Yellow Box Dispatch – March 2016

 

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The Conservation Council has been busy in the media, community meetings, and public forums this month. With severe summer storms continuing to hit the region in autumn, our first Environment Exchange on climate change was a timely conversation. There’s action you can take right now, read more below.

The release of the State of the Environment Report 2015 gave us a comprehensive snapshot of the health of our wildlife, water, land, and the footprint we are creating on our environment and climate. In the media, the Conservation Council has both celebrated the innovative use of recycled toner in Canberra roads, and warned of the risks of new developments in areas of ecological significance, such as the proposed new suburb in Tuggeranong.

Clare Henderson

Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT

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We need strong environmental laws to protect nature
We’d love it if you could join us for our March Environment Exchange co-hosted with the Places you Love Alliance on the need for new national environmental laws Thursday 24 March 12 noon – 2.30pm.

How well does our legal system protect nature? Do we need new national environment laws and what does this look like?

A light lunch will be provided. Register here and please circulate to your networks.

State of the Environment report 2015
The 2015 State of the Environment report released 18 February is a detailed analysis of the complex factors that affect animals, plants, water, land, air and our climate here in the ACT. Environment Minister Simon Corbell has celebrated the report as a clean bill of health for nature in Canberra, but there are many issues of concern.

We should be proud of efforts to tackle climate change, with strong investment in renewable energy contributing to a decline in ACT greenhouse emissions. However, Canberrans still have an environmental footprint three and a half times larger than the world average. We have more work to do to reduce our consumption, and the pollution we create, to truly make Canberra a sustainable city that protects nature.

The Conservation Council is concerned that Canberra continues to grow and operate in ways that threaten our local ecosystems, animals and plants. Canberrans love living in the bush capital, and we have a responsibility to share our landscape with other species that live here. See our blog post for more analysis on some biodiversity issues from the State of the Environment report 2015.

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Discover our bush treasures at 2016 Heritage Festival

Did you know Canberra is home to some of the biggest and best patches of Box–Gum Grassy Woodlands in Australia?

Box–Gum Grassy Woodland is an endangered ecological community and provides a much-needed habitat for threatened species such as Pink-tailed Worm Lizards, Superb Parrots and Hoary Sunrays.

A host of new reserves protecting this important ecosystem are rolling out across the ACT. Two of the reserves, at Kinlyside and at Kama, have been established as environmental offsets for urban and infrastructure development in other areas of the territory. Each of these reserves is being managed in a unique manner, yet suffer from the same threats from nearby urban boundaries. Kinlyside is a closed reserve managed by the existing leaseholders for both sheep farming and conservation. Kama on the other hand is being considered as part of the new Molonglo River Reserve.

The residents living close to these new reserves have the enviable ability to come home to the bush each night. This ability to live next to nature makes Canberra unique and is a core part of our identity. However, the urban/ bush boundary does come with increased threats to the environment such as weeds, pets and waste dumping.

This April, the Conservation Council will be going bush and exploring these new reserves and some old favourites at the Heritage Festival. We will discover the natural and cultural treasures that can be found right in our backyards and consider the threats to their survival.

Come along to the events or stay tuned as we keep you updated on our discoveries on our Facebook Page. Reserve your place now:

Discover Kama, 5 April 7:30am, Kama Nature Reserve: Get up with the birds and explore one of Canberra’s newest reserves with local experts from Friends of Grasslands and Canberra Ornithologists Group.

Tell Your Story, 9 April 10:00am, Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve: Become a part of your local history and share your stories about this beautiful reserve.

Sneak Peek at Kinlyside, 14 April 10:00am, Kinlyside Nature Reserve: Don’t miss this rare opportunity as we unlock a unique combination of working farm and conservation area.

Red Hill Heritage Walk, 17 April 10:00am, Red Hill Nature ReserveBrush up on the history of this intriguing reserve while its future is being decided.

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Time to adapt to a changing climate and get to zero emissions fast
Environment Minister Simon Corbell has announced Sapphire Wind Farm as winner of the final reverse-auction to provide renewable energy to help the ACT reach its emission reductions targets. Investing in renewable energy is the smart choice. Read our blog co-authored with Stephen Bygrave from Beyond Zero Emissions here to find out why.

Our first forum of 2016 was a lively discussion on climate change in Canberra, and what we need to do next (you can see the presentation slides online here). Professor Will Steffen outlined the seriousness of climate change and the need to move fast, after at least two decades of ‘faffing around.’ Antonio Mozqueira from ACT Environment & Planning Directorate tackled how Canberra might manage the challenges climate change is bringing, introducing the draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy out for comment now. Phoebe Howe covered the critical role the community plays forcing decision makers to act. With the new UN climate agreement, and climate change happening faster than expected, we must sprint in our race to reach zero emissions.

You can be part of the community effort to make the change right now: support our campaign calling on the ACT Government to update our climate change policies in line with the UN climate agreement, and the urgency of the problemWe’ll keep you up to date with the opportunities you have to make a real difference on climate change right here in Canberra.

Integrating transport modes essential
As the Government announces Canberra Metro as the winning consortium to roll out the first stage of a light rail system, the Conservation Council has commented on the Light Rail Network and the Public Transport Improvement Plan.

The light rail network and all future routes must incorporate into an integrated transport plan for the ACT. Canberra needs to have genuine travel choices for its residents, not just for travel to work and not just to town centres, though these are fundamental to the overall system.

There are opportunities with the establishment of Transport Canberra from 1 July 2016 for the building of roads (ie RoadsACT) to be incorporated into that agency. The Government’s road management must deliver against Canberra’s long-term transport needs including for public transport, bikes and pedestrians as well as for cars.

