25 February 2022

Community on board to preserve natural beauty of Canberra's newest region

| James Coleman
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Shepherds Lookout via the Ginninderry Conservation Corridor

Shepherds Lookout via the Ginninderry Conservation Corridor. Photo: Ginninderry.

Canberra’s newest region has set the boundaries on a conservation corridor along the Murrumbidgee River. Walking trails, lookouts, fishing spots and a new park will be added in years to come. And it will all be managed by the community.

Ginninderry stretches from Canberra’s north-western suburbs across the border into part of Yass Valley, bounded by the Murrumbidgee River on one side and Ginninderra Creek on the other.

The new community is still in the development phase, but will eventually accommodate about 11,500 homes, just over half of which will be within the ACT. There will be schools, shops, halls, childcare and medical centres, all just a few minutes’ drive from Belconnen Town Centre.

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But the true unique selling point for Ginninderry lies in its proximity to nature.

The region has already been rated a 6 Star Green Star Community by the Green Building Council of Australia, and developers have taken a fresh approach to protecting their patch of the Murrumbidgee River Corridor.

One per cent of the purchase price from each block of land goes to the Ginninderry Conservation Trust, an independent body responsible for managing the river conservation corridor.

Walking trail with cows in the distance

The Ginninderry Conservation Corridor is an integral part of sustainable living at Ginninderry. Photo: Ginninderry.

Ginninderry Conservation Trust CEO Jason Cummings says the trust is currently working out of the same office as the project team, resulting in a strong partnership between the trust and developers.

“We’re blessed by having all this wonderful natural land around us and it would be a real shame for us not to protect it,” he says.

“Part of the process in establishing this trust is about ensuring this habitat gets the protection and focus it deserves.”

The Murrumbidgee River Corridor (MRC) currently constitutes 9800 hectares and includes five nature reserves, eight recreation reserves and a European heritage conservation zone. It is also rich in Aboriginal heritage.

By consulting with respected ecologists from the outset, Ginninderry’s developers determined the end result would incorporate 596 hectares of the scenic landscape. This will be made up of open woodland, native grasslands, a flowing river and waterfalls, and home to a range of flora and fauna.

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Project director Steve Harding says this width of the corridor means any development is set back a long way from the shores of the Murrumbidgee.

“That boundary was set out to protect a raft of species including the pink-tailed worm lizard, little eagle, echidnas, and other endangered species,” he says.

Steve says the local Aboriginal people have strong cultural ties to the Murrumbidgee. There is also significant European heritage along the corridor, not least Belconnen Homestead.

The management plan includes weed control, rehabilitation of woodland areas, managing fire fuel loads, water quality monitoring and stock management. The trust just stocked the river with an additional 200 Murray cod.

Walking track and rainbow in the sky

The Ginninderry Conservation Corridor is an integral part of sustainable living at Ginninderry. Photo: Ginninderry.

The corridor won’t be closed off to people though. Already home to a new 2.3 km walking track from The Link – Ginninderry’s Community and Information Centre – to Shepherd’s Lookout, it attracts about 1000 users a month. Part of this track includes ‘Gruner’s Vista’ lookout.

“Elliot Gruner was an artist who, in the 1930s, painted a picture of this landscape,” Jason says.

“A copy of the painting will be installed at the vista in coming months as a neat location for reflection on what has or hasn’t changed in the last 90 years.”

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The next five years will also see more trails constructed throughout the corridor. The trust is working towards a new riverside park being open in about two years and will include an access road to the river, picnic facilities and amenities.

“The basic conservation principle is that you provide access and you control where people go so you can keep them away from the sensitive environment,” Jason says.

The trust is set up to receive revenue for the next 30 years from sales proceeds. The thinking is that when the developers finally pack up their tools, the trust’s financial situation will be strong enough to manage the corridor on its own.

“If you’re buying into Ginninderry, you’re buying into the corridor,” Steve says.

“In future years, there will be opportunities for members of the community to be on the board of the trust. We’re really trying to foster that local stewardship.”

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