Yellow Box Dispatch May 2016


This month has been a time of major change for the Conservation Council. I am sad to announce I will be leaving the role of Executive Director.  It’s been a fantastic four and a half years, and I am glad to see the Council in a strong position to continue its important group with our member groups and supporters.

Larry O’Loughlin, our current Assistant Director, is the new Executive Director. Larry brings a wealth of experience in advocacy and environmental work and will see the Council take on new and exciting work in the years to come.

We’re also sad to announce that our Communications officer Phoebe Howe is leaving the Conservation Council. She has done some great work on key projects in her short time here and we wish her well.

You can see us all to say farewell or hear about our new directions at the World Environment Day Dinner on Saturday 4 June. Support the Conservation Council, enjoy great local food, and mingle with like minded Canberrans. Early bird tickets close today so get your tickets quick!

Clare Henderson
Executive Director, Conservation Council ACT
Canberra steps up on climate change solutions!
You have been calling for the ACT Government to stay in the lead on climate change, attending the People’s Climate March in November, signing our petition and participating in climate change forums.  And it’s paying off!

It’s been a huge week for climate change policy in Canberra. Last Friday, the ACT Government announced it will bring forward its target to reach 100% renewable electricity by 5 years, to 2020!  This is a fantastic result. With renewable energy purchase to date locking in low prices for twenty years, it’s a wise choice for our environment and for our budget.

On Wednesday this week, the Government announced changes to our climate change legislation, increasing the ambition of our climate targets. The Capital Territory will now be a zero emissions region by 2050. The commitment brings the Canberra zero emissions target forward by 10 years, in line with commitments by cities and nations across the world, following the global climate agreement in Paris last year. The announcement comes hot on the heels of the Federal opposition revealing a policy plan to reach zero emissions for the nation by 2050. The Conservation Council welcomes the change, however we urge the Government to keep Canberra in the lead. Entire nations will reach zero emissions by 2050. As a small city, with no heavy industry, we are perfectly placed to reach 0 emissions by 2040.  We can harness early-adopter advantage, and demonstrate how a city can thrive whilst producing no emissions to assist cities across the world to catch up.

People’s Food Plan – join us to hear more!
We received a great range of comments and ideas on the final working draft of the ACT Region People’s Food Plan!  We are busy integrating them to complete the plan this week.  If you want to get your hands dirty and start growing food in your community, ACT Government community garden grants are open until Monday 16 May – so get your applications in!

The Conservation Council has been offered the opportunity to launch the next stage of our food policy ACT Region People’s Food Plan: Working Draft #1 at the Fair Food in Focus event on Monday 9 May with a great range of food advocacy organisation hosts. Fair Food in Focus brings together issues of national and local food sovereignty with producers, consumers and decision makers and looks at sustainable and fair food for our region. From 5-7pm Monday 9 May we’ll share a great documentary screening, followed by a panel of producers, food retailers and decision makers. The event will include:

5:00pm Screening of Polyfaces, a fantastic documentary on the sustainable agriculture of rebel farmer Joel Salatin

6:30pm Hear from Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance President & Producer Tammi Jonas on removing barriers to regional and small scale food production. Conservation Council presentation on the ACT Region People’s Food Plan Working Draft #1.

7:00pm Panel discussion with producers (including local organic rice farmer Peter Randall and Janet Jeffs of Ginger Catering), as well as decision makers on Food Sovereignty for our region and our nation

7:45pm Post-event dinner at A.Baker restaurant (tickets now sold out!)

Tickets: Polyfaces screening, presentations and discussion – $25 per head. Bookings are essential and places are limited – book now

Producers are also getting together at Caroola Farm on Sunday 8 May for a dinner time discussion of the ACT Region People’s Food plan and key issues affecting producers – check out the flyer attached and email Penny to book your place!

Heritage Festival success – oral history project kicking off
The Conservation Council hosted a series of lively events during the Heritage Festival, getting Canberra residents out to see some of our newer and lesser known reserves and discover their natural heritage. A range of member groups added further walks and talks to the program. Together we guided hundreds of people through unique and precious parts of our bushland and helped to kindle curiosity and love of Canberra’s natural assets.

