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

Ian Bushnell 2 August 2020 74
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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74 Responses to Elm Grove leaseholder digs in for another historic battle with government over housing plans
Shaz Shaz Shaz Shaz 6:14 pm 30 Jul 20

The government needs to leave it alone

How much more development do we need grrrrrr

    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 6:29 pm 30 Jul 20

    Shaz Shaz well its estimated there are over 4000 homeless people in Canberra, so a few more homes built (which helps push price down) sure won't hurt

    Shaz Shaz Shaz Shaz 6:32 pm 30 Jul 20

    Lori J Tas

    If they were building for the homeless I'm all for it.

    Plus it never pushes the price down

    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 6:33 pm 30 Jul 20

    Shaz Shaz it makes the prices rise more slowly and thanks to how new houses mean people shuffle round (person A moves, so then person B moves into their old place etc) it does help the homeless

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 6:48 pm 30 Jul 20

    Lori J Tas 4000 homeless people? How many of them are going to be able to get on the housing market? 😂 My wife and I who both have full time jobs, earning ok money, still struggle. You are having a laugh.

    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 7:05 pm 30 Jul 20

    Craig McLaren so for example, when I moved out of my flat (cause I bought), in moved people from Tuggers, and so their house was vacant and so someone else moved into their place etc etc, that's how more supply helps. Sure sometimes houses stay vacant but thats rare

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 7:08 pm 30 Jul 20

    Lori J Tas I get what you are saying but not sure how that is helping "homeless" people or first time buyers.

    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 7:15 pm 30 Jul 20

    Craig McLaren so when we bought a home (it wasn't in Gunghalin but anyway) my place a rental spot was free, and presumably the rental house in Tuggers was then free and it's far more likely that a homeless person get a foot in the door by making rent in a cheaper spot Tuggers. (Especially a couch surfer, not so much the rough sleepers).

    I'm not saying anyone goes from rough sleeping to having a spare half a mil for a house, just that as more houses open, everyone shuffles round and eventually there is more options even for the homeless.

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 7:18 pm 30 Jul 20

    Lori J Tas In an ideal world 👍🏻 Not arguing with you.

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 7:19 pm 30 Jul 20

    And I didn't mention Gunghalin 😂 Good call though.

    Tom McDonald Tom McDonald 10:33 am 31 Jul 20

    These places are to cope with extreme levels of immigration. Not homeless people.

Jenny McCurley Jenny McCurley 6:19 pm 30 Jul 20

More homes need more water and there just isn't that much to go around but the government is not interested in the environment unless it's an election year and then they will promise the world and deliver nothing

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:21 pm 30 Jul 20

    Jenny McCurley more people means more homes. How do you suggest we make less people?

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 6:53 pm 30 Jul 20

    Ashley Wright The question is, how do we make more affordable homes for normal people. The population isn't the problem. It's the greed of the few who make it impossible for the many.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:56 pm 30 Jul 20

    Craig McLaren agree with what you are saying but the poster I was directing that reply to was talking about lack of water as being a reason not to build.

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 6:57 pm 30 Jul 20

    Ashley Wright Fair enough, not about water either haha.

    Chris Vlahos Chris Vlahos 7:03 pm 30 Jul 20

    More people also equal more rate payers and more money the government gets.

    They will run out of space eventually...

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 7:06 pm 30 Jul 20

    Chris Vlahos They will just keep building. Up the way. Who are buying these overpriced units though? 🤔

    Chris Vlahos Chris Vlahos 7:11 pm 30 Jul 20

    Craig McLaren i guess whoever likes being in a poorly built shoebox is buying them.

    All these recent new land developments have been pretty horribly planned out.

    Craig McLaren Craig McLaren 7:15 pm 30 Jul 20

    Chris Vlahos Yeah, it's brutal. Seems like they buy them and sell them within 2 years. As you would, if you could save up 20% of $600000 while still paying rent 😒🤨

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:22 pm 30 Jul 20

    Craig McLaren water is an issue but one that needs a proper solution rather than day done build.

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.

Chris Vlahos Chris Vlahos 7:06 pm 30 Jul 20

Good on him. Hope he wins.

Fiona Dickson Fiona Dickson 7:58 pm 30 Jul 20

There is enough crappy suburbia that may as well be apartments for all the green space they leave around homes these days. Intensify existing suburbs and stop destroying our beautiful surrounds. Come on ACT government get with the 21st century instead of continued mediocre planning.

