Elm Grove leaseholder digs in for another historic battle with government over housing plans

Ian Bushnell 2 August 2020 39
Paul Carmody

Rural leaseholder Paul Carmody points to the wooded hills where homes are proposed in the next stage of Jacka. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The battle of Jacka is about to be played out in Canberra’s north as the rural leaseholder of the heritage-listed Elm Grove digs in against the Suburban Land Agency’s plans for the next stages of the Gungahlin suburb.

Paul Carmody has been growing wool and hay at Elm Grove since acquiring the property from the Gillespie family in 1985. He was instrumental in its heritage listing in 2008, despite being told by government officials that it had no heritage value. Then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope disagreed with the officials’ assessment and it saved the property from housing development.

Now Mr Carmody, armed with three consultants’ reports and the Conservation Management Plan he was required as the lessee to commission, plans to object to the SLA’s development application for its estate plan on the grounds that its proposal will impact on the European and Aboriginal heritage values of the Elm Grove heritage precinct.

He also says the application does not take into account the true biodiversity value of leased land beyond the precinct, including threatened box gum woodland and Golden Sun Moth habitat.

Mr Carmody says the SLA has ignored his overtures and played down the heritage and biodiversity values of the property in its DA documents, which he believes he will end up contesting in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Site of the proposed precinct

The Jacka master plan shows how close the suburb will come to the Elm Grove heritage precinct, including Stage 2 which is at present box gum woodland and a lambing paddock. Image: ACT Government.

The SLA has also been accused of ignoring a conflict of interest because the same company which wrote the Conservation Management Plan for Mr Carmody and was accepted by the government, is now a consultant on the Jacka estate plan.

The plans for Jacka show medium-density housing abutting the south-west corner of the heritage precinct and then, in the next stage, to its west in box gum woodland that is at present Mr Carmody’s lambing paddock.

But Mr Carmody will argue, based on the Conservation Management Plan and the heritage listing, that the heritage value includes generous buffer zones and the view to and from Elm Grove, and that the Jacka homes to be built on the nearby high ground will be in clear sight.

”It’s going to make a big impact on those hills in Gungahlin,” he said.

Mr Carmody said the Conservation Management Plan plus consultants’ reports from Eric Martin on heritage, Capital Ecology on biodiversity and Past Traces on Aboriginal heritage would clearly show that the ACT Government had not taken into account all the information that they should have.

Mr Carmody said Elm Grove was like the Lanyon of the north and the last working property in the Gungahlin area, with residential development reducing Horse Park, Gold Creek and Wells Station to costly museum pieces that don’t pay their way and are now headaches for the government.

“If this goes ahead it takes out a big chunk of the agricultural land and eats into the property to the point that that heritage listing will have to be changed to ‘Elm Grove was the last working property in the Gungahlin area’,” he said.

Aerial view of the property

An aerial view of the property. Photo: Elm Grove.

Mr Carmody said the plans were urban sprawl on a micro-scale.

”They’re just trying to squeeze every square inch out of something which I don’t think is appropriate, from a heritage and biodiversity point of view, but in the grand plan of things they’re just tiddling at the edge of Gungahlin to get the last little bit out of it,” he said.

Mr Carmody accused the SLA of tunnel vision and simply focused on producing blocks, saying the different sections of government need to be working together.

”The development is not consistent with the Conservation Management Plan and the heritage listing and one part of the ACT Government needs to consult with other parts of the government to see what is in the best interests of everybody,” he said.

The economic gain would be minuscule compared with the loss to the community of the environment and heritage value Elm Grove encompasses, he said.

”Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Mr Carmody said.

The Gungahlin Community Council also has serious concerns about the development’s impact on the rural and bushland character of the area, and particularly Elm Grove.

President Peter Elford says the heritage listing for Elm Grove, founded in 1882, makes much of the “region” and “character” and “views”.

”I don’t believe the Jacka 2 development takes these issues on board and we have another case of the ACT Government [SLA] responding to its own advice, guidance and legislation,” he said.

The time to comment on the DA has been extended until 6 August.


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39 Responses to Elm Grove leaseholder digs in for another historic battle with government over housing plans
George Watling George Watling 9:30 pm 04 Aug 20

We don't need any more urban infill or high density suburbs like Wright in the Molongolo and Moncrieff in Gungahlin. There are going to be 5,000 houses in Parkwood and we already have an over supply of multi-unit dwellings. In 2019 2,413 new build multiunit dwellings were completed in the ACT but only 316 new stock dwellings could be sold. If we need more social housing stock we should buy up unsold stock not build new housing based on the micro block model the ACT Labor/Greens government prefer. If are going to have new suburbs they need to built using the garden city model of Canberra's older suburbs.

Shelagh Shipp Shelagh Shipp 3:55 pm 03 Aug 20

Good luck Paul Carmody. Hope you win.

George Lupton George Lupton 9:33 pm 02 Aug 20

Where are all these people coming from to drive so much land rezone and suburb development ?

Kathy Gaul Kathy Gaul 8:56 am 02 Aug 20

Stop the suburban sprall. We need farm land and open spaces.

Adam McLachlan Adam McLachlan 10:03 pm 01 Aug 20

if only he hadn't let the invasive weed serrated tusock take over that Box-Gum Woodland and degrade that grazing land he might have more of an argument.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 9:09 pm 01 Aug 20

It does look idyllic, particularly in the aerial view – but the same could no doubt once have been said about the now-suburban land on which most of us live.

Tempting as it might be to see this as a partisan issue, there’s probably not all that much in it. The ACT Liberals have a stated policy of increasing options for people who want a non-strata residence, but the ACT Labor/Green preference for densification has tended to push people who want other options across the border into NSW.

