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Conservation Council says points in power-sharing deal 'disappointing'


Canberra Times, 4 Nov 2016, by Emily Baker

The Conservation Council ACT Region hopes the newly elected Labor-Green government will "over-deliver" after revealing what the territory's peak body for green groups described as "disappointing" environmental initiatives in its power-sharing agreement.

The deal promises the government will undertake a feasibility study into a new national park that would include existing nature reserves around Mount Majura, Mount Ainslie and Mulligans Flat. It will also progress discussions with the Yass Valley Council and NSW on moving the border in West Belconnen.

Larry O'Loughlin of the Conservation Council at Mulligans Flat.

Larry O'Loughlin of the Conservation Council at Mulligans Flat. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The West Belconnen area will eventually be home to Ginninderry, a cross-border community expected to grow to 30,000 people and 11,500 homes over the next 30 years, and includes Ginninderra Falls. Yass Valley Council planning director Chris Berry said work on the development had shown there was no need to move the border but the council's door was always open for conversation.

Conservation Council ACT Region executive director Larry O'Loughlin said it was frustrating the parties' agreement did not include certain Greens policies, including employing two additional full-time rangers for biodiversity management in the reserve system, and did not address a Canberra-wide cat containment policy or provide adequate funding for weed and pest animal management.

He said the group would support a national park proposal if it met the criteria but expressed his concern its renaming would become a smokescreen for environmental damage elsewhere.

"We need to see proposals and policies that result in no more loss of our nationally significant ecological communities and appropriate resources to ensure our existing high conservation areas under protection are appropriately managed," Mr O'Loughlin said.

"Although the agreement includes the Greens' policy of a feasibility study on a national park in the north of Canberra this might mean the expenditure of a lot of money without much gain to biodiversity outcomes.

"It is disappointing that the environment initiatives are light on. Nonetheless, both Labor and the Greens have a good record on environmental matters and we hope that they over-deliver on the environment over the next four years."

Molonglo Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the parliamentary agreement was only a starting point.

"The reality is that we fought hard for the Greens' policies we put forward during the election campaign and we did not get everything that we wanted," he said.

"I am proud that the Greens have been able to deliver more affordable housing, more public transport, an Office for Mental Health and an ACT ICAC in this Parliamentary Agreement  and we will spend the next four years working hard to deliver the other important reforms that the Canberra community deserves."

Other environmental policies included in the power-sharing agreement were:

  • The establishment of a container deposit scheme and installation of 100 recycling bins around the city;
  • Rolling out micro-parks and an adopt-a-park initiative aimed at increasing usage of local spaces, and;
  • Setting firm interim targets to reach zero emissions by 2050 "at the latest".

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