Conservationists concerned about bushfire risk at future Ginninderry development

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Canberra Times 10 April 2019, by Finbar O'Mallon

Sections of the future cross-border Ginninderry development could expose the residents to increased bushfire risk and force developers to expand a bushfire buffer zone into Ginninderra Falls, conservationists have warned.

Ginninderra Falls Association president Robyn Coghlan said documents on the development recently released for public consultation showed some of housing would be surrounded by slopes, with homes at the top and land zoned for conservation at the bottom.

 Elesa Kurtz

Robyn Coghlan of Ginninderra Falls Association is concerned the recently released maps for Ginninderry show it poses a bushfire risk for future residents. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

She said this placed residents at an increased bushfire risk because fire travelled faster uphill, the slopes created self-sustaining weather conditions and made the blaze more erratic.

The developers, Riverview Group have planned for a 100 metre "asset protection zone" between houses and the edge of the conservation zones to protect from bushfire risk.

But Ms Coghlan warned this wouldn't be enough to protect residents, potentially forcing developers to create more of a buffer inside the conservation zone.

"That is not desirable for the species in the reserve," Ms Coghlan said.

"Our main concern is the housing need to be further back so that the impact from residential use ... is controlled and minimal."

But Riverview director David Maxwell, said the protection zone would be enough.

"The report takes all that into consideration. It models the worst case scenario," Mr Maxwell said.

The released documents were part of the public consultation phase for Parkwood, the NSW-side of the cross-border Ginninderry development which is a joint project between the ACT government and private developers.

Much of the land Ginninderry will be built on is currently farmland. Ms Coghlan said while the landscape around most of Ginninderry might seem unremarkable, Ginninderra Falls was the home to a range of native species who lived or travelled through the habitat.

"The question is, should housing be the priority over the environment," Ms Coghlan said.

Ms Coghlan also raised concerns about what effect the water run off from the development and future residents would have on the falls and the Murrumbidgee River, which feeds the Murray-Darling Basin.

 Elesa Kurtz

A view of the Murrumbidgee River with the farmland set to be the future site of Ginninderry to the right. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Mr Maxwell said 42 small wetlands around Ginninderry would help naturally filter that water with the current proposal for the ACT government's city services directorate to maintain them.

Ms Coghlan said maintenance costs money and she felt the government wasn't willing to spend money on maintenance.

"They prefer to put money into big projects," she said.

But Mr Maxwell said maintenance could be passed to the Ginninderry Conservation Trust, which is being established to maintain a corridor of land around Ginninderra Falls and the Murrumbidgee River.

He said Riverview was having discussions with the ACT government on this.

Ms Coghlan said even then, that meant more money and resources from the trust being diverted to maintain the infrastructure.

Currently the trust was limited in what they could do. Mr Maxwell said the trust would monitor the streams feeding the Murrumbidgee and if tests proved problematic it would have to reported to the ACT government, who would then act.

Ms Coghlan said one upside of the Ginninderry development was it would start to allow public access to the Ginninderra Falls as it had been closed to the public for decades.

"It's probably the most spectacular area in or around the ACT," Ms Coghlan said.

"The existence of Ginninderra Falls is one of the reasons Canberra was located here."

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