Planning – the right things in the right places

Build Canberra as a compact city (current area is 814.2 km²), a liveable city enjoyed by all, a city of choice with a dynamic heart, and a place where natural and cultural heritage are respected and protected.

ACT building standards must be set to meet ACT targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

The ACT should be planning for food security and food sovereignty for the longer term, to take account of the many factors that can affect supply of adequate quantities of nutritious food including population pressures, peak oil and climate change. The ACT and surrounding region have food production potential to meet the needs of the ACT, so planning should be informed by engagement with stakeholders across the region, from business and farmers to local and State governments.

The Planning Strategy adopted 26 June 2012 replaced the Canberra Spatial Plan to provide long-term planning policy and goals to promote orderly and sustainable development, consistent with the ACT’s social, environmental and economic aspirations. A long-term planning strategy is required under the Planning and Development Act 2007 and a review is due in 2017.

The Strategy says: It will guide the planning and development of Canberra to ‘be recognised throughout the world as a truly sustainable and creative city.’

  1. In 2030 Canberra will be a city that makes it easy for people to make more sustainable living choices and has the resourcefulness and capacity to manage change.
  2. In 2030 Canberra will be a city where everyone can take advantage of its network of centres, open spaces and modes of travel to enjoy a sense of wellbeing and participate in a vibrant civic and cultural life.
  3. In 2030 Canberra will be at the centre of an innovative, prosperous region that has established a diverse ‘clean’ economy and has a wide choice in jobs and lifestyles.
  4. In 2030 Canberra will be the ‘capital in the bush’, recognised for the quality of its public places and buildings that reflect its unique climate, character and identity.
  5. In 2030 Canberra will be at the centre of a region that demonstrates the benefits of good stewardship of the land, its resources and the beauty of its rivers, mountains and plains.

We support the existing Planning Strategy noting that many measures have not been implemented resulting in disjunction between the vision and aims of the Strategy and what is implemented through the sum of planning decisions. We need to integrate high level planning policy into operational delivery of planning.

We need a regular, independent report card on delivery of the Planning Strategy in meeting it long-term goals.

Implement key measures of the Planning Strategy

  • Key measures of the Planning Strategy needing to be implemented include:
    • Improve everyone’s mobility and choice of convenient travel by integrating design and investment of various networks and transport systems with the land uses they serve.
    • Investigate a schedule of incentives to reward residential developments that incorporate universal housing, affordable housing and environmental sustainability measures that go beyond best practice
    • Ensure everyone has convenient access to a range of facilities, services and opportunities for social interaction by reinforcing role of group and local centres as community hubs.
    • Value the land and natural resources of the region by working collaboratively to manage urban growth, ensure connectivity and continuity in the natural systems and, where appropriate, conserve agriculturally productive land.

Building Standards – improve and apply

  • Energy Efficiency Ratings: regulate to require higher EER standards for all buildings, residential and commercial, new and existing
  • Energy Efficiency: provide advice and assistance for improving energy efficiency
  • Compliance: Establish a compliance unit to ensure building standards and codes are met.

Food Policy for a resilient future

  • Food Council: Support establishment of ACT Region Food Council – an independent advisory body, funded to drive a regional food plan.
  • Benchmark food production and consumption patterns in ACT and region: Support independent body to undertake a data snapshot of our food system to further inform understanding of regional food consumption, and explore current barriers to regional food production and consumption.
  • Plan for Food Supply: Include food supply as a fundamental planning parameter
  • Create a zoning/ planning layer within ACT Territory Plan for “urban agriculture” for both intensive agriculture and community use: Ensure existing agricultural assets such as the Pialligo Orchards, Tharwa Valley (Paddy’s River) and the Majura Valley are maintained and protected with a master plan for agriculture.
  • Create a register of unleased public land with agriculture potential: List areas with potential for community gardens, agriculture enterprises and other uses, and call for expressions of interest to manage this land

Community Input into Planning Processes

  • Planning Advisor: fund community organisation to employ a community planning advisor who would look at overall planning policies as well as specific Development Applications. A key role would be to advise on best practice planning principles and policies. The advisor would coordinate community responses as well as assist in submissions to government on broad planning issues.

Urban form for high-quality for living next to with nature

  • No new green fields development: draw a line around our urban boundary
  • Increase density through best practice infill development that ensures a high quality of life for all residents, green infrastructure and space for nature throughout the city, and adequate services.
  • Support our bush capital suburbs with gardens, public parks, trees and other green infrastructure. Include measures to incentivise preserving private garden space and reduce house size in total and as a % of block size.

