17th August 2020


Call on Defence Housing Australia to rethink Lawson North development

Over a hundred conservation groups, scientists, land managers and volunteers from across Canberra and the region have called on Defence Housing Australia to rethink their proposed housing development at Lawson North, raising concerns that the proposal will damage critically endangered Natural Temperate Grasslands and Box-Gum Woodlands, and related flora and fauna species. 

Comments attributable to Helen Oakey, Executive Director of the Conservation Council ACT Region.

“North Lawson contains over 100 hectares of Natural Temperate Grasslands, a critically endangered ecological community. The grassland at this site is one of only thirteen areas in the ACT over 100 ha in size, and is the largest area of Natural Temperate Grassland in Belconnen.

“In addition, the site provides habitat for bird species protected under the Commonwealth EPBC Act such as the Superb Parrot, and other bird species protected under ACT legislation like the Scarlet Robin. 

“We know that putting housing near environmentally-sensitive areas can cause impacts through people walking on or near grasslands, weeds and garden-escapees spreading, rubbish dumping and domestic animals moving through the area. 

“Defence Housing Australia will be required to seek environmental approval under national environmental laws, the Environment Biodiversity and Conservation ACT (EPBC Act), which is currently under review, and has been widely criticised for being ineffective at protecting environmental values.

“In the context of Australia’s biodiversity crisis and giving consideration to the contribution Lawson North makes to our critically endangered grassy ecological communities, the destruction proposed by this development is unacceptable.”

Comments attributable to Geoff Robertson, President of Friends of Grasslands.

“While the first proposed stage of the development will be built on the site of the old Belconnen Naval Transmission Station (BNTS), it will be surrounded by environmentally-significant grasslands, and likely to have detrimental impacts due to construction and the ongoing activities of residents.

“It’s deeply concerning that the proposed second stage 2 of the development will directly destroy the majority of the critically endangered grassland and woodland in the east of the Lawson Grasslands,” said 

“Stage 2 will leave only a narrow strip of grasslands in the east that will be very vulnerable to impacts from the adjacent residential areas, especially as there are few areas of urban open space identified in the development footprint to encourage residents not to use the grassland for recreational use.

“The entire extent of the Lawson Grasslands and associated Box-Gum Woodland should be recognised for its ecological, natural and cultural heritage values, and conserved in perpetuity.

“Environmentalists, scientists, and the volunteer community who have signed onto this letter, are clear that this proposal is unacceptable, and we urge Defence Housing Australia to reconsider the development to ensure ongoing protection, conservation and enhancement of what are nationally important ecological communities under Commonwealth law.

For further commentary on the grassland ecosystems: (just for Katie Burgess)

Rainer Rehwinkel (Grassland Ecologist, co-author Grassland Flora & Woodland Flora,

Professor Stephen Sarre (Wildlife Geneticist and Ecologist, University of Canberra Institute for Applied Ecology)