The ACT Government will provide millions of dollars in funding to improve the health of the Territory’s environment, including employing Ngunnawal rangers to better incorporate traditional knowledge into land management.
Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr said $4.5 million from the ACT Budget had been committed to improving the health of waterways, fighting invasive plants and appointing the rangers.
On Friday, Minister for Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said 2020 and 2021 so far had seen “incredible things happening” to the local environment.
“We’ve had drought, we’ve had bushfires, we’ve had hail storms and now we’ve had these incredible rains,” she said.
“And what the Canberra community has really done is really reconnected with their environment as well.”
She said the funding would protect and even create new reserves, including a new reserve in the Gungahlin region.
Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman said six Ngunnawal rangers had been employed during the COVID-19 economic recovery program and $2.4 million from the budget would mean they will be able to stay on full-time, “and provide us with the knowledge and skills they have into the future”.
Daniel Iglesias from ACT Parks and Conservation said the Ngunnawal rangers initiative had begun to introduce the traditional owners of the Namadgi National Park landscape and give them on-the-ground exposure to their country.
“What that does is it adds a new perspective to … Canberrans who use the park, because all of a sudden they are hearing the stories, they are hearing lore that is the genuine history of this land,” he said.
“And it also is really important for these new starters to connect to country.”
He said the rangers would be involved in work such as weed control and visitor experiences.
The funding will also be used to improve the health of lakes, creeks and rivers by building wetlands and installing pollutant traps to clean and filter water as it flows through the city and into the lakes.
According to Ms Vassarotti, “We know this is slightly unusual, we won’t be in a La Niña weather pattern forever and we are probably more likely to see longer periods of dry, so we need to make sure our waterways and surrounds are really resilient depending on what the environmental conditions are”.
Mr Gentleman said a fantastic amount of rain had come across a normally dry time in the ACT, which meant the Territory had also seen incursion from pest animals and plants.
He said over $600,000 would be used to combat weeds in the park, including the Coolatai grass.
“Our parks conservation people have told me just this morning that the park is recovering really well and we’re seeing some native bird species come back that we hadn’t expected for quite some time,” he said.