Urban Planning for our transport future

  • Align planning and transport processes: Ensure transport plan references planning strategy and vice versa to ensure further development in Canberra aligns the transport plan and Territory Plan and planning processes
  • Provide public transport services into all new residential developments at the point of initial occupancy, so that public transport is available as soon as residents start to move into new developments.
  • Decrease road footprint: Revise planning regulations and practices, to minimise the width of roads and the amount of space devoted to driveways and by providing off-street rather than on-street parking.

Towards a smarter, sustainable Canberra – governance for sustainability

The Conservation Council has produced policies around our focus areas leading up to the October 2016 ACT election

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Australia’s cities and towns of the future must successfully integrate the needs of people, the built and natural environment. Environmentally sustainable development means we can enjoy a high quality of life while we retain and enhance our biodiversity, have a developed infrastructure that gives efficient and equitable access to services and utilities preserve the essentials of the ‘Australian lifestyle’ and contribute to the economic wealth of the nation.

The ACT Government has gone some way to improve the sustainability of its operations and decision-making. The ACT Government has developed some tools to facilitate this however more is needed.

Government policy should achieve sustainability

  • Sustainability Policy: Overarching sustainability policy co-ordination to provide a strategic basis for agency action on sustainability with formal legal requirements for agency compliance and for Directors-General and CEOs to deliver sustainability outcomes
  • Sustainability (TBL) Assessment: sustainability (TBL) assessment of major policy, legislation, programs and projects assessment at beginning of process of key decisions – note:
    • A proper sustainability assessment would include climate change analysis
    • Cabinet consideration of the sustainability impacts at decision point
    • Evaluation post-event to ensure they are delivering key outcomes.
  • Agency Sustainable Procurement: mandatory requirement for agencies to prepare ‘green’ procurement plans including only procuring goods that can be recycled or reused
  • Sustainability Reporting: a clear mandatory sustainability reporting framework that covers both Government progress and community progress on key strategic objectives – i.e. zero net emissions for the ACT as well sustainability reporting analysis of outcomes of major Government expenditure items as requested from time to time by the Legislative Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee or other Committees of the Assembly
  • Independent Sustainability Review: Major review of Government’s sustainability performance by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment every four years with annual commentary in the Commissioner’s Annual Report
  • Maintain independent role of Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment: The independence of the role is vital to ensure that Government actions do not adversely affect the environment. 

Community consultation and engagement are key to positive outcomes

We support the aims identified by the ACT Government in ensuring greater openness in government and engagement and collaboration across sectors to maximise positive outcomes, and propose policies and initiatives under each aim:

  • Citizen participation to improve the wellbeing of our community’
    • Government and business engagement should ensure the community has a direct say in shaping future developments, especially for planning and development
    • That the government adheres to its Guide to Community Engagement[i] which matches the type of engagement process (inform, consult, involve, collaborate) and associated maximum timeframes (6 weeks, 10, 16, 16 + weeks) with the complexity of the issue. The more participatory processes and the maximum timeframes and timeframes should be the default position, not the shortest – six weeks – as currently applied by ACT Government Directorates
    • The Government should provide a response to the community on all community consultations, or should make the decision that was consulted, within the same timeframe offered to the community for consultation i.e. 8 weeks of consultation followed by Government action within a further 8 weeks
    • Develop a ‘one-stop shop’ approach for citizens seeking to arrange public demonstrations on matter of public interest
    • Utilise advisory groups to implement participatory processes (ref Guide to Community Engagement) through involvement and collaboration with the government for example a Public Transport Users Group.
  • ‘Transparency in process and access to information’
    • Adopt a new Freedom of Information Act based on the default position that most Government information is public information and limit the type of information deemed not to be in the public interest to release
    • Provide genuine access through Freedom of Information by releasing legible, searchable documents in the same colours as the originals
    • Provide that all documents tabled in the Legislative Assembly are simultaneously published on the internet
    • Enable access to all Development Applications through an archive facility rather than removal from the ACTPLA website
    • Publish all Cabinet ‘triple bottom line’ assessments including environmental assessments for all major decisions and developments and for decisions that will have an impact on the environment.
  • ‘Community, business and government working together to deliver integrated responses that benefit all Canberrans’
    • Apply the Social Compact in relations between all Directorates and community organisations[ii]
    • Trial and implement ‘deliberative democracy’ approaches across a range of Government actions and decisions
    • Maintain and enhance the Environment Community Partnerships Program.

[i] ACT Government, Engaging Canberrans – A Guide to community engagement, 2011, p13

[ii] ACT Government, Social Compact – a Relationship Framework between the ACT Government and Community Sector, 2012.

Issues with NSW Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016

Through discussions with member groups we have identified issues for submissions on consultation on the Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016.

