Yellow Box Dispatch July 2016
July is a great starting month. The days are getting longer, it’s a new financial year, there’s been some significant ACT Government directorate changes. It’s even raining, refreshing and replenishing the landscape for the hot times ahead.
And there’s been a federal election and now we are heading towards an ACT election. So we are now starting to put more focus on the local environmental issues for the Legislative Assembly election on Saturday 15 October.
Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT
Conservation Council election ‘asks’
The Conservation Council is preparing and releasing policies leading up to the October 2016 ACT election. The policies are intended for all candidates to see how their positions, and those of their parties, line up with those of environment groups and we will advocate that they take up our policies in their own campaigns and later in debates and committees in the Assembly or as members of Government.
The policies reflect our main focus areas and some are already online:
- Biodiversity Conservation: protecting our unique ecological communities and the Bush Capital;
- Climate Change – a regional, national and global challenge;
- Planning – the right things in the right places;
- Transport – connecting people and places;
- Waste and resource management: being efficient through closed looped material systems;
- Water conservation: smart use of a scarce resource, and;
- Towards a Smarter Sustainable Canberra: Governance for Sustainability.
In the next few weeks we will publish a single document (about 20 pages) on our website. Many policies reflect positions we have previously taken in submissions to various processes.
The Conservation Council took the ACT’s planners (Environment and Planning Directorate also referred to as ACTPLA) to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) over the decision to approve a development in North Watson. See our Comments on Development Application 2015-28681 Watson Section 64, Block 9 Watson Estate Development Plan.
The endangered Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) assisted us to obtain pro bono legal assistance through Michael Will of HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the EDO solicitor and Watson Community Association also attended to make a team of four, with five in the developer’s team and eight from ACTPLA.
The mediation session did not provide agreed outcomes and we subsequently discontinued the process. We calculated we had a limited chance of meaningful achievement and did not have the resources – research, preparation and legal expenses – to spend up to five days in a hearing facing the ACT Government and the developer defending the approval of the development.
Our objections were:
- loss of woodlands of national significance
- loss of mature trees
- decision is inconsistent with advice from Tree Protection Unit
- impacts on Justice Robert Hope Reserve
- inadequate conditions to mitigate urban edge impacts.
Justice Robert Hope Park is now being given ‘nature reserve’ status by the ACT Government to ‘offset’ the environmental damage which will be done by the development across the fence in Watson. As the Government says:
The medium density residential development on block 9 section 64 in Watson along with the extension of Negus Crescent to Antill Street and the offsite stormwater works for Justice Robert Hope Park will significantly impact the critically endangered White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland (Box-Gum Grassy Woodland). As part of the conditional approval from the Commonwealth Government, Justice Robert Hope Park is identified to offset these impacts and provide better protection for species listed under the EPBC Act, including the Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia).
If we are going to have offsets then it is inappropriate to make an offset out of an existing reserved area. Further the development is going to degrade the reserve area including by laying a pipe through the reserve to divert stormwater to a retention pond in the reserve. The reserve itself has been established and maintained substantially through volunteer labour yet is being offered as an offset for a development which is returning profit to the developer and revenue to the government.
July 1 marked the start of new arrangements for two of our key ACT Government directorates and in particular implemented changes that the Conservation Council had championed for some years: establishment of an Integrated Conservation Agency. We set out our reasons for an integrated agency here and here.
Basically we expect that the new arrangement should result in better biodiversity enhancement and protection and improved nature conservation outcomes.
The Integrated Conservation Agency will be the Environment Division of the Environment and Planning Directorate which will now include Parks and Conservation Services transferred from TAMS. Division head, ACT Conservator Annie Lane, will present to the Conservation Council Biodiversity Working Group on the new arrangements at the meeting of 28 July. She will also be presenting on how the ACT is implementing the biodiversity monitoring arrangements arising from the Nature Conservation Act 2014.
The other big change is that TAMS has become Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate and now includes what was Capital Metro, ACTION buses, Domestic Animals (including cat containment), roads, tree protection, waste and others (including Cemetries and Crematoria if you’re dying to know). The new Directorate structure has Emma Thomas (formerly head of Capital Metro) as Director-General. The Directorate will include most ACT Government transport matters including active transport. Roads ACT is located in the Directorate but is regarded as City Services rather than as part of Transport Canberra.
