Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
National Capital Authority - Plan Team
Reference: Acton Peninsula Draft Structure Plan
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia, included related fauna species. 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 has in the past decade taken up opportunities for input to planning processes related to the Acton Peninsula and enthusiastically appreciates this new opportunity for comment on the Draft Structure Plan (DSP). FOG congratulates the five institutions in the newly formed Acton Peninsula Partnership for agreeing to cooperate in master planning, particularly if it can lead to positive outcomes in conservation and biodiversity by enlightened application of planning principles (DSP p36) to favour ecology, wildlife and habitat. As the DSP highlights, there are significant assets in natural heritage and public open spaces on Acton Peninsula that should be more widely visited, appreciated and valued by all citizens of, and visitors to, the ACT. Relinking this area to the naturally rich Black Mountain would be particularly welcome, as would the proposed focus onto the limestone outcrops that connect back to the original Limestone Plains now buried under urbanised Central Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin.
The DSP in several places notes and maps extensive grassland areas that are grouped as Open Space and Landscape. FOG notes the passing reference (illustration DSP p16) to Canberra's Native Grasslands and points to the regrettable fact that much of the area indicated as grassland in the Acton Peninsula Precinct has become dominated by invasive exotic grasses and other weeds. These weeds have for a long time threatened a group of biodiverse fragments, almost all within the ANU, of modified but still native-dominated grassy woodlands.
FOG is chiefly concerned about these fragments and their conservation. The ANU is well aware of the fragments' values and presence, having had them pointed out in a set of actions which it was required to take under Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation processes triggered by building works on the Peninsula (Crawford School, stages 1 and 2). While those formal requirements have now reached their end date, it was always expected that ANU would shoulder the responsibility to permanently manage and enhance these significant natural grassy woodland assets under in its care. Clearly this has not occurred, based on DSP p23 where a large development zone is indicated west of Lennox Crossing. The boundaries of the zone are in major conflict with vegetation survey data collected for the ANU (Burgher 2010, Cumberland Ecology 2010) during the EPBC actions. FOG understands that the zone boundaries also contradict values in the ANU's own Biodiversity and Environmental Management Plans.
One advantage that should follow the integration espoused in the DSP is the opportunity for integrated management. FOG urges the five Acton Peninsula Partners to waste no time in coordinating their environmental management. Most of the institutions cooperated in a pest control program some years back; that initially successful activity needs urgent revival as the numbers of feral rabbits appears once again to be high and damaging the native habitat of Acton Peninsula. The need for more active control of weeds is likewise pressing.
In brief, FOG recommends that the Partners:
- apply planning principles to favour ecology, wildlife and habitat;
- shrink the indicative Development Zone west of Lennox Crossing to conserve all known grassy woodland; and
- revive pest and weed control urgently to protect areas of significant natural value.
Burgher, I. (2010). Worth Keeping or Next to Worthless? An Assessment of Conservation Value of Grassy Box Woodland Remnants down by Old Canberra House and Recommendations for Management. Report to ANU Green, June.
Cumberland Ecology (2010). ANU ANZSOG/NSC Building, Vegetation Survey, for Tanner Architects.
13 June 2017