President’s Annual Report 2022-23

President’s Annual Report 2022-23

This is my fifteenth annual report to affiliates of the ACT Equestrian Association.

In 2022-23 ACTEA had 15 affiliates across the spread of disciplines from trail riding to dressage. We have lost some Pony Clubs since last AGM, which is a pity. ACTEA’s strength lies in the ACT Government’s perception that we represent a broad range of equestrians so I want to thank affiliates for their continued support and remind them that there is strength in numbers. When we make submissions to government on any issue it really matters that we can claim to represent a broad cross-section of the equestrian community. ACTEA provides our community with an opportunity to speak with one voice and we should not waste that power. Affiliation is incredibly cheap for what you get, as Sport & Recreation Services constantly remind us, so we encourage clubs that aren’t members to join up, participate and benefit.

ACTEA’s remit covers 2 broad areas – to act as an advocate for local equestrians in relation to protection, maintenance and enhancement of recreational facilities and to manage the infrastructure at Equestrian Park for the benefit of our community. I am going to report on the first of these. Derek Pether will report on the second as Convenor of the Equestrian Park Management Group.


The President’s monthly reports, which appear on our website for you to peruse at your leisure, best reflect the range of issues and activities in which ACTEA is involved over any year. They cover everything from ensuring trails stay open, negotiating new or replacement trails and, influencing government policy-making that impacts on future equestrian infrastructure. Generally a few big issues consume most of our time and energy each the year.

We have had an extremely busy year and at times a frustrating one. Over the last 12 months ACTEA attended 33 meetings and site visits with politicians, government representatives or contractors, an average of one every nine working days. The Committee also made 80 representations and submissions, by telephone, email or in writing to government bodies or their consultants, including  5formal submissions, around 1 every 3 days. This workload continues to reflect the fact that the government and its contractors now frequently initiate contact with ACTEA on development and policy issues although there are still many things we find out about in the Canberra.

The key issues in 2022-23 can be summarised as:

  • Trail protection and extension, especially in relation to the National Trail
  • Planning for the future of Belconnen Pony Club
  • Pressure on Government Horse Holding Paddocks

Belconnen Pony Club

A meeting of all the parties this last week has confirmed a determination to find a solution to this problem as, fortunately, Belconnen Pony Club has a memorandum of Understanding with the Ginninderry consortium to deliver a new Pony Club.

Block 1582 Belconnen (known as The Vines) is owned by the SLA.  It has undergone an inhouse planning process to assess its suitability for a range of different uses including the Pony Club.  The SLA is currently preparing a civil works project to give access to the site as part of accommodating a landscape supplies business at the southern most point of the site.  This project will provide safe vehicular access off Stockdill Drive, but is still subject to a development application process.  Further development, including formalising of the site for the BPC, can occur after this.

Vine removal has already commenced in some locations on the site, and will occur progressively as the site is developed.

Its is hoped an update on the DA can be provided in about 6 weeks, which will enable discussions with BPC to re-commence.

Pressure on the Government Horse Paddocks

Pressure on government horse paddocks has been a constant issue in 2022-23. As we are all well aware these paddock losses put pressure on the viability of the entire system.

Discussion with both the government and Ginnindery to find a viable amount of land on which to run an agistment facility as a replacement for Parkwood seem to go around in circles. The Joint Venture wants to be starting work in the southern paddocks in 3 years but they have some hurdles to over some, including the buffer zone around the old landfill site.

While a new cemetery will eventually cover Rose Cottage paddocks, we have been in ongoing discussions with the government since 2010 and we now have a design and development projection that will keep Rose Cottage operational in some form for at least another 50 years. Curtin Paddocks has gone quiet with no noise about development before the end of the current agistment contract.

The move of the RSPCA from its current site in Weston to part of the Duntroon Paddocks is now a declared government intention. Assuming that the project will get the necessary environmental approval the project will move into the development application phase this year. It is in this stage ACTEA and agistees can argue for the best protection from the impact of losing part of the facility.

There have been recent rumblings in the media about the future of Hackett Paddocks and they were mentioned in the dreadful all encompassing Planning Strategy earlier this year. We know that Rural Services have not supported any change to the existing land use but it will probably be a simmering issue for the coming year.

We have been assured that work continues on improvements to agistment infrastructure at the old Pialligo Abattoir holding paddocks to make it suitable for grazing horses and recreational riding. Since the government has committed to these paddocks our best efforts need to be focused on making them a viable proposition.

