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Canberra Times 15 May 2014 - New homes close in on Murrumbidgee and Ginninderra Gorges


John Thistleton

Anna Hyles at Ginninderra Falls. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Re-opening the spectacular Ginninderra Falls near Belconnen should coincide with people moving into a new residential subdivision nearby, according to the land's owner.

Re-opening the spectacular Ginninderra Falls near Belconnen should coincide with people moving into a new residential subdivision nearby, according to the land's owner.

The Hyles family bought the southern side of the gorge in the 1980s, encouraged public access until eight years ago and are negotiating with developers on a management structure in time for a major residential subdivision.

Two gorges on the confluence of the Ginninderra Creek and Murrumbidgee River have been the subject of a long campaign for national park status, but Anna Hyles says government agencies have ruled this out. A conservation management trust is more likely.

Ginninderra Falls. Photo: Jamila Toderas

ACT developer Riverview Group proposes the trust and will lodge a rezoning application for 1600 hectares with the ACT government, Yass Valley Council and the Commonwealth's National Capital Authority.

The rezoning covers land in the ACT and NSW and could take 18 months for approval. Riverview proposes 4500 homes in the first stage of its project which will develop over coming decades.

Mrs Hyles said a residential levy and gate fees could pay for the public liability insurance needed when people begin arriving.

Ginninderra Falls. Photo: Jamila Toderas

"To make safe and get the place up and running again will take big dollars,'' Mrs Hyles said. "So we are keen to see the falls open when the first home comes on line in 2016.''

Riverview Group spokesman David Maxwell said 600 hectares of the rezoned land would be set aside for the conservation area, including the falls, which would be re-opened for tourism. This section would link wildlife corridors from Molonglo River to the Murrumbidgee River and along Ginninderra Creek to Mulligans Flat.

"They are our ideas, the community will have an opportunity and in particular the Ginninderra Falls Association, to comment on all of that and consideration will be given to that,'' Mr Maxwell said.

He said consultant David Marshall was preparing a report on tourism potential for the falls and conservation area. Other reports would address ecological constraints, environmental issues and likely costs.

The land includes the old Belconnen landfill site which could become a community-run garden and education enterprise. Solar farms, equestrian trails and future urban areas are included in plans.

Ginninderra Gorge's upper and lower falls are flanked by bushland standing in a carpet of moss which turns a brilliant green under full sunlight.

The gorge has long enthralled retired soil scientist Chris Watson, president of the Ginninderra Falls Association.

''When I'm down there and there's been good rain, the roar of the upper falls, I think they are about 40 metres, it is wonderful,'' Dr Watson said.

He has lobbied ACT and NSW politicians and government agencies. He realises a national park will take extraordinary tenacity, but is essential for posterity.

''This is part and parcel of wise planning, that you have not only recreational areas, your corridors and so on, we are certainly not going to give up,'' Dr Watson said.

Mrs Hyles said the family's granite quarry near the gorge had 20 years of life and would complement the development. The Hyles may sell the land to the developers who would use it as a biodiversity offset for other sections of their project.

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