21 November 2022

Garran residents urge rejection of Territory Plan change to allow retirement village on golf course

| Ian Bushnell
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Federal Golf Course

On the green at Federal Golf Club: long-time plans for a housing development on the course. Photo: Region.

A proposed planning change that would pave the way for Federal Golf Club to develop a retirement village on its Red Hill course should be thrown out, according to the Garran Residents Association.

Draft Territory Plan Variation 384 proposes to implement a key recommendation of the Integrated Plan for Red Hill Nature Reserve and Surrounds, to provide for a 125-bed retirement village on a southern portion of the course and new access road from Kitchener Street.

The association has always opposed the club’s longtime plans for a housing development on the course, ostensibly to secure its future, on environmental grounds and because of the loss of public land.

The integrated plan was the result of a 2017 Legislative Assembly resolution aimed at protecting the area and a long consultation process.

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A swag of community groups signed off on it but the association, which has always opposed the retirement village proposal, says in a submission that the process was flawed, with the ACT Government ignoring the views of most Garran and Hughes residents in favour of a small unrepresentative group.

It says the plan suggests that development on the course would only proceed with “majority support” as per the Assembly resolution but the Government has gone ahead with DV384 despite admitting this was not the case.

“The Government’s own report on the consultation in developing the draft RHIP shows that majority community support for future development did not exist,” the submission says.

Federal Golf Club course map

A map of the Federal Golf Club course, showing proposed development areas. Iamge: ACT Government.

The association says the development will impact known nesting and roosting sites for the emblematic Gang Gang Cockatoo and Superb Parrot, and threaten other endangered flora and fauna species, including Yellow Box woodland.

It says the land has not been mapped or bird populations surveyed, and is calling at the bare minium for buffer zones around nesting sites.

“The FGC engaged developer’s (MBark) own environment consultant admitted that the development will have a negative impact on the breeding of this endangered species ‘in the short term at least’,” the submission says.

The association says the retirement village will deliver a $20 million windfall profit to the club at public expense, far more than it needs to continue operating.

“The FGC has never provided the community with evidence these level of funds are required to address ongoing operational costs,” the submission says.

“DV384 is the result of a series of actions taken in direct contradiction to the wishes of the residents of Garran, and the stated resolution of the Legislative Assembly.

“DV384 is a direct threat to the habitat of endangered species known to reside in the proposed development footprint. And DV384 is an affront to the concept to fair governance, effectively gifting land dedicated to community recreation to a private business.”

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DV384 will also rezone about 10 hectares of land in the north-western corner of the Federal Golf Course and add it to the Red Hill Nature Reserve.

Other groups such the Red Hill Regenerators backed the integrated plan because they believed it would bring certainty to the protection and management of the Red Hill area, and it struck a good balance between the environment, public amenity and limited development.

The club also plans to increase its water storage capacity to reduce the soaring cost of irrigation during dry periods.

Its plans were referred to the Commonwealth under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for assessment but were not considered to be a controlled action.

Federal is but one of a number of golf and other clubs that are seeking to develop land to diversify income or generate funds to secure their futures.

Comments on DV384 close on 2 December.

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They’ve been trying for decades to get development on their golf course. If it happens it will be the deathnell of the golf course just like Narrabundah.

The Draft Territory Plan Variation 384 relies heavily on the assessments done in 2017/2018 for the Red Hill Integrated Plan, ignoring the fact that there were large fires throughout southeast Australia in the summer of 2019/2020. The extent of destruction caused by these fires have greatly reduced habitat and breeding sites for the Gang Gang (our territory bird emblem) and moved them on to the endangered list. The planned road access for this development goes through a known Gang Gang nesting area with established older trees that have hollows suitable for wildlife breeding – trees take decades to get to this size and cannot simply be replanted. We need to protect what we have left of the natural environment.

HiddenDragon7:05 pm 22 Nov 22

As with most developments which are proposed around this town, at least some of the opposition to this plan will be from people who don’t lose a lot of sleep over wildlife habitats and endangered trees etc., but who are concerned that what is being put forward now will simply be the thin end of the wedge for something much larger and more intrusive – this government and its mates certainly have form in that regard.

On a possibly related point, the use above of a map which is not quite complete compared to what appears on Google maps or in a hard copy street directory is interesting.

More broadly, it is well past time that the ACT government has a clearly stated policy on these sorts of proposals in terms of who benefits, and by what proportion, from the windfall gains arising from re-zoning of land – particularly when it is in sought-after locations. The current (apparently) case-by-case approach looks more like it is designed to create work for the ACT Integrity Commission than to provide a fair and sensible basis for considering development proposals.