Tom Allen Tom Allen 7:59 pm 30 Jul 20

Good luck Paul .big school battle

Trish Deards Trish Deards 9:46 pm 30 Jul 20

Shaz Shaz people may have felt that when yr suburb was built....we need enough to house everyone...remember people complaining about the Weston Creek development and the size of Kambah

Sean Cryer Sean Cryer 5:16 am 31 Jul 20

He might need to engage the services of Dennis Denuto.

Leanne Catanzariti Leanne Catanzariti 5:59 am 31 Jul 20

Janet Barling thought of you. Hope your battles are going ok.😉

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.

    Gregg Heldon Gregg Heldon 9:07 am 31 Jul 20

    Boweavil Kat because families like houses. They needs houses. Not everyone wants or needs a flat.

    3 bedroom flats can be good, especially if they are ground floor with a good sized courtyard but if you're a Mum and Dad with at least 3 kids, you need a house.

    You may not like it, but that's life and society.

    Personally, I think we have to start looking at infilling the industrial areas like Fyshwick, Symonston and, even Hume. Create live, work and play clusters on the many disused and brown field sites we have there.

    Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 11:31 am 01 Aug 20

    Boweavil Kat It is a false choice between urban sprawl and high density. If we continue with our current levels of population growth then there will be a demand for houses. So urban sprawl will continue. Address population growth and you address urban sprawl.

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 8:33 pm 02 Aug 20

    Gregg Heldon good idea.... lots of spaces in fsywich and Symonston even Narrabundah... but Infilling probably meets resistance from NIMBY types that dominate south canberra... so the expansion continues...

    Gregg Heldon Gregg Heldon 8:33 pm 02 Aug 20

    Nathan Collett even between the train station and the markets

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.

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.

Penny Hemsworth Penny Hemsworth 4:43 pm 31 Jul 20

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

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 11:24 am 01 Aug 20

    Joshua F. Johnson Well mate. Stop voting for parties which support population growth and its impacts.

    Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 4:06 pm 01 Aug 20

    Greg Delaney you seem to support the sustainable Australia party...ok fact if the day. neither side of politics is going to agree with reducing population growth as its intrinsically today to gdp growth. Etc etc. your party will not get elected ever period. Because people vote in such a way that means they earn more. And businesses especially earn more. Businesses support policies and therefore politicians that help their bottom line.

    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 8:46 pm 02 Aug 20

    Nathan Collett What is bs? What is my false premise? More details please.

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 8:49 pm 02 Aug 20

    Joshua F. Johnson the biggest way to protect our wildlife is environmental change... 2 billion animals died in the fires ... a suburb in jacka would hardly make a dent ... climate change, forest fires, etc really matter ... those fires in namadgi killed more animals than all present or future developments in jacka !

    Nathan Collett Nathan Collett 8:53 pm 02 Aug 20

    Greg Delaney read above article ... google whataboutism. You are seeking something along these lines...

    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.

    Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 9:11 pm 02 Aug 20

    Nathan Collett these issues do not need to be conflated. I don’t want endless Urbanism because it is completely deracinating. And I abhor this mindless metropolitanism

    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

    Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 9:27 pm 02 Aug 20

    Nathan Collett it’s not an overly complex issue. I’m literally do not care about addressing your nostalgic idealism of what it means to be an eco -warrior. I simply believe and I would say that it’s probably a popular belief that Canberra doesn’t need to have millions of people like Sydney it Melbourne.

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!

    Greg Delaney Greg Delaney 11:26 am 01 Aug 20

    Geoff McKnight The ACT Greens will not address the cause of sprawl - population growth.

    Tom McDonald Tom McDonald 6:09 pm 01 Aug 20

    The Greens are for continued mass immigration.

    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 ...

Dianne Lesak Dianne Lesak 12:31 am 01 Aug 20

He has my support.

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.

Stephanie Magill Stephanie Magill 11:45 am 01 Aug 20

Good luck Mr Carmody. 🤞

Anne O'Hara Anne O'Hara 1:51 pm 01 Aug 20

ACT residents, we have an election coming up towards the end of the year - if you don't want developments like this to continue consider this when voting. Ask your local member and any contenders for the seat what their position is on matters important to you (like this). Vote in those whose ideals align with yours. If you always vote for the same party but they no longer represent your views on how Canberra should be run - change, please change.

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

    Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 6:38 pm 02 Aug 20

    You think the Libs would be any better?

    Peter Kenworthy Peter Kenworthy 9:10 am 03 Aug 20

    Stephen Esdaile thats why I made the comment

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