After more than 50 years of making do with a converted house on a residential street, Canberra’s largest animal welfare organisation is overjoyed to finally be moving to a new purpose-built facility.
RSPCA ACT has operated its current site at Kirkpatrick Street in Weston since 1966. But after a long conversation with the ACT Government, a new home was designated last week at Block 2, Section 14 in Pialligo, on the corner of Fairbairn Avenue and Addison Road.
But not everyone is happy.
Agistee at the neighbouring Duntroon horse paddocks, Bianca Kallenberg, said she was stunned to hear they would be losing four to five hectares of land in the deal.
“We were shocked and surprised to learn about the decision being made without notifying the current occupant. Sadly, we learned about the decision through the news,” she said.
Duntroon forms one of 15 sites managed by Territory Agistment across the ACT where owners can keep their horses. It’s divided into five paddocks and takes up about 50 hectares of grassland and tree plantations off Addison Road, including holding yards, a washbay and designated riding area.
Ms Kallenberg said the proposal would see Duntroon lose half a paddock.
“We are at full capacity at the moment. You can’t just remove land and expect us to continue on as normal. It could lead to horses having to leave.”
Concerns have also been raised over the new site’s proximity to the airport. But ACT Minister for the Environment Chris Steel previously said the government talked with Canberra Airport management and deemed noise of take-offs and landings a non-issue.
“Significant due diligence has been undertaken on the site including a range of preliminary heritage, environmental and planning studies as well as discussions with nearby stakeholders about the site,” he said at the time.
The Majura Training Area is also nearby, hosting regular military exercises that can include gunshots and loud explosions.
Ms Kallenberg said their horses were used to the salvos, but feared other animals – especially dogs – would not be quite so accommodating.
“We are all big animal lovers and are therefore very surprised about the choice of this site as an animal shelter given the firework-style noise from the military exercises, gunfire and military flyovers that frequently occur there,” she said.
“Being out there myself daily I can confirm it can be very noisy, with light aircraft also passing over the identified sites for their take-off and landing as frequently as every five minutes on a good day.”
She fears the equestrian community is “once again, being left behind”.
The ACT Government said engagement had been underway with key users of the site – including the Duntroon Horse Paddock Users Group – and would continue as the project progressed. As part of the initial investigation, a review into potential noise issues was also conducted.
“The studies indicate the RSPCA facility can develop at this location with no major risk associated with noise,” the ACT Government spokesperson said.
“Design of the facility is to apply noise mitigation measures to reduce both noise emission from the facility and the impact of ambient noise on the animals. This includes indoor kennels and cattery.”
RSPCA ACT said it endeavoured to foster collaboration and collegiality with those around them.
“We look forward to co-existing and building neighbourly relationships in the future years, once we are located in Pialligo,” its statement read.
RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson previously said all its staff were “incredibly excited” to finally have a purpose-built home with larger buildings, enclosed dog kennels and catteries, and better adoption areas for the rapidly growing animal welfare organisation.