Yellow Box Dispatch August 2016

Canberra has just had its second-warmest July on record (and the warmest ever July minimum of 11.1 degrees on July 20) while Anchorage, Alaska had its warmest ever July with an average of 17.1 degrees C. 

Also warming up is the ACT election campaign and the Conservation Council has published Our Future, Our Environment – to put our policies on record before the heat, smoke and mirrors of the ACT Legislative Assembly election campaign distort logic and common sense. Each of the current parties in the Assembly has been given a copy.

The ACT Legislative Assembly last week passed legislation to deal with the ACT’s municipal waste. It was not the legislation we needed to reduce Canberra’s growing waste problem as it did not set targets or establish powers and responsibilities for dealing with minimising waste.

The story of the ACT Government’s sorry use of biodiversity offsets – justification for environmental damage – continued with the official reclassification of the Justice Robert Hope Park, a community established and supported park, as a nature reserve. This renaming is to offset removal of old woodland trees for a development next door to the Park. To make matters worse the Government is allowing the developers to pipe polluted storwater into the new ‘reserve’.

Does the Government really want a new suburb in the Murrumbidgee river corridor next to the Tuggeranong town centre? They are still consulting on it since Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman floated the concept 3 March 2016: “I am pleased to announce a new suburb could take shape between the Tuggeranong town centre and the Murrumbidgee River.” Early consultation showed a distinct lack of support for a range of reasons. A second stage of consultation with a community reference panel is now underway.

And please look at some of the events coming up. We live in an interesting place.

Larry O’Loughlin
Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT


Conservation Council election ‘asks’

The Conservation Council’s election policies document – Our Future, Our Environment – is on our website and we have given the document to all political parties and will give it to candidates for the forthcoming 15 October 2016 election for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

We have developed policies against our seven key focus areas and have highlighted three major issues for Canberra to be a vibrant, liveable, compact and ecologically sustainable city:

  • No more loss of our nationally significant and local critically endangered ecological communities: We must manage and protect our biodiversity so that there is no more loss of existing habitat; no further species become locally extinct.
  • Canberra zero net emissions by 2040: Maintain leadership on climate change by continuing to meet stronger greenhouse gas emission reduction targets while also adapting for climate change.
  • Smart and sensitive urban infill: Develop a more compact city that lives within its environmental means while also being liveable for all and providing a high level of human amenity and a place where natural and cultural heritage are respected and protected. We support environmental initiatives through urban planning which look after people so that they highlighted can live without having to impact on the natural environment.

Many policies reflect positions we have previously taken in submissions to various processes.


When nature reserves are for environmental damage… The Conservation Council welcomes the addition of Justice Robert Hope Park into Canberra Nature Park.However the area was already well protected, well managed and well restored by local Parkcare groups. To claim it is an “biodiversity offset” for clearing the adjoining three hectares is nonsensical and the loss of large mature trees cannot be “offset”.Biodiversity offsets are supposed to provide for additional environmental protection than what already exists and result in “net gain” to our conservation estate.The reality is that we had 18 hectares in good shape and well looked after and now we are going to lose three hectares of our locally and nationally significant Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands – a critically endangered ecological community. There is no biodiversity gain.We are yet to be convinced that biodiversity offsets actually work whether here in the ACT or elsewhere.We propose a better approach is to plan to ensure no development impacts on threatened species habitat and endangered ecological communities, while also allowing for adequate buffers and habitat connectivity to protect those ecological values.BackgroundOur woodlands are nationally significant. About 95% of Yellow-Box Red Gum Grassy Woodlands have been destroyed nationally and it is listed as critically endangered. The remaining ACT patches are exceptional in term of size, quality and diversity. They have very high regional and national conservation significance. They are important habitat for species of local and national significance such as the Superb Parrot.Over the last ten years the ACT has lost over 300 hectares of these critically endangered Yellow-Box Red-Gum Woodlands to urban development in the ACT. It is likely we would have lost more if it wasn’t for Commonwealth Government involvement.Legislation waste of opportunity Wastes (resources with no further use) are an indicator of how we live within our environment. The amount of waste indicates how efficient we are in using resources. The type of waste shows what we value. The way we dispose of waste shows our concern for our environment. [from Our Future, Our Environment]The ACT’s municipal waste mountain at Mugga Lane is growing by nearly quarter of a million tonnes per year yet the Legislative Assembly in the last sitting days before the election focussed on waste management not waste reduction.Minister Fitzharris obtained support of the Assembly on 4 August 2016 to repeal the Waste Minimisation Act 2001 and replace it with the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Bill 2016 and in the process has not only removed waste minimisation from its name, but also did not have a target-setting mechanism or provide enough powers or responsibilities for waste managers to reduce waste generation.The Conservation Council raised issues with the 2015 draft Waste Management and Resource Recovery Bill 2015 and the legislation then went back for re-drafting and did not re-emerge until it was introduced in June 2016. Disappointingly many issues have not been addressed in the legislation.The Conservation Council called for the legislation to require that a waste strategy be developed and that there should be legislated short and long-term targets for waste reduction, resource recovery and the diversion of waste from landfill disposal.Legislated targets have been used successfully in the ACT for greenhouse gas emissions and could also be considered for Canberra’s municipal waste.The legislation establishes the position of ‘Waste Manager’ but does not provide sufficient functions and powers to do anything other than manage the pile of waste not reduce it.Although the legislation will provide some improvements including through the collection of additional data it is not clear that this data will be made publicly available to help bring the community on board with waste reduction measures.A key task of a future government will be to properly address waste issues through legislated targets as for greenhouse emissions. The current legislation is a waste of opportunity.** For more details see Conservation Council comments on the legislation.

