Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
National Capital Authority
GPO Box 373
Canberra ACT 2601
Dear Mr Smith
National Capital Plan Exposure Draft 2015
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the exposure draft.
Friends of Grasslands (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 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
FOG welcomes the National Capital Authority’s move to update the National Capital Plan (Plan). In particular, FOG supports the changes proposed to land use category boundaries in the General Policy Plan – Metropolitan Canberra which will result in a significant reduction in urban areas and an increase in Nature Reserves in the Gungahlin District. FOG also supports the move to include some existing and new sections of the Canberra Nature Park in the National Capital Open Space System. These changes will make a significant contribution to nature conservation in the ACT.
The Authority manages lands of great cultural and natural heritage significance. FOG would like to see in the revised Plan, changes to precinct codes in the Designated Areas that would make possible the establishment of Nature Conservation Area as a land use in any designated area, not just in the Jerrabomberra Wetlands. Grasslands at Yarramundi Reach (23 ha) and grassy woodlands at Stirling Park (52 ha) and Scrivener’s Hut (about 5 ha) contain populations of threatened species and endangered ecological communities that are protected as Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and should be protected with Nature Conservation Area status.
Stirling Park requires some elaboration. In 2012 under Draft Amendment 78, the Authority proposed a change in land use for a large portion of Stirling Park from ‘National Capital Use’ to ‘Open Space’ and removal of the provision for extension of Empire Circuit. These changes did not proceed, so we now urge the Authority to consider a change in land use for Stirling Park (including the portion east of Haines Creek) from ‘National Capital Use’ to ‘Nature Conservation Area’ and removal of the provision for extension of Empire Circuit. If the Authority does not support this for all of Stirling Park at this time, FOG asks that all of the uncontested lands that form the bulk of Stirling Park become a Nature Conservation Area.
FOG notes that urban development in the West Murrumbidgee area was considered in the 1970s but rejected on environmental grounds and infrastructure costs. FOG is not aware of any detailed studies of this area which suggest that the earlier environmental concerns no longer exist. Until such studies have been undertaken, FOG would not support the West Murrumbidgee area becoming an ‘Area under investigation for urban use’ under the conditions set out in the revised Plan. FOG has, however, no objections to the urban development proposed in the West Belconnen Area because comprehensive studies of that area were undertaken prior to a proposed change in land use and because of the significant care that has been taken to ensure that development will protect and manage matters of environmental value.
A side issue, but nonetheless important, is the publication of the revised Plan. FOG asks that it be published on the Web in both high and low resolution formats. Most of the maps in the Exposure Draft were hard to read, particularly the keys where the text was often illegible and the colour hard to distinguish. It is assumed this was because of the small file size. While it is appreciated that many readers would have complained if the Exposure Draft had been a large file, a file that is easy to download is not particularly useful if it is unreadable.
31 July 2015