On 7 June 2018 Molonglo Catchment Group, with the assistance of its members, made a submission to the Standing Committee on Environment and Transport and City Services in respect of its inquiry into the value of the natural environment to an urbanising Canberra.
We made the following key points:
- If there is anything truly unique about Canberra, then it is the integration of Canberra Nature Park into the urban environment. It is Canberra's most precious asset which draws broad public support and interest. However, this asset is under continuous threat from: development encroachment, lack of conservation funding, lack of appropriate management, inappropriate use and an increasing push to 'make use of it', not for Conservation, Research & Education, but for Recreation. There is an immediate need to minimise the reduction of the amount and quality of nature and natural environment areas in urban and peri-urban areas. The ACT Government must appropriately protect and adequately manage endangered grasslands and woodlands.
- Public support and engagement could be improved through concerted and strategic community engagement and education programs that result in tangible benefits to the environment and community stewardship for Canberra’s natural areas. Visible enforcement of legislation also needs to occur. Compliance in both Urban reserves and Nature Reserves is not sufficiently resourced in the ACT. The number of crimes committed in nature reserves far outweighs the number of penalties or prosecutions. There is little in the way of education or incentive to do the right thing, and almost no recourse for those that don’t.
- Where there is any threat to the conservation of biodiversity or to the social amenity of natural areas, rigorous and transparent assessment is paramount. The Nature Conservation Act in its present form does not adequately address the regulation or impact assessment of economic developments.
- Sensitive and adaptive urban design is a necessity for climate adaptation and resilience. The ACT’s building and planning regulations only pay lip-service to this. The urban heat effect in new developments in the ACT is a concern, as is the wholesale clearing of vegetation for these urban developments. Stormwater events such as those that occurred in Canberra’s northern suburbs in late 2017 are already reflecting the need for better flood mitigation.
- TCCS cover costs once developers and contractors have moved on from construction of, for example, one-off BPP projects, urban wetlands and stormwater retention ponds in Coombs, Wright, Googong. Consideration of ongoing cost and maintenance expenditure should factor in costs of enforcing compliance with regulations, and associated with generating and maintaining community stewardship in supporting environmental outcomes for the long-term.
- Green spaces, urban biodiversity, community gardens, places of stillness, safe green spaces for kids to play and old folks to mingle will be ever more important. Any new development and infill development should be scrutinized for how much of "Blue & Green Infrastructure" it provides and generates for the local neighbourhood.
- Large kangaroo populations in urban reserves are threatening biodiversity as well as draining resources in managing/mitigating roadkill. Current low feed levels in reserves are resulting in herbivores moving into urban parks, gardens and roadways.
- Weed management in the ACT is under-resourced and, as with education and community engagement, depends upon volunteers for much of the work that is done. Parkcare and Landcare volunteers are a valuable resource in the management of weeds across tenures in the ACT. MCG member groups advocate strongly for improved education of ACT residents with regard to weeds. Suburban gardens are a source of weeds which encroach on nearby urban reserves. Education campaigns such as the former Floriade Bush Friendly Garden and ‘Weed-Swap’ events have seemingly been abandoned by the ACT Government. There are insufficient funds in community grants to run these events without government support. Nor should the onus be placed entirely on volunteer community groups to undertake education required to protect the biodiversity within Government managed land.
- Current planning policy contributes to the creation of ‘islands’ of remnant grasslands and woodlands. Corridors connecting species and habitat are disrupted and consequently, so is connectivity of habitat for species.
- There is an urgent need for better management of Kangaroos. For example, inconsistency in regulations means Kangaroos can be culled on golf courses, but they can’t be culled in Reserves at the urban interface between broadacre and rural lands. The peri-urban fringe provides feed while the lowlands are sparse.
- Government management, particularly that of TCCS, is under-resourced with regards to the management of pest plants and animal species. The focus perceived by the MCG membership is that land managers appear to be moving away from a conservation focus, instead promoting recreation and visitor services in reserves.
The full submission is available in the attached PDF.