If there is a practical difference on this issue between the major parties, it may simply be that a Labor/Green government would be more likely to spend public funds to support employment as a means of maintaining population growth, or at least trying to fend off a stable or declining population for the Territory. That would mean more sprawl, unless the spending could be magically targeted at people who have a high propensity to live in densified areas.

Rita Sakkas Rita Sakkas 8:53 pm 01 Aug 20

Best of luck. Animals need habitat too.

Peter Kenworthy Peter Kenworthy 4:39 pm 01 Aug 20

Barr & his government must be stopped at the next election it’s now or never

Stephanie Magill Stephanie Magill 11:45 am 01 Aug 20

Good luck Mr Carmody. 🤞

Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 11:23 am 01 Aug 20

This is the direct result of government support for never ending growth super charged by a large immigration program. Urban sprawl will not be the resolved by high density housing. It will be resolved by a lowering of population growth fuelled by a turbo charged immigration program.

Dianne Lesak Dianne Lesak 12:31 am 01 Aug 20

He has my support.

Geoff McKnight Geoff McKnight 5:50 pm 31 Jul 20

I'm just sick of the utterly unsustainable sprawl. We can't keep expanding the economy purely on the back of urban expansion. Come on ACT Greens, use your influence, have some guts and bring this to an end!

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 8:51 pm 02 Aug 20

    Sprawl is not necessarily linked to population growth but a strong desire for single family homes over flats and the lack of infilling in southern canberra that has tons of open land ...

Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 4:43 pm 31 Jul 20

I’d prefer to keep it as farm land than just suburban sprawl but I know that’s wishful thinking

    Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 5:00 pm 01 Aug 20

    Joshua F. Johnson Yes population growth is liked to headline gdp. But a better measure is gdp per capita which has been falling. And in our democracy people have the power of the vote and they need to start recognising gdp growth alone does not mean the quality of life has improved. In fact population growth is seeing a decline in quality of life.

    Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 9:01 pm 02 Aug 20

    Yes I agree we need to make changes to prevent bush fires. Yes the fires killed a lot of animals. Yes a suburb in Jacks is small in comparison. What I am talking about is where will it end. Jacka this year, somewhere else next year.

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 9:17 pm 02 Aug 20

    But you are conflating the issues... just following in footsteps ;) this actually is not urbanism.. it’s growth of suburbs. Metropolitanism is something else.

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 9:21 pm 02 Aug 20

    Negation is not creation... solutions that would make the biggest impact are more important than NIMBYIsm

Penny Hemsworth Penny Hemsworth 4:43 pm 31 Jul 20

Its all about Rates & Taxes & how much they can squeeze out of people

Gammy Colbert Gammy Colbert 11:26 am 31 Jul 20

Hope this doesn’t turn out be a David vs Goliath battle and the government sees why consuming land at the rate we are is not sustainable.

Heavs Heavs 8:46 am 31 Jul 20

Is this the very same Mr Carmody who battled for a decade to chop up and sub-divide his farmland on the outskirts of Gundaroo to turn it into mini-Elmslea type housing precinct?

Seems a tad, I don’t know, hypocritical.

    Startmeup Startmeup 10:32 am 31 Jul 20

    Quite possibly, but Gundaroo doesn’t have any heritage character.

    chewy14 chewy14 1:38 pm 31 Jul 20

    Startmeup,
    that’s a joke right?

    Anyone that thinks this issue is about heritage or the environment is kidding themselves.

    Always back self interest, at least you know he’s trying.

    Startmeup Startmeup 12:03 pm 01 Aug 20

    No argument from me chewy.

    Startmeup Startmeup 12:25 pm 01 Aug 20

    Yes a joke, sorry it wasn’t clear enough. The issue for Gundaroo affected a community, this one appears to affect one person or a property that hardly anyone would have known about were it not for this article.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:30 am 02 Aug 20

    Haha,
    Sorry missed the sarcasm.

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 6:10 am 31 Jul 20

I find it amazing the the ACT hasn’t learnt the lessons of other cities that also created urban sprawls. It incredibly expensive to maintain, infrastructure such as power, water and sewerage, public transport, maintenance and much more, become extremely difficult to manage and expensive to maintain, it can only lead to increased rates. But, they will never be able to manage their way out of the problem they are creating. And that’s not even talking into account the destruction of green space, environment and social dislocation and isolation.

It would have been far better to build up than out. Move from low density to medium if not high density. I’m sure there will be people that will hate the idea but the alternative isn’t workable nor viable.

    Matt Williams Matt Williams 7:26 am 31 Jul 20

    Could not agree with you more. What happened to the "urban in-fill" policy of the ACT Government? So many more cons than pros with urban sprawl.

Sean Cryer Sean Cryer 5:16 am 31 Jul 20

He might need to engage the services of Dennis Denuto.

Tom Allen Tom Allen 7:59 pm 30 Jul 20

Good luck Paul .big school battle

Noelene Lafferty Noelene Lafferty 6:56 pm 30 Jul 20

I agree with the comment “different sections of the Govt need to be working together.” I live south of Canberra, on a small area south of Tharwa. We had been promised about 2km of sealing to our dirt road (Smiths Road). Contracts were finally let and the contractors moved in several weeks ago and started clearing trees for the re-alignment. What happened? No-one had consulted Parks and Wildlife, it’s their area, construction has been stopped while they figure it out, and we are left with about 2km of very poor dirt road which was NOT included in the last regrading, because it was about to be sealed. As someone local said recent, the ACT Govt is the only ones able to split red tape lengthwise.

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