7 September 2023

Call grows louder for new nature reserve in Canberra's north

| Claire Fenwicke
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campaigners to protect Blewitt's Block

Members of the Conservation Council ACT region, Friends of Bluetts Block, and ACT Greens are calling for the wildlife corridor near Denman Prospect to become a nature reserve. Photo: Supplied.

The campaign to preserve Blewitt’s Block (also referred to as Bluetts Block) has stepped up a notch, with advocates using National Threatened Species Day to draw attention to their petition to have the ACT Government turn the site into a nature reserve.

Members of the Conservation Council ACT and Friends of Bluetts Block gathered outside the Legislative Assembly on National Threatened Species Day (7 September) to make their wishes known.

Friends of Bluetts Block president Dr Alice Wells said it was time for local politicians to stand with the community on this issue.

“Bluetts Block is an obvious point of connectivity between the woodlands and grasslands of Kama Nature Reserve and the Molonglo River Corridor and the equivalent ecosystems of Stoney Creek Nature Reserve,” she said.

“Protection of Bluetts Block will add a buffer to the adjacent heritage-listed geological sites. These outcrops are relics of when the whole area was part of a shallow sea and contain many coral, shell and other fossils.”

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The area extends across Stromlo Blocks 402 and 403, along with Denman Prospect Block 12.

A mystery person erected a sign calling the area a nature reserve last year, but it just as quickly disappeared.

The area is home to more than 100 species of plants and supports more than 130 types of birds, including the endangered Gang-gang cockatoo and vulnerable Superb Parrot.

It also has a patch of Box-Gum Woodland that supports rare populations of small marsupials, such as the Slender-tailed Dunnart and Yellow-footed Antechinus.

campaigners to protect Blewitt's Block

A petition has been launched to protect the block of land in Canberra’s north. Photo: Supplied.

Dr Wells said these were all reasons why the area should be protected, as well as its value as a wildlife corridor.

“Preservation of Bluetts Block is especially important because urban development of Molonglo has razed the ground of vegetation between Duffy/Holder and Denman Prospect shopping centre, thus severely limiting the chances for wildlife to move through the environment,” she said.

“Bluetts is important for its intrinsic naturalness and for the future enjoyment of our children and grandchildren.”

The petition also calls on the government to ensure no further urban development takes place in Denman Prospect Block 12 until a “full ecological assessment” of the area’s values has been completed.

Several ACT Greens MLAs were also at the campaign event to show their support.

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This included Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti, who had spent her morning catching up on the koala breeding program at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Two new joeys have recently been born at the facility, which she said showed how taking action could result in positive outcomes.

“Even losing one of our threatened species does signal we are having potential ecological collapse,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“Without action, we could see some of our beloved icons slip into extinction … [but] with action, we can change this story.”

koala mum and joey

Two new koala joeys have been born as part of the breeding program at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Photo: Supplied.

Consultation on the Draft Native Species Conservation Plan for the Koala closed earlier this year, with many Canberrans expressing their desire to see wild populations of the marsupial established and preserved in the ACT.

“A listening report detailing the feedback on the plan, as well as next steps on how the plan will be finalised and implemented, will be released in the coming months,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“The ACT Government is committed to helping native species thrive across the Territory. We have numerous programs in place to help conserve and protect a range of species, from the Murray Cod in our lakes, through to Superb Parrots nesting in mature native trees and the Northern Corroboree Frogs exploring our unique wetlands.”

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I support this. Wildlife corridors are part of a chain – remove a link and the results can be damaging for many unseen hundreds of kilometres. Even weeds can enable endangered species to survive; but under-story species are better. Concreting it over so a few greedy people can die rich won’t stop those doing it tough from doing it even tougher. And as an old bushfire-fighter? Fire-hazards can be managed – forests are less flammable than grasslands. Adjacent properties will have better amenity and higher value.

Sounds good. I don’t know the site, but if it can not just be preserved but also enhanced, and not just left as a weedy paddock, then it’ll be a benefit not only for wildlife, but also that new neighbourhood. Which I betcha is the usual monotonous estate of in-vogue grey-rendered hipped-roof detached houses on 450m2.

But if the plan is to leave it as yet another Canberra urban wasteland paddock, without native revegetation (including a layered vegetative canopy, not just grass), de-weeding, and a few discreet walking paths, then no.

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