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Ginninderra Falls conservation park – February 2017 update

The five principles that should govern the Ginninderry urban development in the area to the north of the ACT straddling the border with NSW are -

  1. Ecological integrity and flora/fauna to be protected.
  2. Aboriginal and European heritage to be respected and protected.
  3. The preservation of aesthetics and sightlines.
  4. Conservation corridors to meet educational, cultural and recreational goals.
  5. Urban development must not compromise natural heritage values.

Yass Valley Council has recently advised that any decision on the rezoning of land around the Ginninderra Creek and Murrumbidgee River corridors will be deferred until a revised planning proposal is tabled by the Riverview Group that incorporates commissioned reports including those on ecological sustainability, aboriginal heritage, floodwater and Commonwealth Environmental and Biodiversity Conservation. The original deadline for a rezoning decision was 16 April 2017 but a decision on revised planning proposals is unlikely before the end of 2017 and after there has been an opportunity for the public to scrutinise the proposals and provide comment. It is proposed that Yass Valley Councillors be given an opportunity in March-April 2017 to visit the Ginninderra Falls area and experience for themselves the unique opportunity that exists for a world-class conservation park that will be a regional asset for ecological sustainability, aboriginal and colonial heritage enhancement, and tourist development.


On 21 December, 2016, GFA and GCC members, together with Environmental Defenders Office lawyers, held a meeting with seven Yass Valley Councillors at the Yass Trader & Co Café for an informal session to familiarize newly elected Councillors of the issues surrounding the development of the Ginniderry township in NSW. This was seen as a better way to inform Councillors outside formal Yass Valley Council meetings and have very limited time allocated. After a screen presentation by association members, there was a Q&A session that enabled Councillors to ask association representatives about the background to the proposed urban planning and dig deeper into the various reservations highlighted by community groups. The meeting was judged to have good outcomes.

On Tuesday 31 January, 2017, association members from the GFA, GCC and the Environmental Defenders Office met with Carolyn Le Couteur, Greens MLA, to discuss the ACT Government’s responsibilities regarding Ginninderry developments in NSW as well as within ACT. It was emphasized that, because there will be revenue and taxation arrangements between the ACT and NSW Governments surrounding the cross-border agreements, the ACT Government can’t ignore planning issues around urban design, land rezoning and conservation park developments in NSW.

MLA Le Couteur advised that if the ACT Government isn’t on board/agreeable to the Ginniderry development proposals then the development in the NSW section cannot proceed. She encouraged Ginninderry the various associations to conduct a heightened public awareness campaign along the lines employed by groups in Tuggeranong to kill off various proposals for development of the Murrumbidgee River corridor. In addition, the associations should lobby the ACT Conservation Council and its members (individuals and groups) on the Ginninderry development issues, e.g. presentation to the biodiversity working group. The Council should be urged to be more proactive in discussing contentious issues with the developers. Also, MLA Le Couteur indicated that the Yass Valley Council should be more actively involved because they need to be convinced that some issues are going to be a headache for them on many levels into the future.

On Friday 27 January, 2017, members from the Ginninderra Falls Association and the Ginninderra Catchment Group met with the executive of the Frank Fenner Foundation (FFF) (not to be confused with the ANU Frank Fenner School of Environmental Science). FFF has a broad agenda for developing strategies that enable an ecologically sustainable community. FFF aims to promote biosensitive practices in real-life situations, working in collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders to explore and develop such practices.

FFF’s engagement in the Ginninderry project is to push the Ginnenderry sustainability vision beyond best practice 2017 to what a healthy planet and human society needs via respectful integration with nature. FFF has strong concerns about the ACT’s never-ending growth model and has prioritised engagement on this work meshes into other work FFF is doing around biosensitive urban design. FFF engages with the Riverview Group and is reviewing all the reports undertaken by the Riverview Group to identify what recommendations have been, and which not, incorporated into planning process. This work continues. FFF is not interested in joining any partnerships with other associations on issues surrounding the Ginninderry development but encourages community associations to lobby Yass Valley Council to defer any decision on rezoning until after a public consultation process in the middle of 2017.

A report on Rosenbergs goanna habitat has recently been received and it advocated a setback from Ginninderra Creek of 300 metres, a recommendation that some landowners are not happy with at all.

The Ginninderra Creek and adjacent Murrumbidgee River corridors are known to be a focus for aboriginal dreaming trails, adolescent initiation sites, burial sites and corroboree sites for both male and female clan members. A full assessment of the aboriginal heritage has yet to be compiled.

Under present legislation, it is therefore not appropriate at the present time to rezone lands in NSW for urban development until such an assessment is made public, legislation scrutinised, and feedback from the community sought for possible changes to the urban footprint.

Let’s use the world’s best practice to create an outstanding conservation park just to the north of Canberra.

With community support, let’s resolve outstanding planning issues prior to Government urban development approval.

Doug Finlayson
25 February 2017


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