Yellow Box Dispatch – June 2016

This is just about the busiest time of our year when doing too much is just not enough!

We’ve had the World Environment Day dinner which is one of our major ways of resourcing our ongoing activities.

The ACT Budget on Tuesday will have interest for us especially on how the government funds its responsibilities for environmental weed management.

We’re also watching other developments around the city.

We await the next steps of the concept suburb of “Thompson” (which the Government is now calling West Greenway) to see if the overwhelming public objections are enough to take it off the table. The West Belconnen project proposal has an environmental assessment lodged under Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity legislation And there’s waste issues, the Federal Government might be considering taking away tax deductibility for environment groups…

I took on the role of Executive Director at the beginning of May after being Assistant Director since 2014 and I look forward to the challenges and welcome your support and feedback.

Larry O’Loughlin
Executive Director
Landscape sunset
World Environment Day dinner success
We held the World Environment Day dinner at the Arboretum Saturday night 4 June and, thanks to all the work that went into the dinner, it was a successful and enjoyable evening.

Thank you to all those who attended and to the staff, volunteers, producers, donors and sponsors who helped us to continue to help the environment.

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing on North Watson
On Monday 6 June we’re off to mediation in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal over the 4ha North Watson development next to the community-protected Justice Robert Hope Park. We made comments on the development in January 2016 and think the decision could have been better.

The Conservation Council’s objections to the decision are on five points.

  • loss of woodlands of national significance: removal of large, mature ageing and even decaying trees from the landscape, especially near to quality woodlands, also diminishes those woodlands. The Conservation Council also believes Justice Robert Hope Park is not a suitable offset and that ACTPLA could direct a different offset for the development and does not need to accept a bad decision from the Federal Government.
  • loss of mature trees.
  • decision is inconsistent with advice from Tree Protection Unit  which assessed some trees as having no criteria to remove them. However, the Major Project Review Group supported removal of the trees.
  • impacts on Justice Robert Hope Reserve, especially using an existing dam in the reserve as a discharge control pond. The existing dam is an effective frog habitat
  • inadequate conditions to mitigate urban edge impacts, including that the decision-maker could have set a condition to have consideration of the area as cat containment under the Domestic Animals Act to protect the birdlife of Justice Robert Hope Park.

We’ll let you know how it goes.

Facing a federal government attack?
On 4 May the House of Representatives Environment Committee tabled its report of its Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations. The Conservation Council made a submission to the Inquiry and we also appeared before the committee.

The majority of Government members recommended environment groups should not have tax deductibility for donations unless “expenditure on environmental remediation work be no less than 25 per cent of the organisation’s annual expenditure” and they also recommended that “sanctions be introduced for environmental deductible gift recipients that encourage, support, promote, or endorse illegal or unlawful activity undertaken by employees, members, or volunteers of the organisation or by others without formal connections to the organisation”.

If these recommendations are adopted by the incoming government there would be an impact on the Conservation Council because we are a peak organisation of active member groups and we don’t do what is usually regarded as “environmental remediation” unless that includes dealing with planning, administrative and political decisions that have an impact on the environment or developing policy to enhance our local environment.

And while we seek to be lawful and legal in our activities we expect that the proposed rules will be managed to limit the activity of groups such as ours who advocate for the environment and who will support or arrange protests when that is the best way to support an issue.

Tax-deductibility helps us get the oily rag on whose smell we run. Taking tax-deductibility away would make a real difference to the Conservation Council and other groups around Australia who advocate for the environment.

Once was called “Thompson”
The concept of a suburb on the banks of the Murrumbidgee lingers on. Originally proposed as “Thompson” the Government is now calling it “West Greenway”.

The Conservation Council met with Minister Gentleman in May and noted that consultation had shown little support for the concept and had instead focussed on areas within the existing town centre that could be developed. We again pointed out the importance of the Murrumbidgee River corridor and asked the Minister to declare an end to the consultation given the issues that had been highlighted and the insufficient support for the concept.

The Minister said that there was still more to be considered and he would be receiving more reports before he made further decision. The Government is now proposing a next stage of direct consultation with groups and individuals including establishing a community panel. 

CSIRO site visit
A site tour for member groups at CSIRO Ginninderra Field Station has been arranged so we can have an on-ground look at the proposed urban area.

The federal Minister approved a change to the National Capital Plan just before the election was called and the CSIRO has since advertised the site as a 701 ha urban development opportunity.

