Objections to Draft Amendment 95 on the basis of conflict with existing government policy

Please feel free to use any of the following arguments in your own submissions.

Draft Amendment 95 (DA95) and its public consultation (or lack of) conflicts with multiple NCA and ACT Government plans. These include:

  1. National Capital Plan matters of national significance and objectives
  2. NCA Commitment to Community Engagement (August 2015)
  3. National Capital Authority’s Draft Tree Management Plan
  4. ACT Government Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory
  5. Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City

Detail on the ways in which it specifically conflicts with the objectives of these plans is provided below. These examples are not exhaustive and there may be other plans with which the development conflicts. These examples are based on the assumption that the proposed development will result in the loss of both the public recreation and conservation values of the area.

1. Conflict of DA95 with the National Capital Plan – 

National Capital Plan matters of national significance and objectives

DA95 conflicts with multiple matters of national significance in the planning and development of Canberra and the Territory identified by the National Capital Plan. These matters include:

  • The pre-eminence of the role of Canberra and the Territory as the centre of National Capital functions, and as the symbol of Australian national life and values.
  • Conservation and enhancement of the landscape features which give the National Capital its character and setting, and which contribute to the integration of natural and urban environments.
  • Respect for the key elements of the Griffins’ formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  • Creation, conservation and enhancement of fitting sites, approaches and backdrops for national institutions and ceremonies as well as National Capital uses.
  • The development of a city which both respects environmental values and reflects national concerns with the sustainability of Australia’s urban areas.

The National Capital Plan was created to ensure protection of these matters of national significance. DA95 identifies a single matter for its justification and ignores the development’s significant conflict with the other four matters and multiple objectives of the National Capital Plan. The identified matter providing justification for the development is the:

  • Creation, conservation and enhancement of fitting sites, approaches and backdrops for national institutions and ceremonies as well as National Capital Uses

Whilst the NCA has a responsibility to ensure that suitable land is available to enable the establishment of foreign missions, the NCA must ensure this is not at the expense of its other responsibilities and the matters the National Capital Plan is designed to protect.

Australians, and Canberrans value open spaces and wildlife corridors for recreation, wildlife watching and as part of what defines and distinguishes Canberra from other cities in Australia and the world. The trees which are present at the North Curtin paddocks were planted by a longstanding community member more than 40 years ago. These trees were carefully propagated from the Yarralumla nursey and maintained and valued by the community. An example is community members watering struggling trees during the recent drought.

Not only are these trees appreciated by people out exercising, dog-walkers, horse riders, people out exercising etc. but they are also critical for ensuring the connectivity and persistence of habitat for wildlife. Eucalypts take centuries to develop hollows and resources suitable for wildlife. Considering the loss of mature trees in landscapes across Canberra – due to the extensive periods these trees require to mature, the lack of recruitment and time lags between the loss of mature trees and their replacement by replantings – the loss of established trees for habitat in the Curtin wildlife corridors is unacceptable.

Removal of the Curtin wildlife corridor constitutes land-use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation – pressures that the 2016 State of the Environment Report (SOE) urges land planners to avoid and address:

The main pressures facing the Australian environment in 2016 are the same as those reported in SoE 2011: climate change, land-use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species.

Local birdwatchers have recorded seeing more than 100 species of birds each year. These include golden whistlers, blue wrens, diamond fire tails (small Vulnerable finch), southern white face finches, and more. 170 bird species have been recorded using the greenspace over the years. The paddocks provide a corridor between Yarralumla Creek, the highly disturbed Molonglo in the west and Red Hill to the east. In addition, the removal of this corridor has the potential to reduce birdlife in other Canberra suburbs.

DA95 also conflicts with key objectives of the National Capital Plan including:

  • Respect the geometry and intent of the Griffins’ formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  • Maintain and enhance the landscape character of Canberra and the Territory as the setting for the National Capital.
  • Protect the undeveloped hill tops and the open spaces which divide and give form to Canberra’s urban area.
  • Support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices.

For example, DA95’s conflict with environmentally responsible urban development practices is particularly evident in the way it conflicts with the ACT government’s Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory and Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City (discussed below).

General Policy Plan of the National Capital Plan – land use in the ACT and ramifications for future development of wildlife corridors and open space in Canberra

The North Curtin paddocks have been used for public recreation and conservation for over 40 years. Whilst currently zoned as Broadacre, the extensive history of use and enjoyment by Canberra residents of the area aligns most closely with the National Capital Open Space System categorisation.

‘Open Space’ is defined in the National Capital Plan as:

land intended for use primarily for public recreation, conservation or amenity purposes and which may include facilities for the enjoyment or convenience of the public’

The Curtin horse paddocks are not within suburban areas and are not urban in nature, as opposed to the existing diplomatic estates in Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley. Subjecting this land to the same land use provisions is inconsistent with its environmental values and utilisation and value by the community for public recreation and conservation purposes.

