The updated master plan for the Defence Housing Australia development in Lawson North, the former Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station, has been released, but the Conservation Council ACT Region has expressed its disappointment that residences will be constructed on critically endangered natural temperate grasslands.
The project will see approximately 416 residences built, with 150 medium-density dwellings retained by DHA for housing defence personnel.
The remaining residential dwellings on individual blocks will be sold to ACT residents to offset the cost of the Defence properties.
President of Friends of Grasslands Professor Jamie Pittock described the grasslands at Lawson as a “quintessentially Canberran landscape” and argued that its destruction would be a significant loss for the city.
“Canberrans are proud of the unusual and unique wildlife that we have in the ACT. Protecting Lawson Grasslands means protecting the Territory’s nature to ensure that it can be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Professor Pittock.
He said over 500 native plant species inhabited the area. He identified the critically endangered Golden Sun Moth, the vulnerable Striped Legless Lizard and Perunga Grasshopper as species under threat by the development in Lawson.
Executive director of the Conservation Council ACT Region Helen Oakey pointed to only 150 of the approximate 416 dwellings going towards housing Defence personnel. She argued that the DHA is trading critically endangered species to subsidise the housing costs.
“DHA appears to be following a developer model to meet their obligations to provide housing for Defence personnel, whereby they redirect profits from housing sales on the open market. Ironically, the areas that are being developed for the open market are the areas with the highest environmental values,” said Ms Oakey.
“DHA needs to review the viability of this site and come up with a better location for the 150 dwellings required for Defence families, and the grasslands at Lawson North should be managed in perpetuity for their important conservation values.”
Ms Oakey also argued that the DHA knew when they purchased the site in 2017 that it had “diminished capacity” to support a development of this nature.
A Defence Housing Australia spokesperson said the development remained subject to “applicable approval processes”, but this master plan has adapted to a number of concerns raised in the consultation period.
“Following extensive community and stakeholder consultation in 2020, the master plan for the development has been re-designed in response to feedback received,” said the spokesperson.
“The re-design of the proposed development has reduced and reshaped the overall footprint in response to additional ecological and heritage studies, and a significant portion of the 144-hectare site will be preserved for conservation.”