West Belconnen Riverview: new development on the edge

The Conservation Council provided a submission to the planning authority on the ACT part of the proposed Riverview development. The proposal is to commence in 2016 in West Belconnen and conclude in 2054 across the border in NSW. The ACT part of the proposal is to change the Territory Plan to allow for the development of approximately 6,500 dwellings – the majority to be built over the next 15 years. It provides for a 360 hectare conservation area along the Murrumbidgee River. If NSW planning approvals are granted an additional 5,000 dwellings will be developed and an additional 220 hectares added to the conservation area. Development in NSW is not proposed to start until 2031. Overall the proposal has a lifespan of 40 years. The development ranges from 6 – 12 km to Belconnen town centre, the closest main employment centre.
Although the Conservation Council has been pleased with the level and thoroughness of consultation undertaken by the proponents, especially in contrast to some other projects currently underway, the Conservation Council drew attention to matters including:
  • developing new ‘greenfield’ developments in the ACT when we should be building a more compact city around existing infrastructure and services;
  • the ‘ragged edge’ of the development which allows for more negative environmental impacts;
  • the proposed ‘Environmental Trust’ to manage the conservation area is innovative but – if and when the proposal is approved – the Trust should be established, funded and staffed as soon as possible;
  • the site should retain as many mature trees as possible;
  • asset protection zones and Strategic fire Fighting areas be within the residential development area and not in the conservation area
  • the development should go beyond current ACT Government regulations and implementation of cat containment which are woefully inadequate especially for an area with Pink Tail Worm Lizards;
  • urban pollution traps need to be installed at the heads of each of the main drainages

The Minister for Planning will now consider all comments received on the ACT part before making a decision and the ACT Legislative Assembly planning committee might look at the development. The NSW consultation is expected to commence late 2015 or early 2016. The Commonwealth Government is also undertaking a Strategic (Environmental) Assessment of the area given the potential impact on matters of national environmental significance, namely Yellow Box Red Gum Woodland – a critically endangered ecological community, and; Pink Tailed Worm Lizard – listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.

Ministers risk our health delaying our call for clean air

A meeting of state Environment Ministers has decided to delay any decision on new measures that could make our air cleaner.

Yesterday, the Meeting of Environment Ministers considered the issue of clean air, and made a decision to do nothing.  The Conservation Council, alongside our counterparts across the country, made a united call for the end of 3,000 preventable deaths a year due to poor air quality.  The solution?  Real air quality standards.  Read our Joint Letter to Environment Ministers here.

A year of deliberation and thousands of submissions have not moved the Ministers to act – yet.

Our partner, the Nature Conservation Council, CEO Kate Smolski said, “Air pollution kills more Australians each year than car crashes, yet our governments have been dithering on the delivery of a strong, national standards and a National Plan for Clean Air for more than a decade.  About 3000 Australians will die this year from exposure to air pollution while our governments continue to delay the action that is urgently required. Every year governments fail to act, more people will die.”

We will continue working with our conservation council partners to ensure safe, clean air through proper air standards across the nation.


Waste for energy?

The Conservation Council is concerned with the ACT Budget announcement of development of a full business case for a waste to energy facility and has written to Minister Rattenbury and government directorates with comments and questions on the proposed approach to waste in the ACT.

The 2015-16 ACT Budget provides funding of $2.8million over two years for a full business case to be prepared on “alternative waste management strategies”. Budget Outlook 2015-16 p129 under “Improved Waste Resource Recovery” says:

“The Government will undertake a feasibility study to investigate long-term options for the management and treatment of waste in the ACT, including the development of a full business case for a waste to energy facility.”

Budget Paper 3 Chapter 3 new "initiatives"

The concept was announced in December 2011 by Minister Simon Corbell as part of the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-25. Then Minister Corbell made a media announcement of a policy of “Turning waste into energy” in March 2014 which included that:

“The government is investigating options to seek proposals to establish an advanced facility using a technology such as gasification, pyrolysis or plasma gasification.”

The Conservation Council has been told the budget proposal was technology-neutral and tied to meeting waste to landfill reduction targets. It has been pointed out that no ‘decision’ had been made on any particular technology, however the words in the Budget papers indicate “waste to energy” is the funded category.

We are arguing that there should be a public announcement to clarify that any feasibility work undertaken should be inclusive of other waste management technologies. For instance, will the feasibility study consider the impacts and benefits of waste reduction through community and business education and product regulation (e.g. polystyrene)?

The Conservation Council does not accept that there has been adequate consultation as to whether Canberra’s waste should be burned for energy. The Government’s policy implementation on the proposal to burn waste for energy has been to ‘declare and defend’ rather that ‘consult and consider’.

There should be a detailed public consultation process to address questions on the proposal to burn waste for energy. At the moment preparation of a “full business case” in the context of the waste to energy facility over two years is effectively laying the groundwork for a post-2016 Government to make a decision to establish a waste to energy facility.

The Conservation Council again calls for a more rigorous ACT waste reduction strategy. As we stated in our 2013 submission on the Mugga Lane expansion:

“A key focus has to be reducing our key per capita waste generation which has been increasing steadily over many years – for example between 2007-08 and 2010-11 overall waste generation increased from 2.06 tonnes per person to 2.64 tonnes per person. It was 1.65 tonnes per person in 2001-02.”

Funding cuts to weed management – what gets lost?

The impact of reduced funding for environmental weed management in the ACT Budget is a net cut of 53% to discretionary funding and a 43% reduction in overall spending. The Conservation Council has published a Briefing Paper on the ACT 2015-2016 Budget allocation for weeds management. The three images below of invasive weed management show the Government’s maps of respectively what happened 2013-14, 2014-15 and a draft plan of what will be done after budget cuts. Compare the maps or click through to searchable maps.

The ACT Government Budget 2015-16 does not include any provision for additional weed management as was the case under the “Enhanced Biodiversity Initiative” in the Parliamentary Agreement. This will have significant impacts on the nationally significant biodiversity of our “Bush Capital”.

ACT Invasive Weed Control 2013-14
ACT Invasive Weed Control 2013-14
Treated weeds 2014-15
Treated weeds 2014-15
Planned invasive weed control 2015-16
Planned invasive weed control 2015-16