This visit was arranged at the request of Alix Goodwin, CEO of NPA NSW. David Maxwell of the Riverview Company, and Anna Hyles, Ginninderra Falls property owner, were hosts. Robyn Coghlan, Ian Trapnell, Sally Pearce and David Kelly, from Ginninderra Falls Association,(GFA), attended as did Judy Kelly of GFA and NPA ACT. Rod Griffiths also attended on behalf of NPA ACT.
The day’s activities started with a meeting with GFA at which the point was made that, although many good things were planned for Ginninderry, there were still concerns about several issues. These included the first stage location only 200 metres from a known Little Eagle nesting tree when at least 800 metres is required to protect the species according to expert Steve Debus. Because the ACT government is apparently intending to develop most land east of the Murrumbidgee (and avoid EIS studies), the future of the Little Eagle in the ACT could be jeopardised.
Based on independent advice from leading experts on species that occur in the area, research on optimal reserve design and the needs of large home range species, the GFA believes that the E3 area should not be rezoned to urban and retention; even strengthening of the E3 zoning is needed if the biodiversity is to have a chance in the face of massive landscape change in the area. There is concern that some of the ecological reports are not sufficiently independent given they are commissioned and overseen by the developer and, whilst additions to the reserve on the western side of the Murrumbidgee would be welcome, such additions will not be sufficient to avoid significant impacts or even local extinction of some species.
Independent advice on fire risk in the area suggests that there is a potential extreme fire risk as a result of the steep adjacent topography and the situation of the area in relation to the prevailing wind direction. The GFA therefore contends that securing the existing E3 area as part of a conservation reserve is crucial not only for biodiversity purposes but also for protecting human life and property. This is not to mention aesthetic value.
The second activity involved Tony Adams, town planner for Riverview, who gave a presentation describing the planning and environmental aspects of Ginninderry at their display centre at Strathnairn, now surrounded by Ginninderry construction works for stage 1. He mentioned that the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage had assessed the gorge areas as IUCN Protected Area Category IV: Habitat Species Management Area (The International Union for Conservation of Nature).
He described the archaeological, aboriginal and European cultural studies which have been done, the environmental surveys of flora and fauna, and the preliminary designs for the conservation reserve which Riverview is planning. They intend to raise a 1% levy on block sales to fund establishment of the reserve, and want to impose a rates surcharge (starting at $100 p.a.) for ongoing reserve maintenance, a matter for which the ACT government has not yet agreed. These funds might not be adequate to rehabilitate and manage the reserve, especially with public liability insurance costs.
David Maxwell said that, if any new nature conservation issues arose from future environmental studies during construction, the reserve boundaries would be adjusted to cater for them, as has recently happened in the light of aboriginal cultural sites. However, Riverview has applied for an EIS exemption for all future stages of the development in the ACT.
The joint ACT/Riverview Little Eagle study is ongoing, with the recent addition of expert Steven Debus to the panel. A research committee is monitoring other species such as Rosenberg’s goanna.
Land on the east bank of the Murrumbidgee, and in particular at the junction of Ginninderra Creek, is currently zoned E3 (Environmental Management) but Riverview proposes to rezone it to R1 (Residential). The conservation reserve along the waterways will be changed to E1 and the buffer zone around this is based on slope and the Asset Protection Zone (for fire).
Jason Sharples report on fire risk in the area has been peer-reviewed by Grahame Douglas and is part of the Gateway application. Ginninderry are collaborating with CSIRO on bushfire research.
Water sensitive urban design infrastructure (WSUD) is being monitored by the University of Canberra at a cost of $200,000 p.a.
The day concluded with a visit to both the upper and lower Ginninderra Falls, with views of the Murrumbidgee downstream from there. The view is of a wild landscape, with the falls plunging into a steep gorge, clad with Eucalypt forest and cypress pines, a totally different scene from Ginninderra Creek upstream.
Riverview has been given a one year extension for the Gateway approval process for Parkwood, the NSW part of the development, for which they applied for rezoning to Yass Council in October last year. Although this gives them until April next year, they expect the rezoning to be reviewed by the NSW government and put on public exhibition by Yass Council later this year.
Alix Goodwin suggested that the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, set up recently by the NSW government to fund conservation on private land, could be used to encourage landowners on the other side of the Murrumbidgee and Ginninderra Creek to preserve the bush on their land, which would complement the reserve in the Ginninderry development. There are no urban services such as water/sewerage on the other side of the river or creek, so urban development is unlikely there.
Dave and Judy Kelly, GFA, NPAACT
Ginninderra Falls Area Overview
Analysis of experts’ comments – threatened species
A Vision for a Nature Reserve in the Ginninderra Creek Murrumbidgee River Peninsula – a Discussion Paper