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Tuggeranong suburb concept concerns
Media coverage on a Government concept for a suburb on the edge of Tuggeranong has kicked off public debate. The Conservation Council welcomes the opportunity for genuine discussion on the concept for a new suburb in Tuggeranong, even if we do end up not supporting the idea. Our understanding is that this is a very early stage proposal and therefore the underlying information for a decision to develop is not available. We look forward to a genuinely collaborative process to identify and protect environmental, heritage and amenity values.

Broadly, the Conservation Council is concerned about the proposed reduction and potential impacts on the Murrumbidgee River reserve. The Murrumbidgee is not only an iconic Australian river, it is also a ribbon of natural connectivity, valuable for plants and animals and also for humans. The Conservation Council is concerned that if the concept proceeds there would be further pressure to undertake more damaging residential development on the west of the Murrumbidgee.

There are identified endangered and threatened species in the area and more work needs to be done to identify and protect them before development is considered. Species identified on ACT Government maps include Tuggeranong lignum; Perunga Grasshopper and Pale Pomaderris. The area between Tuggeranong and the Murrumbidgee has many values including bird species and we know of groups of local workers undertaking lunchtime bird observation in the area.

The greatest threat to natural areas in the ACT is urban development so each development has to be designed to minimise impact including using appropriate plant species, stormwater pollution and litter management and cat containment and a range of other ‘urban edge’ issues. Canberra can only be genuinely sustainable if it lives within the environment without eroding and degrading it and the conceptual suburb would have to be very carefully designed and managed to not have a negative impact. The Conservation Council takes some hope that the Minister in mentioning Riverview will adopt some of the better aspects of that development including:

* undertaking years of detailed examination of the area along with consultation with a range of groups to identify what needs to be protected and then developing to care for those values

* limiting the development well back from the Murrumbidgee to allow for limited impact on the river and riparian zones.

Government community reference group
Nature can only be protected when they way we live is sustainable, providing for all in the community. The Conservation Council works productively across community sectors on key issues like housing and transport. This week we hosted a meeting of the Joint Community Government Reference Group. This is a meeting between community organisations and ACT Government officials to discuss a range of issues to achieve understanding and collaboration. All ACT Directorates are part of the group and the Federal Government also usually has a representative.

The Reference Group was a key driver in development of the Social Compact, a statement of understanding about the relationship between the ACT Government and the community sector.

This meeting discussed progress on the Community Services Industry Plan, was briefed on the next stage of consultation on Transport Canberra, had a discussion on the ACT housing affordability strategy and was briefed on the management and upkeep of community facilities around Canberra.

Events
Clean up Australia Day
Join the biggest community event to care for nature in Australia this Sunday 6 March!

What: Join a team getting out in their local area to scour for litter and spruce up parks, reserves and suburbs.

When: Sunday 6 March

Where: Choose a site across Canberra from the online list here.

South East Harvest local food celebration!
Heading to the South Coast for Canberra Day? Join South East Harvest for a program of events celebrating local, sustainable food. Paul West from River Cottage leads a panel on ‘Farming Outside the Box,’ while celebrity gardener Costa leads the Saturday workshop program

When: Friday 11 & Saturday 12 March

Where: Riverside Park, Moruya & SAGE Moruya community garden

Check out the program and booking details here

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Forests Forever!
What: A five day ecology camp, with a full program of walks, talks and activities to choose from. Camp out, go spotlighting, learn about forest ecology and share great food. Held in East Gippsland since 1982 the forest camp is Environment East Gippsland’s main annual fundraiser to continue campaigning to save forests and protect the environment of the region.

When: Easter weekend, Friday 25 March to Monday 28 March

Where: Goongerah, Victoria between the Snowy and Errinundra National Parks

Cost: $75 or $50 concession for the weekend. Day tickets are also available.

More: See the website for all details and to book your place.

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Australian Treasures exhibition
The Australian Treasures is a free art exhibition that celebrates our unique and precious Australian animals, plants, and landscapes, through realistic and abstract drawings and paintings by Canberra artist, Jess Thomas. Both iconic and less charismatic Australian subjects are presented however all are of value to Australia’s biodiversity and deserving of protection for future generations. Original artworks are for sale with 10% from each sale donated to RSPCA ACT.​

When: 11 May-12 June 2016. Open 9.30am-4.30pm daily.

Where: Australian National Botanic Gardens’ Visitor’s Centre Gallery, Clunies Ross St, Acton.

See the website for all the details

Forum on next generation environment laws
What: Join the conversation for stronger protection of our land, water, wildlife and communities across this beautiful country. An independent Australian Panel of Experts in Environmental Law are reviewing the way nature, wildlife and people are cared for in Australia to see where improvements can be made with stronger nature protection. Public forums are scheduled across the country calling for your ideas, feedback and support to help shape the solutions. Join the Canberra forum to have your say in shaping transformational new approaches to protecting our air, water, land, animals and plants.

When: 12 – 2.30pm, Thursday 24 March

Where: Alan Barton Forum, ANU College Business & Economics, Kingsley St Acton.

For registration and information click here.

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Harvest Festival!
Join the Environment Centre celebrating local, organic produce, and fundraising for projects like kitchen gardens at childcare centres.  Enjoy gourmet, organic food made from local produce while local growers showcase their harvest, and community organisations conduct sustainable living workshops. Kids vegetable growing competition, live music and more.

When: 2 – 6pm, Saturday 19 March

Where: Canberra Environment Centre, Corner Lennox crossing and Lawson Drive, Acton

More information: See website for all details

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