NCCC has submitted comments on a referral under the Commonwealth’s Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act in relation to a proposed development of a four hectare block of land in Watson. The letter is reproduced here. A site map with a description is included.
Community Engagement and Stakeholder Relations
Economic Development Directorate
EIA Policy Section (EPBC Act)
EPBC Reference number: 2012/6418
Section 64 Block 9 District of North Canberra, Medium Density Residential Use
(1) The proposed release of Section 64 Block 9 for Medium Density Residential Use in North Watson should be rejected.
(2) The North Watson area as a whole, including the Majura Horse Paddocks, should be subject to a Strategic Assessment under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) similar to the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment (Umwelt 2013) with emphasis on critically endangered grassy woodland conservation, particularly of currently unreserved Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland under the CAR criteria of the nationally ratified Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (ANZECC 1996).
The remnant patch of Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands of Section 64 Block 9 Watson and Block 7 Section 72 Watson (Justice Robert Hope Park) should be managed concurrently for conservation, for the present habitat values and for connectivity and should be protected in perpetuity.
The remnant grassy woodland of Section 64 Block 9 is listed critically endangered under the Commonwealth EPBC Act and endangered under the ACT Nature Conservation Act and is a particular grassy woodland vegetation type Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands (Reference 1., vegetation classification u178.)
Reservation Status: Unknown, although small patches of this community are known to occur in the Mt. Majura, Mt. Ainslie and Mugga Mugga sections of Canberra Nature Park (ACT), and Stony Creek NR in NSW. Very small remnants may be represented in Mulligans Flat NR and Goorooyarroo NR (ACT).
Extent of clearing: Not fully assessed, but considered to be one of the most highly cleared and modified components of the Box-Gum EEC.
Threats: This vegetation type has been extensively cleared for various agricultural purposes, including cropping and grazing, and in the ACT for urban development. Because of its distribution on the flat, fertile and well-watered parts of the landscape, most remaining remnants of this community have been subject to intensive domestic stock grazing and consequently have lost most of the native groundcover and shrub/midstorey diversity.
The NCCC concludes that the EPBC Act and the ACT Nature Conservation Act have placed a disproportionate emphasis on the quality of the groundcover and shrub/midstorey diversity which occurs on this woodland subtype because of the three factors mentioned above. It is not a sane approach to encourage the continued removal of the woodland subtype.
Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands includes most likely only a few remnants within the ACT (and region), none of which is currently reserved for nature conservation. The sites in north Canberra are:
a) Block 9, Section 64 Watson, zoned CZ6 (Commercial), 4 hectares;
b) Block 7 Section 72 Watson (Justice Robert Hope Park) abutting Block 9 Section 64 to the south, re-zoned from RZ1 (Residential) to PRZ1 (Urban Open Space) in 2002, 18 hectares (Reference 3.);
c) Part of Block 775 Gungahlin (multiple land use zones), 90 hectares, subject of the recently released Gungahlin Strategic Environmental Assessment study (Reference 4.);
d) Part of Block 1 Section 86 Watson, zoned CZ6 (Commercial), 14 hectares;
e) Possibly Part of Block 1, Section 85 Watson, zoned CZ6 (Commercial), and Part Block 1, Section 52 Hackett, zoned TSZ1 (Hills, Ridges and Buffer Zones);
The Preliminary Documentation prepared on behalf of the Land Development Agency (Moore et al 2013) lists two possible sites containing habitat similar to Block 9 Section 64 Watson south of the site adjacent to the Majura valley.
The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (ANZECC 1996) provides for a strategy to protect biological diversity through “the establishment of a comprehensive, representative and adequate system of ecologically viable protected areas” (CAR criteria). It is unlikely that the ACT (and region) has achieved the protection of Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands under the CAR criteria of the nationally ratified strategy, which warrants an assessment and investigation of the current extent and status of this ecological community in the ACT.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The whole of North Watson, including the Majura Horse Paddocks, should be subject to an Environmental Assessment similar to the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment. The emphasis should be on the connectivity of critically endangered grassy woodland, particularly Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland (CAR criteria) that provide habitat for threatened, declining or rare bird species and migrating birds. The current ACT Government block-by-block approach in North Watson does not address the cumulative loss of and the increasing pressure caused by urban encroachment on, the remaining critically endangered grassy woodland / Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland and dependent species in the area.
- Office of Environment and Heritage (2011) Plant Communities of the South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps within the Murrumbidgee Catchment of New South Wales.Version 1.1. Technical Report. A Report to Catchment Action NSW. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage; Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queanbeyan.
- Gilles J (2000) Ecological values of the north Watson Woodlands. A case for preservation. Study commissioned by the Watson Community Association Inc.
- Moore D., Nash K., Hogg DMcC. (2013) Block 9 Section 64 Watson Residential Development and Negus Crescent Extension, ACT. EPBC 2012/6418. Preliminary Documentation, prepared on behalf of the Land Development Agency
- Umwelt (2013) Gungahlin Strategic Assessment. Consultation Draft, prepared on behalf of ACT Economic Development Directorate and ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate.
North Canberra Community Council
PO Box 396
Dickson ACT 2602
July 19 2013
Figure 1: Site map.
Block 9 Section 64 is located north of Justice Robert Hope Park opposite the Negus Crescent road easement. The Prime 7 TV studio is located on Antill Street to the right of the subject site. A proposed pipeline would lead from a natural drainage line on the western margin of the proposed development to retention basin 2.
In August 2013 three ground dwelling species of frogs were utilising the margin of the retention basin. They were the Eastern Common Froglet (Crinia signifera), Eastern Sign-bearing Froglet (Crinia parinsignifera) and Verreaux’s Tree Frog (Litoria verreauxii).