We are excited to have launched our new oral history of the Gungahlin Woodlands during our Tell Your Story at Mulligan’s Flat event.  We were honoured to have people attend and share their stories, who remember droving their sheep to the shearing shed as children. This makes a great start to the project. Stay tuned to here more soon!

National Capital Plan changes to open way for development over habitat
Canberra Times reported on Thursday 5 May the federal Government had given the “green light … to a major shake-up in planning for the ACT”. Although the reporting was slightly ahead of an official announcement by Paul Fletcher – federal Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government – it did indicate some major changes that will fall out of National Capital Plan amendments.

The big issue here is that the long-term high-level planning approach taken by the national government through the National Capital Authority is being replaced by the ACT’s planning processes. It doesn’t matter the colour of the governments: the national government takes a planning approach and Territory government looks for development opportunities.

A key part of the National Capital Plan which will no longer apply to some areas is: The development of a city which both respects environmental values and reflects national concerns with the sustainability of Australia’s urban areas.

The current Labor-Greens ACT government took steps through the August 2014 passing of the Planning and Development (Bilateral Agreement) Amendment Act to facilitate the handing of national environmental responsibilities to the Territory government in order to facilitate simpler processes for development. The balance between these approaches will now be removed over several areas including the area across the Murrumbidgee west of Tuggeranong and the 701 hectares of the CSIRO Ginninderra Field Station.

The Conservation Council raised issues with the proposed changes through comments on the National Capital Plan exposure draft. As we said:

“The development of the West Murrumbidgee area is not a logical extension of Tuggeranong given the significant riparian region that needs to be set aside to protect the natural values of the Murrumbidgee. The distance between the proposed urban area and the existing town centre of Tuggeranong would effectively create two communities – one without adequate facilities.”

The changes to the National Capital Plan also fit with ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman’s concept of developing a new suburb (“Thompson”) in the Murrumbidgee riparian corridor next to Tuggeranong town centre. This inappropriate development would provide a bridging point to cross the Murrumbidgee into areas that the NCA’s predecessors – such as the National Capital Development Commission – sought to protect for environmental and planning reasons.

We also raised particular issues with the development of CSIRO land at the Ginninderra Field Station. This huge tract of land is proposed for future urban development even though CSIRO acknowledges there are threatened species and habitats and heritage values that should be protected. As is the case with all planning in Canberra “Before we start planning urban development investigations should take place to establish what environmental values are to be protected.”

Conservation Council joins calls for Murray-Darling environmental flows

The Conservation Council joined with a coalition of eighteen environment, Indigenous and community groups to call on State and Commonwealth governments to rule out delaying or weakening environmental water recovery targets in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The call was in the lead-up to the last meeting on 22 April of State and Commonwealth Water Ministers before a decision in June to finalise Basin Plan water extraction limits.

The Basin Plan package in its entirety, which was endorsed by all Basin governments and a bipartisan vote in both houses of federal parliament, aims to recover 3,200 gigalitres of water for the environment, whilst allowing some of this water to be offset by projects that achieve equivalent environmental outcomes.

Recovering the equivalent of 3,200 GL of environmental water is the absolute minimum required to keep rivers healthy, support ongoing Aboriginal cultural connections and ensure the survival of native fish and waterbirds.

Cat tracking!

Conservation Council participated in a teleconference recently to take the South Australian Cat Tracker project national. The CATch-up was coordinated by Dr Philip Roetman of the Discovery Circle citizen science initiative at the University of South Australia to gauge support for the project and to look at some of costs and options.

The Cat Tracker project engages with cat owners to fit satellite trackable units to uncontained cats to map where they go. The collected data tells people about their own cats and also provides information on the biology, reproduction, lifecycle and behaviour of domestic cats.

The project has not yet got a final budget but it is expected to be in the realm of $150,000-200,000 with ‘plan A’ being to obtain contributions of $5,000 from participating organisations, usually local councils, with about 50 cats being tracked in that area and tracking run from Adelaide. Plan B is to apply for a big grant. States and Territories will have to each arrange for animal ethics compliance.