The FGC needs funds Margaret Fremantle? Like all clubs in the ACT the FGC holds considerable wealth. This wealth includes significant land and property holdings. Not to mention their substantial investments. All this wealth and they still cry poor! This wealth has been accumulated from years of raking in profits by exploiting laws, gambling revenue and taxpayer dollars. Not to mention the ACT government’s current initiatives, pouring millions of taxpayer’s monies into their coffers to wean them off gambling. Yep, we’re a long suffering lot us taxpayers when it comes to clubs in the ACT. It never ends!! The clubs are currently using their wealth and taxpayers dollars to develop their considerable land holdings which will bring them massive profits. Many of these holdings have been gifted by governments over the years. The development of the FGC is a done deal. It is currently in progress. There were significant concerns in the community with the development proposal when it was first flagged. Not to mention fears for the wildlife populations and the endangered species who occupy the area and the destruction to their habitats. Thanks to the knowledge of RHRG and a massive effort on the part of volunteers, conservation and community groups a better deal was brokered for a more palatable agreement. I agree with you that golf courses and the interaction it creates provides mental health stimulation. It’s not easy and is highly stressful to just move on, even in the animal world. Community concerns were legitimate and hopefully there are lessons for future developments of this kind.

Jack,
You seem a wealth of knowledge on the financial position of the Federal Golf Club over the years.

Perhaps you can provide some links for your claims on the FGC so that other readers can understand the basis for your extensive and firm position.

Margaret Freemantle4:54 pm 22 Nov 22

Golf courses are needed for mental health. The FGC needs funds to continue and we need more age care facilities, so it makes perfect sense to proceed with the development. The birds will move up to Red Hill.

Wise counsel from the Red Hill Regenerators…
“Other groups such the Red Hill Regenerators backed the integrated plan because they believed it would bring certainty to the protection and management of the Red Hill area, and it struck a good balance between the environment, public amenity and limited development.”

Here we go again! Another club attempting to sponge off the community and its local residents. As I have said before, clubs in the ACT have had it too good for too long. Their financial benefits come from an apathetic government, tax breaks, gambling addiction and misery, just to name a few. Now they are breaking out into land development. This proposal for a retirement village will deliver a $20 million windfall profit to the club. More than it needs to continue operations. Plans for the development appear to be in progress. All this at the expense of the environment, wildlife, endangered species and residents. This is despite legislation existing which protects the area. A recently released government report concedes flawes in the process including limited public consultation which favoured a small and unrepresentative group. The sooner the government clamps down on these miscreants the better!!

Jack,
I thought you’d be supportive of this club’s “visionary” attitude to transformative development, which will provide much needed accommodation options in the area for older people looking to downsize or in need of assisted care.

What does it matter that the club will make profits on the developemnt, looks like a win-win for everyone in the community.

I back the need for development in Canberra. I also recognise the distinguished backgrounds of those on the RHRG and their ongoing commitment and care for the area. They have expressed the opinion that they would prefer that a retirement village was not developed on the FGC site however, under the circumstances this is the best outcome. The development is a foregone conclusion. However, there are those in the community who consider that the consultation process favoured a small and unrepresentative group and is another flawed consultation process from the government. There is also legislation to consider which protects the area. It will destroy a wildlife habitat which is home to many varieties of animals including those that are endangered. Clubs are receiving taxpayer monies to diversify out of gambling revenue and are now heavily focused on land development. With their large land holdings in the ACT they are entitled to do this. However, community concerns are legitimate and are important in going forward for future developments. It creates bad feelings of another haphazard development process with a lack of government oversight. These flaws were highlighted in a recently released government report which conceded faults and a lack of public consultation.

“Other groups such the Red Hill Regenerators backed the integrated plan because they believed it would bring certainty to the protection and management of the Red Hill area, and it struck a good balance between the environment, public amenity and limited development.”

When even eminently well noted NIMBYs are willing to support the proposal you know that you must be pretty far out there in still opposing it.

Golf courses are the the worst green-space, i’d love to see the whole thing replaced with a mix of some affordable/public housing and proper green-space that can be used by everyone

Ah, but so many ambitious social climbers in Canberra wouldn’t like that!

Margaret Freemantle4:58 pm 22 Nov 22

FGC is the most beautiful green space!!!
It would be criminal for Canberra to lose it because some dont understand the value of Golf.

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