Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Senior Strategic Planner
Research and Planning
Parks, Conservation and Lands
Department of Territory and Municipal Services
PO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
Tidbinbilla Draft Plan of Management May 2010
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) has prepared the following comments on the Tidbinbilla Draft Plan of Management. It welcomes the Draft Plan, which is a comprehensive document, but has some strong reservations about expanding the range of activities available, which are set out below.
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 conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its approx. 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
In keeping with its charter, FOG has focussed on the grassy ecosystems aspects of the Tidbinbilla complex. In FOG’s view, too little attention is paid to these in the current operation of Tidbinbilla and in this Draft Plan. As an indicator of this, even though grassland communities are listed in Appendix 3 as being amongst the vegetation communities to be found in Tidbinbilla, there is no mention of Action Plan 28 being relevant (Section 3.5 ACT Strategies and Plans).
While FOG accepts that the main focus of Tidbinbilla should be on the sclerophyll forest area, there currently seems to be little emphasis on the grasslands and grassy ecosystems within Tidbinbilla as a habitat of interest to visitors (at least at the previously located visitor centre there were some signposted walks within the grasslands). Rather, it is seen as area on which to the place all the infrastructure within the complex, with the possibility of adding significantly to that infrastructure being raised in the Draft Plan. We would like to see more interpretative signage about the grassland areas, and perhaps spring walks through the grassy ecosystems when they are in flower.
A decision has been made to include Jedbinbilla and the area adjacent to the Corin Dam Road within the Tidbinbilla complex. These were pine forests burnt in the 2003 bushfires. In FOG’s view these areas should be allowed to regenerate to their original vegetation community – presumably a mixture of grassland, woodland and forest.
FOG values the historic role of Tidbinbilla in providing good and easy access to wet and dry sclerophyll forests close to Canberra (wet sclerophyll forest are not found in the Canberra Nature Park Reserves in and around Canberra), and providing families with the opportunity to see a variety of native fauna. One important feature was the number of enjoyable short and longer walks within the Reserve, many of which we are glad to see are now reopened.
We also greatly value the formal educational role played by Birrigai. The Birrigai education complex has now been subsumed within Tidbinbilla (which previously had an important informal education role). The Draft Plan suggests a change of focus from school groups to community groups. We understand that the Education Department has cut back on the number of teaching positions at Birrigai. These will only be replaced by Tidbinbilla management if they can pay their way. The likely impact will be the diminution of environmental education possibilities. We would be very concerned if this were to happen. In these days of global climate change and continued loss of habitat there is a need for more not less education on environmental issues. If Tidbinbilla cannot afford to take responsibility for Birrigai perhaps it should be returned to the education department.
We also support the continued research and monitoring role of Tidbinbilla.
Tidbinbilla is expensive to operate on an ongoing basis. There has also been considerable capital expenditure on the Sanctuary area. It is understandable that the government would be looking for ways to recoup some of these expenditures, or, as in the case of Birrigai, to reduce those expenditures if they cannot raise the income to cover them. While this leads to a wish for more tourism, including the provision of accommodation and vehicular access to parts of Tidbinbilla, in fact sponsorship and donations may be a better way to increase income without impacting on existing services (Section 4.3), although the ACT is not well endowed with wealthy benefactors. In FOG’s view any additional developments that might be contemplated should not be at the expense of the traditional uses of Tidbinbilla, nor should they compromise those uses. We are sceptical that the additional costs of such operations would be recouped, which would exacerbate existing financial problems. We are also concerned about some of the logistical problems of such operations, eg the provision of water and other utilities, sewerage disposal, security at night, as well as the impact on the fauna and on traditional users of Tidbinbilla.
No doubt the plan would be to place any necessary infrastructure for these new developments on the existing grassy valley floors. Presumably any such development would be subject to the EPBC Act both because it involved a nationally threatened ecosystem – natural temperate grasslands, and because Tidbinbilla is nationally heritage listed. We shall be carefully examining any such proposal as it goes through the EPBC process. However, we understand that it is already possible to provide limited vehicular access and accommodation under the existing management plan and that this is about to take place. The impact of this should be very carefully monitored, since if such developments are to have a low impact on the environment, they would need to be on a very small scale, which ultimately will have very little effect on the bottom line.
We also raised a number of other issues in our response to the earlier discussion paper.
23 June 2010