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The Park for Ginninderra Falls and Gorge: Best Care Options

Cook Community Hub 41 Templeton St Cook ACT

For our Winter 2017 public meeting, we will continue with our format of a panel of guest speakers. The list of speakers so far for this meeting is Prof Jenny Stewart, Dr Brian Pratt, Dr Ken Hodgkinson and Mr Ed Wensing.

Summary prepared by Dave Kelly.

​Prof. Jenny Stewart, School of Business, UNSW-ADFA.

Prof. Stewart emphasized that there are human conservation values in addition to those of biodiversity conservation. There will soon be 150,000 people living in Canberra’s Belconnen, Gungahlin and Molonglo districts. Namadgi National Park caters for the large open space needs of South Canberra, but the northern suburbs are a long way from it, and a suitable large reserve is needed in the north. The Ginninderra Falls region, first recognized as a reserve in 1835, and maintained for 80 years, is the ideal candidate for such a public open space.

Professor Stewart spoke of scientific illiteracy where developers cherry pick scientific facts, saying they’re adhering to the requirements of science. Their reference base is part of a body of science reports that they themselves have commissioned. Human values such as the need for natural areas must also be considered.

Prof. Stewart compared the Ginninderra Falls campaign to that of Marie Byles in the 1930s which led to the declaration of Bouddi National Park on the NSW Central Coast, one of our earliest environmental campaigns. In that case, the future recreational needs of growing Sydney were emphasized, and the park reserved before housing development could pre-empt it. Society needs land that is available to the public.

Dr Brian Pratt, founder of the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Dr Pratt spoke about the practicalities of a cross-border park for Canberra. Precedents for this are the Googong reserve near Queanbeyan, and fire management of the western slope of the Brindabella Range as far as the Goodradigbee River. In both cases, arrangements are made for ACT management of land in NSW. There is an ACT/NSW liaison committee, and ACT staff are authorized to work in NSW by their minister. He thinks it unlikely that land would be transferred from NSW to the ACT. He also thinks that a reserve run by a trust would not be practicable.

He emphasized that it is important for land to be reserved for the park as soon as possible, before development can pre-empt it, and especially before the land is rezoned to residential. Dr Pratt said that for a national park to occur, three things were needed: boundary delineations, legislation, and a management plan. The spectacular Ginninderra Falls incorporated into a national park could then be “one of the jewels in the crown of the ACT”, the others being Namadgi and Tidbinbilla.

Mr Ed Wensing, National Centre for Indigenous Studies, ANU.

Mr Wensing couldn’t attend, but provided a written statement. He proposes a new method of land-use planning which recognizes the system of land use planning and management used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over thousands of years. This concept has been adopted in Queensland in its new Planning Act, which requires that all planning “recognize, protect and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, culture and tradition”. This principle is equally applicable to planning in NSW and the ACT. Such a process would be independent of land tenure status, and not dependent on a heritage register or sacred site determination.

Dr Ken Hodgkinson, Visiting Fellow, Fenner School, ANU.

After a career studing ecology of rangelands, Dr Hodgkinson concludes that man cannot improve on nature, that “nature is the best we’ve got”.

Emphasizing the precautionary principle, he said, for example, that not enough is known about the ecology of Rosenberg’s Monitor, a top predator, which is listed as Vulnerable in NSW. It depends on termite mounds, and exists in all vegetation types on Kangaroo Island (the best known study site). He added that we have to expect losses of biodiversity as a result of urban expansion close to the proposed reserve.

He said that there is a growing need for good environmental spaces, and that the wild experience is one of the best anyone can have. To this end, the park must be designed with sightlines such that a person walking along its trails does not see man-made structures.

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