1.  Contradiction /inconsistency between Objectives of Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016 and also with previous Native Vegetation Act 2003

2.  Reliance on base data which is not at required standard

  • Not dealing with grasslands and grassy woodlands and sparse trees
  • Perhaps all grasslands should be Category 1 unless proven otherwise

3.  Could amend existing Acts rather than repeal e.g. Native Vegetation Act 2003

4.  Limited public access into future processes including limited appeal rights

  • Some processes not yet outlined so difficult to comment e.g. no regulations, no guidelines, only one code

5.  Covenanted lands can be changed to offsets; conservation agreements can be cancelled

6.  Biodiversity offsets

  • Already created offsets have no security
  • Offsetting on offsets should not be allowed
  • Like-for-like offsets no longer required; offsets not even required in same region
  • Cash in lieu offsets not acceptable: does not necessarily result in on-ground work
  • Information is not publicly available: among other things allows for defence of ignorance when damage occurs

7.  Inconsistencies with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and inconsistencies with agreement between Australian and NSW Governments on implementation of EPBC Act.

8.  Funding decisions impact resourcing for implementation

  • Not enough funds available to manage, monitor, assess
  • Inadequate resourcing to implement (staffing etc.) and this has been used to undermine existing legislation and justify new legislation

9.  Assessment process

  • Previous assessment worked; new process inferior
  • Code has no assessment of threatened species

10. Administrative aspects not clear – monitoring, data, reporting

11. Missed opportunity for legislative reform

  • See 3 and 8 above

12. Set aside ratios set up bad outcomes

  • E.g. 1:3 could mean removal of 1ha high value biodiversity being replaced by 3ha revegetation (with minimal biodiversity): mature woodlands could be replaced by revegetation and pasture with a few seedlings

13. LLS legislation treats landholders more favourably than Biodiversity Conservation Bill

14. There are risks:

  • Undermining other efforts and programs
  • Threatening processes e.g. land clearing which the new rules will enable

Biodiversity Conservation – protecting our unique ecological communities and the Bush Capital

We are putting forward a range of policies relating to our key focus areas in the lead up to the ACT election to be held 15 October. Here are our policies on biodiversity conservation


About 99% of natural grassland and 95% of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodland have been destroyed nationally, for cropping, urban expansion and infrastructure. Large patches in good condition are rare beyond the ACT. The remaining ACT patches have very high regional and national conservation significance, as they protect a range of fauna and flora, many of which are also threatened with extinction, and provide important links across the landscape. These ecological communities have such high environmental value that they should be retained as part of the conservation and rural estate and managed to protect and enhance their ecological value, as is recognised in their national and local listing as threatened ecosystems.

Over the last ten years over 350 hectares of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodlands have been cleared in the ACT and the area and quality of natural temperate grassland has diminished due to urban development. We must protect and enhance what remains.

In November 2014 a new Nature Conservation Act was introduced with an ecosystem approach focus central to its operations. An Integrated Conservation Agency will become operational 1 July 2016. Both these measures are welcomed.

It is vital that these changes are appropriately resourced and structured to ensure we can protect, manage and enhance our beautiful and nationally significant critically endangered ecological communities, whether they are in the conservation estate, on rural lands, roadsides or remnants within the urban area.

Biodiversity protection is fundamental environment protection

No more net loss: no development of threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities as well as allowing for adequate buffers and habitat connectivity

Mature trees: ensure protection of mature trees, many of which are over 200 years old, noting loss of these trees cannot be offset

Central Molonglo: outline and implement measures to ensure the land is protected in perpetuity, as previously agreed by the Government

Biodiversity on Private (leased) Land: facilitate by supporting perpetual conservation covenants, stewardship agreements and financial incentives to all land covered by such agreements

Commonwealth environmental responsibilities: no transfer of Commonwealth environmental responsibilities to the ACT government.

Buffer areas: identify remnant areas of woodland and grassland within and adjacent to the urban area and manage to conserve their ecological values. These areas are particularly susceptible to weed invasion, inappropriate use and poor management practices leading to degradation, but provide roles as stepping-stones and local icons.

