8 December 2021

Revised plans for Lawson North Defence Housing project disappoint Conservation Council

| Max O'Driscoll
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Grassland and trees

The Lawson North site is home to endangered grasslands and woodlands. Photos: Conservation Council ACT Region.

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.

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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.

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“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.

Master plan map

The revised master plan for Lawson North DHA development. Photo: Defence Housing Australia.

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.”

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Stephen Saunders3:41 pm 13 Dec 21

DHA is not the same as LendLease or Geocon. It is a stat authority, and defence housing should be properly funded by government. It is absurd that the development will be more than twice as big as necessary, to “offset” its own unfunded costs.

It is all very well for comments to scoff about “greenies”, but only a tiny proportion of the original ACT grassland survives. Posturing about renewable energy or “net zero” stands for little, if our rare habitats are automatically sacrificed at every turn.

You are living in the dark if you think Govt will fully fund DHA with “cash” – as a Stat Auth it also has a very finite budget allocated, like all other authorities, and uses other Commonwealth Assets (in this case land) to offset the cost to make it neutral. It is all Commonwealth funds in the end – so your comment simply does not make sense about DHA not being fully funded – it is with Land Offset (a Commonwealth Asset) – who else is going to pay? You?

Failing to prevent the expansion of the AWM, greenies turned their attention to the DHA development.

Gold! – I needed a good laugh today…..

I don’t see why service personnel have to live in a specially constructed ghetto. Surely DHA can rent some of the thousands of units currently being constructed all over Canberra. I don’t think destroying more endangered habitat is exactly “fighting for our future” – whatever that means.

Only fitting for those that serve our country….. either this, or have nothing to protect when they have no place to live and cannot fight for our future…..

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