Ginninderra Falls to stay closed to the public this summer with no plans to reopen

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Canberra Times 8 October 2016 Clare Sibthorpe

​The picturesque Ginninderra Falls will be off-limits again this summer despite earlier predictions it would reopen to the public this year.

And it remains unclear when visitors will be able to enjoy the north-of-Canberra beauty without breaking the law.

Ginninderra Falls owner Anna Hyles wants the falls to reopen to the public but it depends on the outcome of a rezoning ...

Ginninderra Falls owner Anna Hyles wants the falls to reopen to the public but it depends on the outcome of a rezoning project which will deliver up to 11,500 homes in the area. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The Riverview Group says opening the two stunning waterfalls in the Ginninderra Gorge remains part of the "vision and planning" of its joint venture with the ACT government that will see the ACT's first cross-border community, Ginninderry.

The project will deliver up to 11,500 homes during the next 30 to 40 years and extend close to Ginninderra Falls, which is currently privately owned and has been closed to the public since 2004.

But Riverview Group director David Maxwell said he could not guarantee it would reopen or provide a timeframe until the bushland straddling the ACT and NSW border north-west of Canberra was rezoned.

As part of this process, Riverview Projects was undergoing a wildlife protection study, an independent Indigenous cultural-heritage assessment and an updated flood study for Ginninderra Creek.

"We will re-submit the planning proposal back to Yass Valley Council and then early next year the whole re-zoning application will go to public consultation," Dr Maxwell said.

"It will then go off to the NSW Planning Minister to make a decision about the rezoning. It is our intention that we will then work with the ACT government to redevelop the area and open the falls to the public."

Even if the ACT government, the NSW government, Yass Valley Council and the current owners – the Hyles – come to an agreement, there will be more issues to sort through.

If the falls are reopened, significant investment will be needed to make the area safe again, both Dr Maxwell and Anna Hyles said.

In December 2015, the near-death of a teenage boy who slipped and fell 15 metres at the falls ;prompted Ms Hyles to express concern about the former tourist park's outdated facilities such as unsafe hand rails and walking trails.

The Hyles family bought the property in 1983 as a tourist park but closed it due to insurance issues.

Ms Hyles was hopeful the site would reopen following the rezoning process, but was worried that in the meantime teenagers would continue to break into the property and endanger themselves.

President of the Ginninderra Falls Association Chris Watson, who had long been pushing for the area to become a national park, said reopening the falls had been put in the "too hard basket for far too long".

"The new Legislative Assembly [elected at the ACT election] must immediately have an inquiry into this area and talk about how urgent it is to allow Canberrans to get down there," he said.

"We have [to] stop it from going from rural to urban as soon as we can and make it a national park because we should not be denied access any longer."

He said reopening the falls as a national park would provide more tourist opportunities, make it safer and better protect wildlife.

But while developers, owners and community groups say they want it open, ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman did not answer whether Labor would support the move.

He said there were no plans to re-open the falls because they were outside the ACT.

"However options may be assessed in the future," he said.

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