As some of you will be aware the existing contract to manage the government horse paddocks expires at the end of 2024 and we need to keep an eye on what a new contract arrangement might look like in the changing agistment environment.

Equestrian Trails

 Since Transport Canberra and City Services added the equestrian trail map to its website, ACTEA has experienced both a decline in complaints about issues with access and a marked increase in consultation by government agencies and contractors when they do have to do works which impact on equestrian trails. City Services also use the map when considering applications for events in public places.

This has meant that our serious trail issues this past year have related to the BNT in the Arboretum and at the William Hovell underpass and new and ongoing issues at Stromlo and Majura Pines. The last has been an extremely dubious and still unfinished process which has taken up an irrational amount of time and energy given the nature of the equestrian trails and their accessibility.. Most of the trail issues at Stromlo and the Arboretum arise from the empire building approach taken both their joint management.

Apart from the disaster of the sealing of the main fire trails at the Arboretum, the main issues have arisen from the consequences of enlarging and sealing the Cork Oakes carpark. Jenny Costin and ACTEA are still in an arm wrestle them over what is acceptable for a horse to have to negotiate on the BNT.

The issue of safety under the new proposal for the Lands End underpass is ongoing and not moving very much. ACTEA has written to Minister Steel requesting a meeting to discuss the issues and seek a resolution that does not cut the BNT. We expect to hear back in the next few weeks.

Discussions with Stromlo Forest Park have been exhausting as the management team comes up with ever more out there options for how horse trails will coexist with the ever growing MTB community. Most of these have gone nowhere because of the lack of any money to do anything, even maintain trails. All that has changed now that a larger sealed carpark is being constructed and the facility will be able to charge a parking fee the proceeds from which will go into the Park. There has also been movement on the long promoted connection from Stromlo to the Cotter.

Last month Stromlo announced the appointment of a trails planner, World Trail, to develop a new, five year, Trails Masterplan for all users. This is likely to keep us busy.

Remember the Revised Canberra Nature Park Reserve Management Plan?

This is the document ACTEA spent a lot of energy on in 2019/2020 in the hope of gaining greater access to our local nature reserves.

While it has taken some years, the undertaking in the new Management Plan for Canberra Nature Park to look at increasing the number of legal equestrian trails in reserves has finally gained traction. ACTEA was asked to recommend some trails against several criterion:

  • Connection to existing trails,
  • Not in reserves from which horses are excluded, and
  • Close to or connected to government horse holding paddocks.

The list was

  1. McQuoids Hill
  2. Cooleman Ridge
  3. Oakey Hill
  4. Urambi Hills
  5. Farrer Ridge Reserve and a connection to Wanniassa Hills

We now have more access to the first 4 and we are still working on the last.


So for the year, which we are well into,  our priorities look like being keeping the BNT open and safe, protecting access to more trails in the Canberra Nature Park, developing a strategy to protect the government horse paddocks system.

Also, all predictions are that we are in for a tough bush fire season this year and I have already spoken with Kirsten Tasker from Rural Services about organising a briefing for agistment managers before the season starts.

Our Treasurer, Jaqui Knobel will present the all-important financial report and the Derek Pether, the Convenor of the Equestrian Park management Group, will report on the last year at the Park.

Thank You

To end I would like to thank the current ACTEA Committee. We meet every month for 11 months of the year which is no small commitment for busy people but we have a lot to do. Thank you to those who turned up regularly. We (by which I mean I) have struggled the last few years without a full time Secretary and thanks to Keryn for stepping up when needed. Thank you to Robyn and Jane and Jenny Costin, the BNT Coordinator for attending meetings with me.

This is the time, also to recognise the Equestrian Park Management Group, who are the people who make the Park what it is. It is an extremely active group who meet every month and work collectively for all our benefit and by work I really do mean getting on tractors and fixing fences etc. Covid did not seem to make much of an impact on equestrian activity at the Park. It continues to get heavily used and the work of keeping it fit for purpose falls on a few shoulders. I would particularly like to acknowledge their patient Convenor, Derek Pether, Kate MacKenzie who continues to do a great unpaid job as Equestrian Park Manager, and John Fitzgerald the man in  control of the tractors.

I would like to thank everyone for their contribution. those who have given their time to provide feedback, turned up to field trips and meetings with officials, or just offered encouragement. When you, individually, becomes involved in issues of concern to you, you strengthen our profile in front of government, you learn techniques for dealing with bureaucrats and you understand better how government works – all powerful tools for you and your club.

Christine Lawrence

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