Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
Reference number: DA 201731203 STOCKDILL DRIVE, BELCONNEN
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 plays a role in representing community interests for the greater West Belconnen Development. It has a seat on the West Belconnen Bush on the Boundary Reference Group and has for some time participated in their monthly discussion meetings. Individual FOG members have also attended many of the other public consultations organised by the Riverview Development Group. FOG therefore has good understanding of the regional setting, the scale and timeframe of the major development anticipated along the Murrumbidgee edge in ACT and NSW. This Stage 1 proposal beside the existing Strathnairn Arts Precinct concerns areas well removed from the high-conservation-value grassy woodlands, grasslands and adjoining areas that are special foci for FOG.
However, it is regrettable that mature native trees will be lost in the paddocks planned to be become Ginninderry's first suburbs. The Tree Management Strategy Report (Sep 2016) for Stage 1 concedes that 20 trees are marked for removal; over one-third of these are hollow bearing and therefore are likely to be mature specimens over 100 years old. Analysis of tree quality in the Sep 2016 report implies that some of these trees are low quality, when set against the criteria in the "Tree Protection (Approval Criteria) Determination 2006 (No 2)", made under the Tree Protection Act (2005. Unfortunately, trees with hollows are frequently not in good health, so that they do not meet criteria as high quality, despite having very high biodiversity values. Recognising the lack of protection for hollow-bearing trees under current legislation in ACT, FOG recently joined other groups in the Conservation Council ACT Region to submit to ACT Government a Nomination of Loss of Native Hollow-bearing Trees as an Environmental Threatening Process. FOG therefore urges close re-examination of these planned tree removals to see whether all these hollow-bearing trees do need to be felled.
In addition, the development footprint will be quite close to the flight paths of the Little Eagles which this summer raised a young bird in a nest on the opposite side of Strathnairn. Every process in the development Stage 1 should be examined to avoid deterring these birds, listed as having vulnerable status under the Nature Conservation Act 2014, returning to nest in future years.
On the positive side, FOG is pleased to observe using the Landscape Master Plan the retention of many remnant trees and sensitive design of surrounding areas to assist the trees to continue in good health to function as a major ecological connection across the planned development. It will not be surprising that FOG is particularly supportive of the areas of Treatment T3, including the top-soil removal and planting of endemic native species, intended to surround the trees locally by environs as much as possible like the Box-Gum Grassy Woodland that once existed on site. However, even the 'lesser' treatments T1-T2 planned have significant value in being part of a proposed system of Fenner School Urban Laboratory Parks. Success of the funding proposal for T1-T3 and the accompanying research as outlined in the final appendix in Vegetation Report part 3 is unclear, but the collaboration by the Developer and the strength of the teams noted gives FOG much hope that funding will be secured. FOG considers urban ecological research of this calibre to be highly desirable, gives it the strongest possible support, and looks forward to learning about and using its findings.
6 April 2017