National Park Feasibility Reference Group

Following the 2016 ACT election the November 2016 Parliamentary Agreement included: “Undertake a feasibility study into establishing a new northern Canberra region National Park, including existing nature reserves around Mount Majura, Mount Ainslie and Mulligans Flat”.

The Conservation Council Board at its November 2016 meeting established a sub-committee to discuss policy on a northern national park and to develop a focus for the proposed feasibility study to take with outcomes to be referred to the Biodiversity Working Group.

The Conservation Council has now been invited by the ACT Government to provide two representatives to the National Park Feasibility Reference Group and has nominated Larry O’Loughlin, Executive Director, and Jenny Bounds, Convenor, Biodiversity Working Group. The National Parks Association has also been asked for a nomination.

The National Park Feasibility Reference Group (NatPark FRG?) will be chaired by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Dr Kate Auty and the draft terms of reference are below. The first meeting of the Group has been scheduled for 7 March.

DRAFT TERMS OF REFERENCE as of 31 January 2017

National Park Feasibility Reference Group

  1. Overview

The ACT Government has made a commitment to undertake a feasibility study into establishing a new northern Canberra region national park, including existing nature reserves around Mount Majura, Mount Ainslie and Mulligans Flat.

The planning and management of parks and reserves in the ACT falls under the responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. The Minister has resolved to establish a reference group to provide direction and advise him on the merits of this proposal.

  1. Purpose of the National Park Feasibility Reference Group

The role of the Reference Group is to:

  • represent a range of community groups that may have an interest in the possible establishment of a new national park;
  • evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal; and
  • make a recommendation to the Minister on whether/how to proceed.
  1. Membership

The Reference Group is comprised of stakeholders who represent conservation, natural resource management, recreation, scientific research, historic cultural heritage, Aboriginal traditional and contemporary values and community and neighbour interests.

Ten to twelve members will form the Reference Group, however the membership may be expanded as required. The Conservation Council and the Recreation Users Group may have two representatives to cover the broader membership and interests of these peak bodies.

The ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Dr Kate Auty, has agreed to chair the reference group. In addition to Dr Auty, the Reference Group will comprise:

     Issues/Values/Interest Community Organisation
     Nature conservation, landscape, natural resource management
  • Conservation Council ACT Region (2 representatives)
  • ACT National Parks Association
  • Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee
     Recreation
  • ACT PCS Recreation Users Group (2 representatives)
     Aboriginal cultural connections to Country
  • Aboriginal representative
     Scientific research/woodland restoration
  • Woodlands and Wetlands Trust
     Community interests
  • Gungahlin Community Council
  • North Canberra Community Council
     Youth
  • Youth Coalition of the ACT
     Neighbours
  • ACT Rural Landholders Association
     Cultural heritage
  • ACT Heritage Council

 

  1. The Approach

A two-stage process to the feasibility study is proposed:

Stage 1:

  • Formation of this Reference Group to discuss the proposal to establish a national park based on the ACT’s lowland grassy woodlands. Key questions the Reference Group is asked to consider include:
  1. What would be the objectives of establishing a national park as proposed?
  2. What would be the environmental, economic and social benefits and costs compared with the status quo?
  3. What would be the risks associated with such a declaration?

Other key questions may be identified by the Reference Group.

  • Development of a resources paper to support the deliberations of the Reference Group. The paper will include:
  • a summary of previous work done on this proposal;
  • information on the extent of ACT lowland grassy woodland;
  • assignment of ACT reserves to IUCN protected area management categories;
  • the level of protection currently provided under the ACT statutory and land planning framework; and
  • current management actions to enhance the condition of lowland grassy woodlands.

The most recent proposal for a national park by the National Parks Association of the ACT will also be provided to the Group. Additional information will be provided as required. Guest presenters may also be invited to meetings to provide specialist input.

The completion of Stage 1 should culminate in a short report with a recommendation (or recommendations) to the Minister including whether or not to establish a national park and proceed to stage 2.

Stage 2:

The detailed feasibility study will include discussion of the issues identified in Stage 1, advice provided by the Reference Group and a cost/benefit analysis. The study will also consider the process that would be required to create a new national park should the ACT Government decide to proceed, including an opportunity for wider community consultation as part of the Territory Plan variation process.

The role of the Reference Group in Stage 2 will be to provide input into the feasibility study. This will be agreed by the Group and may take the form of a workshop, meetings and/or written submissions.

  1. Payment

Reference Group members will not receive payment for participation.

  1. Term of membership

The term of membership will be until the completion of Stage 1 and Stage 2 (should the feasibility study proceed).

  1. Meetings

Meetings will be chaired by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment and held at a central location.

It is envisaged that two or three meetings will be held during Stage 1. The Reference Group may decide that additional meetings are required.

The structure, length and timing of meetings will be decided at Meeting 1, which will be scheduled for 2 hours.

At least ten working days prior to the first meeting the members will receive: the Agenda for the meeting; the Terms of Reference; a copy of the Resources Paper and the proposal for a national park developed by the National Parks Association of the ACT.

  1. Advice to Minister

The advice provided to the Minister by the Reference Group will be based on a majority view. Any dissenting views will also be provided to the Minister.

  1. Role of Chair

The Chair will:

  • guide factual discussion
  • ensure all reference group members have equal opportunity to participate
  • Convey Reference Group deliberations and recommendations to the Minister.
  1. Role of Reference Group members

Reference Group members will:

  • review and provide written and/or verbal advice and feedback on the issues raised in the resources paper, at Reference Group meetings or out of session if required.
  • represent the views and perspectives of their respective organisations and report back to their organisations on Reference Group activities
  • request the preparation of additional information as necessary.
  1. Reference Group member commitment

Reference Group members will:

  • disclose conflicts of interest
  • respect confidentiality should sensitive issues arise during Reference Group discussions
  • inform the secretariat if they are unable to attend a meeting and provide an alternative delegate.
  1. Role of Observers

Senior officers from the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate will participate as Observers at Reference Group meetings to contribute to discussions and provide information on ACT Government land management.

Observers will not participate in determining the advice the Reference Group provides to the Minister.

  1. Role of PCS Conservation Planning team

The Conservation Planning section of the ACT Parks and Conservation Service are the project managers and is the point of contact for all Reference Group matters.

Conservation Planning will:

  • provide all functions of the secretariat
  • provide an agenda at least ten working days prior to each meeting
  • provide papers at least ten working days prior to expected feedback from Reference Group members
  • distribute meeting notes to members within ten working days following each meeting.

Draft Terms of Reference as of 31 January 2017

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