Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Mr David Rhind
Commonwealth and Territories Section
Environment Assessment Branch
Department of the Environment, Water Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2600
02 6274 2611
Majura ACT freeway development
Reference Number: 2009/5057
FoG is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FoG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FoG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
FoG supports the proposed Parkway, recognising the need for an upgraded road through the Majura Valley to reduce traffic congestion in central Canberra and allow for through-traffic to move freely between north and south ACT. We also understand that there is a need to increase the safety for residents of Majura Valley and reduce traffic congestion along the current roadway.
We are very pleased that the proposed road between the Parkway and Majura Road for a future link to Kowen has been removed from this proposal. FoG has considerable concerns with this ‘northern road’ proposal, due to its highly significant impact on arguably the most extensive natural temperate grassland site in Australia. Placing the linking road at this particular intersection prior to any full studies of the options for links to the future Kowen development we believe, would minimise the opportunities to consider a full range of alternative options.
We also recognise and appreciate the extent to which the preferred option for alignment has endeavoured to protect as much biodiversity as possible. In particular, we note that, following submission of the draft EIS to ACTPLA in May 2009, the proposal has been modified with around 2km in the central section being moved up to 80m to the east to avoid a direct impact on known Grassland Earless Dragon (GED) habitat and potential Striped Legless Lizard and Golden Sun Moth habitat. We also support the proposed mitigation measures prior to and during construction.
FOG remains concerned about the removal of an area of the endangered Yellow Box – Red Gum Grassy woodland and of old-growth trees south of the pine plantation. Both these open woodlands occur in the ecotone between treeless grassland in the valley and the wooded hills behind. Even where these old-growth trees do not form part of an endangered ecosystem, these large and widely spaced trees are particularly significant, as so many of such trees on deeper soils have been removed in the past. While we support the recommendation for rehabilitation of other areas of more degraded woodland, it does not replace those trees and the habitat they provide. FoG recommends that re-consideration be given to an alternative alignment that would reduce the numbers of trees to be removed, and the fragmentation of the remnant, especially if a new alignment for that section to the east of the current Majura Road easement, where the vegetation is highly disturbed, were feasible.
The alignment of the preferred option at the central to southern end of the parkway, which is maintaining the habitat for the endangered Grassland Earless Dragon, Golden Sun Moth and the vulnerable Striped Legless Lizard, together with its habitat of native pasture and areas of the endangered Natural Temperate Grassland ecological community is strongly supported, as is the recent modification of the central section to avoid Grassland Earless Dragon habitat.
FoG believes that the preferred alignment in this section provides an opportunity for the ACT Government to offset the damage caused by the parkway through fragmentation across the valley and loss of trees to the north. We believe that to declare the entire treeless valley to the west of the road a conservation area and to provide on-going funds to support conservation management of this area would be a reasonable offset. This option would protect this grasslands and fauna habitat in perpetuity, and ensure the ecological links between Mt Ainslie-Majura Nature Reserve woodlands and forests and the grassland are maintained. This proposal is consistent with recommendations made by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment in her recently produced Grassland Inquiry, and is also consistent with election promises made by the Chief Minister prior to the elections in 2004, to establish a nature reserve in this site.
8 September 2009