Rezoning to an Urban Area categorisation denies the longstanding connection people in the community have with this space. It also sets a dangerous precedent for the protection of similar wildlife corridors and open spaces values and maintained by Canberrans – a precedent that will permit the making of future decisions that affect Canberrans without their input.

2. Conflict with the NCA Commitment to Community Engagement

The NCA’s failure to consult with the community cannot be attributed to the COVID19 public health emergency as consultation in accordance with the NCA’s Commitment to Community Engagement (August 2015) would need to have occurred prior to a decision being made in February 2020.

The Authority of the National Capital Authority reaffirms its strong commitment to engage with the community, as part of its decision making. The Authority recognises that inclusion and engagement, particularly at the early and formative stages of projects and proposals, are vital to building and maintaining community trust.

Consultation after a decision has been made cannot be said to constitute consultation part of decision making. As noted above, for inclusion and engagement to have been part of the early and formative stages of this project, consultation would have had to occur prior to the decision being made in February 2020. Consultation was announced 23 May 2020 therefore not only was it not done prior to the decision being made but after a significant period of time had passed following the decision being made. Consultation in this instance appears to be in reaction to community outrage rather than an attempt at being “genuine” as the NCA chief executive Sally Barnes has claimed.

The NCA could not have acted in a way more conducive to ensuring the loss of community trust.

3. Conflict with the National Capital Authority’s Draft Tree Management Plan

The National Capital Authority’s own Draft Tree Management Policy includes the following statement:

The NCA is committed to the ‘National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development’ in managing development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends. The NCA recognises that the wellbeing of the community is critical to the liveability and economic prosperity of our city and has a role in leading better quality and design of the public domain.

Removal of trees in the Curtin wildlife corridor will:

  • decrease the resilience of the landscape;
  • alter the existing treescape so that it disadvantages biodiversity by increasing habitat fragmentation and landscape connectivity; and
  • reduce not only tree canopy cover but also reduce the age of trees in the landscape. This has direct consequences for the amount of available habitat for multiple native species which rely on mature trees and the resources they provide in this landscape.

Destruction or damage to the wildlife corridor clearly conflicts with many of the policy objectives and policy targets of the National Capital Authority’s Tree Management Plan:

Policy Objectives

  1. To build resilient landscapes so that the benefits of NCA’s trees for the community and the environment are maximised into the future.
  2. To protect and manage the existing treescape for the diversity of benefits they offer from shade, amenity, heritage or biodiversity.
  3. Growing the future treescape through proactive planning, replacing all removed trees and planting additional trees where appropriate.
  4. Demonstrate leading urban tree management practice and embed it into daily decision-making and providing leadership for other land managers.
  5. Continue to monitor and evaluate the status of the treescape and the tree management program to continually improve decision making.

Policy Targets

  1. Tree canopy cover will increase from 33% to 40% by 2030.
  2. Improve the age diversity of the treescape by ensuring at least 10% of the population are juvenile.
  3. Improve the existing diversity of species so that no one species represents more the 10% of the tree population.

Removal of the trees in the wildlife corridor is also contrary to the ACT Government’s own goal of increasing Canberra’s current urban tree cover of 21% to 30% by 2045.

4.Conflict with the ACT government’s Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory and

5. Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City

The NCA’s Tree Management Plan notes the important role trees have in providing shade. Removal of trees and the associated loss of shade contradicts the ACT government’s Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory and Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City. Canberra is already experiencing higher temperatures and increasingly frequent heatwaves which affect our city’s most vulnerable people. Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City commits to a tree canopy target to attempt to reduce the ‘urban heat island effect’:

The urban heat island effect happens when pavements, roads and buildings absorb the sun’s heat and radiate it back day and night, increasing the temperature, and stopping the city from cooling down.

This effect is becoming a greater problem as climate change causes warmer weather and more extreme temperatures,” Mr Rattenbury said.

This report shows that we need to plan, build and manage our city in a way that meets these challenges.”

The report Mapping surface urban heat in Canberra includes the following findings:

  • Canberra’s summer land surface temperatures can be up to 100 C hotter by mid-morning in parts of the city, and up to 80 C hotter than surrounding rural areas at night.
  • Areas that typically experience above-average temperatures on summer mornings include: areas with large surfaces such as rooftops, carparks and paving, commonly found in commercial and industrial areas, major roads and intersections, and new housing developments; areas with low, sparse, dry vegetation; areas with few trees and little irrigation, and some artificial playing surfaces.
  • Areas that typically experience below-average temperatures on summer mornings include: Irrigated areas, water features and lakesides; areas with green vegetation, trees, and forest cover, as well as shady areas. Neighbourhoods with tree canopy shade of 30% or more can be up to 130 C cooler on a hot summer day.
  • Vulnerable groups, including low-income households and the elderly, are more at risk in extreme heat conditions.

Development of the Curtin wildlife corridor and open space will increase the urban heat island effect by not only the removal of tree coverage and shade but by increasing areas that typically experience above-average temperatures. Development of this area must consider the multiple benefits the wildlife corridor and open space have for people living in the area now and into the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.

  • awardslogobushfire