The Conservation Council has had concerns about the lack of available information on how the environmental values of the site were being identified and the CSIRO has been helpful in facilitating the visit and for discussions with scientists and consultants on various issues.

Let’s talk rubbish!
Smart bins dumb idea

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

The bins are solar powered, fitted with compactors and hold up to 600 litres of waste, as against the 120 litres of regular bins. The bins have a sensor to record data on waste volume to provide an alert when they need emptying.

The Conservation Council’s view is that the waste problem for the ACT is we generate too much and don’t recycle enough. Smart bins would be recycling bins along with community engagement to reduce waste – not encouraging people to put more waste into bins.

The Conservation Council has been participating in 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. We know at there is a need for additional improved data, especially what’s going into the waste streams. Just under 250,000 tonnes waste went to the landfill mountain at Mugga Lane in 2014-15.

Green bins should be for kitchen and food waste

The other recent Government announcement that Green bins are coming to Canberra is also not dealing with the most urgent parts of the waste stream. The trial of green bins is proposed to deal with garden waste but this is one of the most successful ‘waste’ streams in the system with material being dropped off for free. This option is usually not available for people without cars so there could be more options ther but a ‘trashpack’ industry has developed over the years.

The real waste problem for a ‘green bin’ is the organic kitchen waste that currently makes up 40% by weight of residential waste bins. The Government’s proposal could be fixed if it also collects and processes food and kitchen waste and that the ‘composted’ product can be usefully used.

Policies for the future
The Conservation Council along with other groups has developed the ACT Region People’s Food Plan Working Paper #1 to support growth of local and regional food economies and empower producers and consumers alike to have control and agency to help build a fair, sustainable food system. A food industry in the region would be able to use composted food waste!

The 2016 ACT election Conservation Council waste policy on our website.

Red Hill facing another development proposal
The Federal Golf Club has informed the Red Hill Regenerators that a General Meeting of the golf club membership will be held 20 June 2016, to vote on whether to accept a proposal to develop a residential estate on part of the golf club’s concessional lease. Details on this proposal, including site plans, are available from the golf club website or click here and go to “Federal Golf Club over 55s development”.

The Red Hill Regenerators executive committee will meet in late June after this vote to consider a formal response to the proposal referring to twelve general areas of concern, which were provided to the developers on 28 January 2016.

If you want to find out more about Red Hill and the Red Hill Regenerators visit

Festival of Democracy: DemFest16
What: – People Power for Democracy: a weekend of conversation about our role in politics, and change for the better. We’ll begin to map action we can take to transform our political system.

Who: Canberra Alliance for Participatory Democracy (CAPaD) aims to empower citizens to take control and transform our political system for our common good.

When: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 June

Where: Ann Harding Conference Centre, University of Canberra

Information and registration: Visit DemFest16 or contact [email protected] or Eventbrite

Help David pay eco-fines!
Who: Climate Action Canberra has adopted activist David Mould to fund raise for fines he accumulated while on the front lines for two years attempting to save the Leard Forest and stop Whitehaven Coal mine.

What: David is a father with two young girls and is training on Newstart with one arm paralyzed.

When: We have till July 10 to raise another $1000 or so.

We are sure there are many Canberrans who would be happy to make a contribution as they themselves can not attend such direct action camps.

How: Go to Pozible

Vale Neville Gare!
Many people involved with our National Parks would have known, or heard of, Nev Gare who sadly passed away 7 May 2016. Nev was the first Superintendent of Kosciusko NP (where he achieved the removal of cattle grazing) and he was also instrumental in getting most of the coastal NSW NPs south of Royal NP declared.

Did you know Canberra is officially a World Health Organisation Age Friendly City?
What: COTA ACT & ANU Centre for Research on Ageing, Health & Wellbeing invite you to come and hear from two leading UK experts, Professor Christopher Phillipson and Dr Tine Buffel, on how to turn the age-friendly dream into reality.

Where: Hughes Community Centre, Wisdom Street Hughes (at the shops)

When: 1.30 to 3.30pm, Wednesday 6 July 2016

How: RSVP to COTA ACT: [email protected] or 62823777

Vale Phillip Bell
Philip Bell, who was a leading figure in setting up Friends of Mt Painter in 1989 and its first President, died 26 May. A celebration of his life was held 1 June at the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion at the Arboretum.

Philip put an enormous amount of work into working on and advocating for the Mt Painter reserve and its extension to include the entire hill.

There is much of interest about his life in this blog.



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