The ACT Government may have thought it had everyone in the tent when it released the Red Hill Nature Reserve Integrated Plan, but two community groups have maintained the rage against plans for development on the Federal Golf Course.
A swag of stakeholders signed off on the Plan which allows for the Federal Golf Club to host a proposed retirement village on the southern end of the course to give it financial certainty.
If it goes ahead, the deal will bring $20 million to club coffers.
But the Garran and Hughes Residents Associations have never wavered from opposing any development on the course and say any deal would amount to privatisation of public land, wreak damage on an environmentally sensitive area and bring traffic chaos to their neighbourhoods.
They say Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman was disingenuous when he said the Plan had community support.
Their petition to the Legislative Assembly has so far gathered more than 1,200 supporters. The two associations support the first six recommendations of the Plan but are calling on the government to remove the offending Recommendation 7.
Garran Residents Association Convenor Robert Knight said the government had always said that any development would not go ahead without majority community support yet its own consultation admitted it had only received some community support.
“It didn’t get majority support and yet somehow the proposal ended up in the Plan,” Mr Knight said.
Mr Knight said the club’s proposal was the catalyst for the original petition opposing development that led to the Integrated Plan.
“The exact opposite has actually happened. The government has included exactly what the community didn’t want in the Plan,” he said.
Mr Knight queried whether the club’s only option was to use some of the land in its concessional lease to shore up its finances and whether the project would just be a sugar hit or provide any ongoing income.
He said it may provide a windfall to the club but at public expense, including remnant endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland and habitat, and scarce nesting places for the soon to be listed threatened species, the Gang-Gang Cockatoo, and other species.
The Plan would include a new road at the southern end of the course bulldozed through the green space of the Garran Hughes Woodland to Kitchener Street.
Mr Knight rejected claims that the southern end was more degraded than the northern section, saying he walked that area all the time and he could see no difference.
He said development was ruled out at the northern end mainly due to the fire risk.
“We are not against urban infill for medium density housing – but not on land so critical to our wildlife and our local community.”
Mr Knight said that for whatever reason, other groups such as the Red Hill Regenerators had changed their position over the course of the debate to back the least worst option.
The Plan still needs to be adopted by the Assembly, and the Territory Plan varied to change the lease to allow development on the golf course.
Any development application would then have to go through the normal assessment process.
Mr Knight said it could be years before there were any development moves but now was a really critical step in the process.