Conservation Council member groups visited the CSIRO Ginninderra Field Station on Monday 6 June to look at the environment of the area which is proposed to be an urban development opportunity.
The site visitors noted that there was substantial biodiversity in the area and a subsequent workshop on Monday 27 June among other things discussed some principles for conservation and development that might inform subsequent stages of the project.
The workshop looked at a range of issues including management of trees and habitats on the site and treatment of buffer zones and urban areas including edge effects.
The proposed CSIRO development has been discussed in the Canberra Times and on ABC radio with both outlets seeking comment from the Conservation Council.
We are actually having very good discussions with the CSIRO scientists involved in the project and we say that. But like a lot of consultation, we want to know how the outcomes of these discussions are incorporated into development agendas.
Good news on Little Eagle?
The Canberra Times also asked some questions including on the Little Eagle and COG members assisted with advice for a response which was used in “Fears vulnerable eagle will disappear due to planned CSIRO housing development”.
Subsequently we received a phone call that a Little Eagle was nesting on a farm in NSW not far from the CSIRO site. The farmer has offered access for bird groups and researchers for further investigation.
The Conservation Council, along with others, has been invited to the next stage of consultation on the concept suburb ‘Thompson’, now called west Greenway.
Although the initial consultation seemed to clearly indicate a lack of community support for the proposal Minister Gentleman is establishing a 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”.
While the Conservation Council will participate in the panel we are concerned that the Government is trying to develop in an area when all the signs indicate that it will not be a suitable site from a community or environmental perspective and especially for its impact on the Murrumbidgee River corridor.
It seems so obvious it’s an inappropriate development that there might not need to be expensive consultancies to state the obvious but the Minister is proposing more studies: “Overwhelmingly we heard that the river corridor is of significant environmental and recreational value to the community. That’s why before the ACT Government formally considers developing this area, we will conduct comprehensive environmental and social studies. We will continue to listen to the community.”
We will report on progress.
Life without plastic
What: Plastic is everywhere. Its convenience has undeniably saturated our everyday lives. However, single use disposable plastic is killing our environment. Despite efforts to recycle, plastic continues to choke our landscape and environment. According to a study by CSIRO, plastics ingestion in seabirds will reach 95% of all species by 2050. So it’s time to ditch plastic. With an abundance of simple and accessible alternatives, the switch to a plastic free lifestyle has never been easier. As part of Plastic Free July, Canberra Environment Centre invites you to meet three Canberrans who have taken the challenge of living a plastic free lifestyle. Our panellists will discuss environmental issues caused by plastic consumption, busting some myths around giving up single-use disposable plastic and sharing lessons they have learnt from the switch.
How much: This event is FREE.
Who: Canberra Environment Centre
Where: The Food Cooperative Shop, 3 Kingsley Street, Acton
When: Wednesday 27 July 6pm-7pm
Booking: Please RSVP to let us know you’re coming (bring lots of questions!) http://www.ecoaction.com.au/
Citizen Voice, Community Vision
What: This year’s ACTCOSS conference is ACT 2020: Citizen Voice, Community Vision. Check program confirmed so far.
Theme: This theme has ended up being very timely. The Federal Election results indicate many voters do not believe mainstream political processes reflect their interests or priorities. The conference provides a platform to explore whether and how we can build a collective vision that captures diverse interests and priorities, especially of people and communities who have felt pushed to the margins of public debate and political decision making.
When: Thursday 4 — Friday 5 August
Where: Rydges Capital Hill
Bookings: Register here. Early bird registrations close Tuesday 12 July, so get in quick for extra good value.
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.
Who: If you work in a business, own a business, support business or have an interest in sustainability initiatives then you cannot miss this expo. An initiative of the ACT Government’s Actsmart Program delivered in partnership with Canberra Business Chamber
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.>/p>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.
Objectives:1. To encourage interest in, and develop knowledge of, the birds of the Canberra region2. To promote and co-ordinate the study of birds3. 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
We are a voice for the environment in the ACT region.
As a non-profit, non-government organisation we rely on donations to continue our work. Please donate here to allow our work to continue. Thank you!
14/26 Barry Drive (GPO Box 544) Canberra 2601