West Greenway (concept suburb ‘Thompson’)

The Conservation Council, along with others, was invited to a community consultation panel on the concept suburb ‘Thompson’, now called west Greenway.

Minister Gentleman established the community panel “to capture community expertise to ensure that the right questions are asked, that the answers to the questions are reliable and that all the relevant voices are heard”.

The Conservation Council remains concerned that the panel’s terms of reference are still lingering on development of a suburb given that they include: “Partner with the ACT Government to identify potential planning outcomes that identify whether a viable, sustainable and equitable development is possible.”

It is very odd that the Government is leaving open the option of a suburb so close to the Murrumbidgee while at the same time being part of spending $93million on improving the quality of Murrumbidgee water through the ACT Basin Priority Project. Perhaps they will reduce nutrients while increasing irony.

The next meeting of the panel is 17 June and it is expected that the initial study which sparked the concept will be made available to panel members.


Green Drinks (with Emma Thomas)

What: Guest speaker Emma Thomas is Director-General for Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) and brings extensive experience in both commercial and public sectors, including major infrastructure projects that span most forms of transport including ‘planes, trains and automobiles.’ Prior to leading TCCS, Emma was Director-General Capital Metro Agency, delivering Canberra’s first stage of light rail.

Emma’s 10-minute talk will begin about 6pm, followed by a short audience Q&A session. The event will then become total freeform discussion among attendees.

Where: King O’Malley’s Irish Pub, 131 City Walk, Civic (meet at long tables in The Arcade: look for signs with the Green Drinks Canberra logo)

When: 5:30pm Tuesday 9 August 2016

RSVP: Not required.

Cost: Free entry, pay for own drinks.

Start time: 5:30 pm until whenever. Arrive at a time that suits you.

Mailing list: Join our monthly email newsletter. (We promise we will not spam you). We are also on Facebook, Meetup and Eventbrite.

350 Canberra’s campaign launch and dinner

What: Want to find out which major fossil fuel company Questacon takes money from? Or wondering how to have political impact following the Federal election? Perhaps you are curious about trainings and social events to build a stronger 350 Canberra? Answers to all these questions + good company + delicious food will be found at 350 Canberra’s campaign launch night and dinner next Thursday.

Now is the time to strengthen our resolve, and work harder than ever to keep fossil fuels in the ground. There are plenty of ways to get involved with 350 Canberra. Whether it’s contributing to painting a banner, supporting a creative action, doing research, coordinating a team or sharing another talent you have – we’ll find a space for you in our 100% volunteer-run team.

When: Thursday 11 August 2016, 6pm-7:30pm

Where: The Food Co-op, 3 Kingsley St, Canberra ACT 2601

What: Delicious dinner, campaign pitches and planning, meeting Canberrans passionate about climate action.

RSVP here: so we can make sure there is a plate of food for you!


Food Hubs: Can They Benefit Farmers, the Economy and Public Health?

What: UC-HRI public lecture: A Conversation with Anthony Flaccavento, an organic farmer and small business owner, based in Abingdon, Virginia. In 2009, he founded SCALE, Inc, a private consul ting business that catalyses and supports ecologically healthy economies and food systems. SCALE works with farmers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, economic development agencies and others in both rural and urban environments. Anthony has a degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science and a Master of Economic and Social Development, and author of Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up.

When: Wednesday 17 August 2016, 5:30pm-7:30pm (Additional workshop with Anthony 9am-1pm 18 August)

Where: Ann Harding Conference Centre, Seminar Room 1 Building 24, University Canberra

Bookings: through Eventbrite

Actsmart Business Sustainability Expo

What: Exhibitors, informative workshops, interactive displays, on stage presentations and a networking event. The Sustainability Expo will provide business and public event organisers with a holistic approach to sustainability, with exhibitors showcasing the latest products and services to assist with energy and water efficiency, and better waste management.

Cost: Free for exhibitors and attendees. Exhibitors can register here and take advantage of pre-register offer to be in draw to win an iPad, thanks to the Actsmart team.

When: Thursday 1 September 2016 10am-6pm

Where: National Convention Centre 31 Constitution Avenue, Canberra

Canberra Birds Conservation Fund

What: Throughout the year, the Canberra Birds Conservation Fund invites applications for small grants for research, conservation and related projects.

The Canberra Birds Conservation Fund has been established for the purpose of supporting the Canberra Ornithologists Group’s (COG’s) environmental objects by receiving and disbursing tax deductible donations.

COG’s environmental objects are ‘to promote the conservation of native birds and their habitats’, with particular reference to the native birds and their habitats in the Canberra region.


1. To encourage interest in, and develop knowledge of, the birds of the Canberra region

2. To promote and co-ordinate the study of birds

3. To promote the conservation of native birds and their habitats.

Who is eligible: The Fund welcomes applications from individuals and organisations for grants to support projects that will contribute to achieving its environmental objectives.

When: Applications may be submitted at any time of the year.

How much: Applications for up to $2,000 are invited. Applications that meet all three of the Fund’s environmental objectives will be particularly favoured, especially those with a focus on the Canberra region.

Further information: please contact Fund convener David McDonald (02) 6238 3706 or 0416 231 890

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