations, that if fully implemented would secure Canberra’s native grasslands heritage, including the Territory’s most threatened species and ecosystems, and the flora and fauna closest to the homes and lives of most Territorian’s. FOG suggests that you frame the Government’s response in terms of your plans to conserve the Territory’s natural heritage for the 2013 Centenary of Canberra. A number of the issues surrounding conservation of the largest remaining native grassland sites in the Territory, such as in Jerrabomberra and Majura, will require time to resolve, and we ask that you commit to a conservation policy now with a view to resolving the outstanding issues over grassland conservation and development in the Territory for 2013.

 

3.      Urgent issues

 

FOG has identified particular recommendations in the Commissioner’s report that we believe are the highest priority to undertake in the short term. FOG would be pleased to assist in achieving these recommendations. Details of FOG’s views on each of these, including ways in which FOG may be able to assist, can be found in the attachment.

  1. Complementary management of Commonwealth lands.
  2. Rezoning and designation of core grassland sites for conservation.
  3. Enhanced management of grassland sites.
  4. Communication and public participation.

4.      Timeframes of responses 

 

FOG is fully aware that the CSE’s recommendations cover actions that will take years to implement. However, we do believe that the government and other stakeholders need to begin immediately to implement the most urgent and strategic actions if grasslands and the associated biodiversity will be retained. Both Commonwealth and Territory Governments have a legal, ecological and ethical responsibility to maintain such ecosystems, particularly in light of the current climatic and economic conditions.

 

Conclusion

 

We believe the CSE report is a great opportunity for your government to set out a strategy for immediate action, leading to the 2013 Centenary, which will protect Canberra’s grassy ecosystems through: protection of key sites in reserves; better management; enhanced laws and processes; community engagement; and greater cooperation with Commonwealth land managers.

 

Thank you again for the action taken by you and your government in commissioning the CSE’s Investigation and responding promptly to resolve the immediate kangaroo overgrazing problem. We look forward to working with you now to implement the CSE’s recommendations to secure the future of Canberra’s native grassland ecosystems.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

Geoff Robertson
President, Friends of Grasslands

30 August 2009

cc.       Simon Corbell MLA, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water
           Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment


Attachment: ACT Government implementation of recommendations from the Native Grassland Investigation – urgent issues

 

FOG has identified particular recommendations in the Commissioner’s report that we believe are the highest priority to undertake in the short term. FOG would be pleased to assist in achieving these recommendations.

 

a.                   Complementary management of Commonwealth lands

 

The CSE’s recommendation in relation to management of grassland sites needs to be extended as previous agreements have not been fully implemented. In particular, we ask your government to seek the assistance of the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment to secure Conservation Agreements under Part 14 of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/about/conservation-agreements.html), in the form of legally binding conservation management plans, with other federal government agencies for the conservation of grassland sites under their stewardship (Rec. 2). We also believe that current Memoranda of Understanding between the ACT Government and Commonwealth agencies are incomplete, out of date and need to be revised and better implemented (Recs. 6 & 7). Notably, several major land managers are not currently partners through the existing MOUs and we believe it is of a high priority, given the amount of development on the site, that the Canberra International Airport, through lobbying by ACT Government and the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, be persuaded to sign and implement an MOU to ensure protection of the grasslands on the airport, and to ensure that the existing connection between the airport grasslands and those of the Majura Training Area be retained.

 

b.                  Rezoning and designation of core grassland sites for conservation

 

The ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy prepared by Environment ACT provides a long-term strategic plan to guide conservation and protection of grasslands in the ACT. One of the major recommendations, supported by the Commissioner is for the Government to commit to a decision that all of the best sites (termed ‘Core Conservation Sites’) are not developed, either piecemeal through cumulative impacts or as one, and are fully conserved. In FOG’s view we believe that this would give a great deal of surety to the protection of the most important sites, so that a range of land uses could be considered for other sites, including, importantly, complementary land uses, such as open space and conservation. We believe that there should be full consideration of alternative conservation arrangements, including conservation leases and offsets (Rec. 5), as well as reservation where relevant, particularly where such sites have already been identified for reservation under election promises made in the past.

 

In this respect we request that your government release the Eastern Broadacre Study commissioned by ACTPLA to make recommendations of future use of all lands in Majura, Jerrabomberra valleys. You will be aware that both these valleys contain nationally significant areas of Natural Temperate Grassland and Yellow Box- Red Gum Grassy woodland and associated threatened species. We believe that transparency of intent and information is critical in ensuring that Government and community can work together for good outcomes in the most efficient and amicable way.

 

c.                   Enhanced management of grassland sites

 

We believe the Commissioner’s recommendation (Rec. 10) that annual site operational plans be developed for all lowland native grassland sites should be urgently implemented. FOG believes that management of these sites, as in management of any actions, needs to be guided by plans that have a long-term view of what is to be achieved. While the Canberra Nature Park Management Plan and other similar Management Plans give an overarching strategy for management for land in nature reserves, they are not designed to provide guidance to ensure annual operational plans are undertaken strategically. Many lowland grassland sites are also outside the reserve system, and are therefore not covered by the Canberra Nature Park Management Plan. It is to be commended that the National Capital Authority has commissioned management plans and operational plans to be prepared for all grassland and woodlands sites in their management, and are currently implementing them. Such plans facilitate the definition of key issues, assist in prioritising work to be undertaken, and can lead to a more efficiency in the utilisation of resources.

 

FOG appreciates that a number of the recommendations for improving management of grassland sites require more resources to be allocated by governments. To facilitate the initial increase in labour required to improve the conditions of the 60% of sites that were reported as in decline, we recommend that the ACT Government apply to host a number of Green Corps teams, under the labour market scheme announced by the Prime Minister last month (http://www.pm.gov.au/node/6078). We believe that with training these teams could undertake valuable work, especially in weed control and fire management that could improve the status of the sites over a few years such that fewer resources may then be required to sustain good ecological health. These teams could be hosted jointly by your government and Federal Government agencies like the National Capital Authority to improve grassland sites across the ACT. We would also appreciate an opportunity to discuss with you how these teams could lead to the formation of professional bush regeneration teams in the ACT, similar to those in Sydney and Melbourne.

 

FOG believes that implementing these two actions will result in many of the Commissioner’s recommendations regarding management issues and implementation would then be met.

 

d.                  Communication and public participation

 

The Commissioner makes two key recommendations that we believe will assist community groups, researchers, landholders and Government work more effectively together to achieve conservation outcomes, and better understand the range of issues related to protection of grasslands. The Commissioner recommends that there be an annual community and stakeholder forum to coordinate research, monitoring and data collection and raise awareness (Rec. 30). Associated with this is the establishment of a central register of information and expertise on lowland native grassland (Rec. 31).

FOG is willing to assist in planning such a forum for stakeholders, and we believe that the need for this is urgent to maintain momentum for the implementation of the inquiry recommendations.