The falls: The Ginninderra Falls is just one reason the ACT government is trying to shift the ACT and NSW border. Photo: Jamila Toderas.
The Yass Valley is under pressure to relinquish chunks of land in the face of cross-border development and environmental pressure by the ACT.
On Friday, the ACT and NSW governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to open discussions about shifting the NSW border.
The agreement has been brought to the foreground in the face of the cross-border issues facing the new Riverview development - The first of its kind to cross the Yass Valley and ACT border.
Three suburbs will sit in the ACT, with 6500 homes housing 16,900 people. On the NSW side, the development proposes 5000 homes and 13,000 residents.
The development will take over 40 years and the first 1800 homes on the ACT side will be ready by 2022, the NSW side is not due for development until after 2033.
On the sidelines of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, NSW Premier Mike Baird and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr signed the three year MoU between the governments – committing to work together on cross-border service delivery, freight and domestic and international tourism opportunities.
“It’s crucial that the ACT Government continues to work closely with our NSW counterparts to drive economic development on the Canberra region, deliver services as a regional centre and provide benefits to Canberrans who travel across the border,” Mr Barr said.
“An obvious, practical benefit of this collaboration has been to help Canberra seniors use NSW public transport. ACT Seniors card holders were not appropriately recognised by the Opal Card system that the NSW transport system operates on.
“Collaborative work with NSW under the MoU has ensured that this is no longer the case, and ACT Senior Card holders can now travel at the concessional rate on NSW public transport without having to reapply for a temporary pass.”
Other cross border issues for services include tourism, health, education, and disability services.
Environmental perspectives clash
Complications of separate services in Parkwood, however, are just the start of discussions for shifting the border.
The Labor-Greens parliamentary agreement signed after the October election committed to "actively progress discussions with the NSW government and Yass Valley Council regarding moving the ACT/NSW border in West Belconnen".
“They [Labor-Greens] are investigating moving the border to create this network of national parks,” Yass Valley Council’s Director of Planning Chris Berry said. “They are looking at areas presumably around Mulligans Flat and Parkwood. The areas identified as high conservation value that could be included in a network of national parks.”
Under NSW control, the identified areas contain Natural Temperate Grassland and endangered species habitats, and can’t be turned into national parks without any other parks in the area.
The inability of the NSW government legislation to make the areas in the Yass Valley national parks, was the stimulus for the new government to begin discussions over moving the border.
“There are other methods available to manage and conserve the land,” Mr Berry said. “But the ACT are still seeking to move the border and zoning the areas of Mulligans Flat and Ginninderra as national park under the ACT legislation.”
“It is very bold, particularly since we've been negotiating in good faith about the land that needs to be conserved, identifying what is available for development and what is conservation.”
While any border changes remain in the ‘discussion’ phase of the NSW and ACT government bodies, annual work lists tackling cross-border issues is being prepared.