The project will have improved tracking units and better web-based mapping. The project is also intended to undertake cat hair isotope analysis to determine what % of cat diet is pet food – this component will depend on costs.

Cat tracker is a citizen science project which also provides teacher resources that are currently being reviewed by teachers in the SA Riverland.

If any individuals or member groups are interested in volunteering to help bring this project to the ACT please contact Larry 02 6229 3200 [email protected] We have ideas on obtaining funding but need volunteer resources or we will have to press paws on participating.

World Environment Day dinner EARLY BIRD TICKETS CLOSE TODAY
Join us for our event of the year, the annual World Environment Day dinner! Janet Jeffs of Ginger Catering will cook up a treat using local, seasonal produce. A three course meal plus champagne and canapes to start, and your ticket includes bottled wine at the table. This year will feature large platters to share and delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.

When: 7pm, Saturday 4 June

Where: National Arboretum Canberra, Forest Drive.

Buy your early bird ticket now before it’s too late!

Biodiversity Offsets Forum – moved to May
What: Biodiversity offsets in the ACT are yet to demonstrate gains for biodiversity, with the ACT Government’s offset policy framework released in 2015. Join us to discuss the state of offset policy. Are Governance arrangements up to date? When will we be able to see net biodiversity gains?

When: 12–2pm, Thursday 26 May

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

For registration and information click here.

Polyfaces screening & Fair Food panel
What: Premier screening of Polyfaces documentary about Joel Salatin and sustainable farming. Panel with food producers, retailers and decision makers.

When: 5-7:30pm, Monday 9 May

Where: Palace Cinemas, New Acton

Register now: See the website for all the details

Producers Fair Food evening at Caroola Farm
What: Meeting of fair food producers, purveyors and lovers to discuss the People’s Food Plan and where to next.

When: 6-8pm, Sunday 8 May

Where: Caroola Farm, 9074 Kings Highway, Mulloon, NSW (15km from Bungendore towards Braidwood)

Register now: Email Penny to let her know you’re coming

Winter Warmer Workshops
What: Learn how you can prepare your home for Winter and reduce your energy bills! ActewAGL is hosting Free Energy Saving Workshops to help you prepare your home for winter.

When: 6 workshops across May

Further info: See website for dates, times, locations, and to book your free place

Put it into practice: free winter house blitz practical
What: See exactly what you can do to warm your home. Lish Fejer will explain what you can do to a property to improve its energy efficiency, and Andrew Pickard will do a blower door test to demonstrate how draughty the house is, and then how much better the house is at the end of the workshop.

Who: SEE-Change and ACTSmart

When: 1:30-4:30pm, Saturday 28 May

Where: Location provided once you register

For registration and information click here.

Festival of Democracy
What: The Canberra Alliance for Participatory democracy  aims to empower citizens to take control and transform our political system for our common good. Their flagship event for 2016 is the Festival of Democracy: DemFest16 – People Power for Democracy. It’s a weekend of conversation about our role in politics, and change for the better. We’ll begin to map out action we can take to transform our political system.

When: 18-19 June

Where: Ann Harding Conference Centre, University of Canberra

For registration and information click here.

Community Garden Grants close Monday!
What: The ACT Community Gardens Grants are focused on assisting the community to undertake on-ground activities in line with the ACT Government’s commitment to support the development of Community Gardens.

When: Grant applications close Monday 16 May

More information about how to apply: See the website

Accessing and managing sensitive ecological data
What: A Professional Environmental Practice talk: ecologists, park rangers, landscape architects, foresters, urban planners, environmental engineers, research scientists, entomologists, botanists, zoologists and agricultural scientists and other interested persons can share their environmental knowledge about professional practice. Join EIANZ for this discussion of the Australian Government’s new approach to making sensitive ecological data more accessible, discoverable and re-usable.

Who: Guest speaker Tania Laity, Environmental Resource Information Network, Department of Environment

When: 6:30-8:30pm, Wednesday 25 May

Where: Hotel Realm, 18 National Cct, Barton

Cost and bookings: $30 for EIANZ members, $60 for non-members. See website for all details and to book.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *