Ginninderra Falls park a step closer

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By Mark SawaTHE CHRONICLE, Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - Vol 17 No 36

AN ACT Government inquiry has recommended the creation of a new nature park encompassing Ginninderra Falls.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher confirmed she had already engaged the NSW government since the release of the "Current and Potential Ecotourism in the ACT and Region inquiry" recommendation in late August.

She said the NSW government has agreed to commence discussions.

"It's not going to be one of those quick things because it will involve cost and it will involve jurisdictional issues," Ms Gallagher said. "But I think if we can open that area up well it is just an exquisite part of our region to be enjoyed by everybody.

"That is the outcome we are after, now we've got to work out how to get there."

Recommendation four of the inquiry states that "the ACT government consider creating a new nature park to preserve, maintain and make accessible Ginninderra Falls with sufficient surrounding land to constitute a sustainable nature park asset".

Situated just across the border in NSW, Ginninderra Falls was a favourite spot of ACT residents for many decades. Despite its location on private property, the Hyles Family, who own land accessing the falls, maintained walking tracks and viewing platforms for visitors until 2004 when it was closed due to public liability issues.

Ginninderra Falls Association president Dr Chris Watson welcomed the discussions between NSW and the ACT but emphasised it was up to the ACT to drive it forward.

"It's a vital step for the simple reason that 90 per cent of the users will be the ACT population." Dr Watson said.

"There will be quite a few tourists but really the ACT has to drive it because we are the users."

He was also pleased to see all major political parties get behind the idea.

"The ecotourism report was unanimous from the three parties ... so I'm hoping that now we are in election mode that it will appear in their policies and they will work toward its consummation," he said.

"I'm hoping that will assist in some big money which is needed – federal money, ACT money and NSW money.

"It's going to be a very big venture to get it operating."

The association has proposed a public park of some 900 hectares but acknowledged future residential pressures on the ACT government and Yass Shire Council.

The Hyles Family and prominent Canberran Emmanuel Notaras own land either side of the Ginninderra Falls gorge.

Anna Hyles is keen to see the falls open again for all Canberrans but she, was not sure whether they were the right people to do it.

The year prior to closing in 2004 the Hyles Family had 15,000 visitors to the falls. Unfortunately three failed attempts to sue the family resulting in years of legal headaches broke the business.

Since the falls closed to the public the tracks and viewing platforms have fallen into a state of disrepair. and require significant investment to bring them up to a safe standard.

"I think all of us agree that it is a beautiful area and would like everyone to be able to access it," Mrs Hyles said.

Meanwhile Mr Notaras continues to give his in principle support to the move but is hesitant to go any further until he is brought into discussions about the proposals.

As one of the major landowners he said he said there had been little contact with him about the plans underway.

“I haven’t had any real engagement with the proponents.” Mr Notaras said. “I can’t recall any formal approaches from people.”

Belconnen Community Council’s Brian Rinehart and Ginninderra Falls Association president Dr Chris Watson welcome government moves to make Ginninderra Falls a nature park.

Picture: Elesa Lee

 

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