Planning for biodiversity protection

  • Strategic forward planning: for all future urban development, including strategic environmental assessments (not piecemeal site by site) identifying what needs to be enhanced and protected before development plans progress
  • Strategic Conservation Estate: identify, protect and enhance areas of threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities across the ACT
  • Strategic Biodiversity Offset Plan: identify areas for ‘advanced’ biodiversity offset management
  • Hills, Ridges and Buffers: ensure are under some form of biodiversity management program
  • Community Consultation Model: develop a community consultation model which is transparent, open and effective and encourages interaction between conservationists, experts, Government officials and the community (e.g. Bush on the Boundary model)
  • Living next to nature community engagement: ongoing funded program for all of Canberra on importance of our bush capital with emphasis on new “greenfield” suburbs
  • Cats: introduce a forward declaration of all ACT being cat containment by 2025; in interim ensure funded compliance for existing cat containment areas and ongoing community education on the need for cat containment
  • Bushfire Management: focus on bushfire mitigation measures which have a demonstrated reduction of risk
  • Urban Edge Principles: incorporate into planning processes and include as conditions of development approval
  • Rivers and river corridors: protect and enhance all river and creek corridors for biodiversity connectivity balanced with human amenity

Biodiversity Management to implement good policy

  • Measures to protect mature trees: including protection for rural paddock trees and isolated urban trees by formal listing as protected
  • Biodiversity Budget: invest in nature by increasing public expenditure on nature conservation, restoration, reserve management and public education annually over next four years with an emphasis on adaptive management
  • Biodiversity Monitoring: provide specific budget allocation for biodiversity monitoring and reporting
  • Biodiversity Reporting: strategic and accountability indicators for biodiversity outcomes included in appropriate corporate documents including in the ACT Budget papers
  • Offsets: ensure annual public reporting of biodiversity outcomes of offset sites, offset management plans are subject to formal public consultation and the offset calculator reports are included on the public biodiversity offsets register
  • Weeds and Pests: ensure secure, predictable recurrent funding for weed and pest management in order of $3 million per year ($2.4 million weeds, $600,000 animal pests)
  • African Lovegrass: develop and implement a strategy for the long-term containment of African Lovegrass, which is both a very high risk to biodiversity and wildfire management.
  • Nature Reserves: prepare an annual State of our Reserves report linked to the biodiversity monitoring program
  • Recognise and support Parkcare/Landcare volunteers: build and expand existing base
  • Bush Management Teams: funding mechanisms developed to establish Strategic Bush Management Teams across the ACT
  • Climate change conservation planning: support directorates, NGOs and community in transformation of conservation approaches required to respond to climate change. Ensure ACT conservation, parks and reserve management for climate change are included in the full climate change adaptation and mitigation policy.
  • Connectivity for Climate Change: enhance natural resilience to climate change by supporting large-scale conservation initiatives to protect and restore natural connectivity in the landscape.
  • Recreation Plan: develop as an urgent priority a Territory Recreation Plan which protects key reserves and biodiversity while promoting active healthy lifestyle for the ACT’s citizens.
  • Management Plan for off-reserve areas of ecological significance: woodlands, grasslands and threatened species habitat on unleased off-reserve land (including urban open space, roadsides, travelling stock reserves) should have a management plan.


Media release: ‘Smart bins’ dumb idea if they only do waste to landfill

The ACT Government through the LDA and TAMS has missed an opportunity by introducing ‘Smart bins’ that only deal with waste to landfill says the Conservation Council.

The Government has announced a 12 month trial of three solar-powered self-compacting rubbish bins at Campbell 5 in Campbell, Kingston Foreshore and Link Park at Wright. The bins are solar powered and fitted with compactors and can hold up to 600 litres of waste, as against the 120 litres of regular bins. The bins also have a sensor to record real-time data on the volume of waste in order to provide an alert when they need emptying.

Executive Director of the Conservation Council Larry O’Loughlin says that the Government needs to be reducing waste not looking for better ways to manage waste for landfill.

“A genuinely smart bin would allow for recycling and reuse of materials and not just collect material for our unsustainable waste mountain at Mugga Lane,” said Mr O’Loughlin.

“Doing the right thing is reducing waste and recycling: that is the best way to manage our waste problem and not by encouraging people to put everything into a compactor – solar-powered or not.”

“A key part of waste management for the ACT is to engage with the community in reducing waste not encouraging people to put more waste into bins,” said Mr O’Loughlin.

The Conservation Council is participating in consultations as part of the Government’s ACT Waste Feasibility Study to investigate options to best manage and minimise waste in the ACT and surrounding regions into the future.

“While we welcome additional improved data for future waste options, we need to know what’s in the bins so we can reduce waste and we already know what is going to our waste mountain – total waste to landfill in 2014-15 was nearly a quarter of a million tonnes”, said Mr O’Loughlin.

“Landfill such as our waste mountain does not come cheap – it destroys beautiful natural areas with a lasting toxic legacy and the ACT spent $21million in the 2015-16 Budget to provide capacity only to 2018”.

“Smart bins are a dumb idea if they only deal with waste to landfill,” said Mr O’Loughlin.


Larry O’Loughlin, Executive Director: 02 6229 3202 or 0419 266 110