26 February 2020

The bid to protect Canberra’s natural assets

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Grassland earless dragon

Grassland earless dragons – one of the species found in Canberra’s woodland – aren’t furry or cuddly but they’re still pretty cute. Photo: File.

In a growing city, the pressure on land is inevitable. The loss of important and treasured natural spaces is not.

As cities grow and evolve, it’s important that we make conscious decisions about how the city is shaped and how we get the balance right in relation to development and protecting the things we love most about our city. As well as paying attention to built assets, we need to pay attention to our natural assets as well.

As the bush capital, natural spaces are important to the way we live and represent much of what we value as Canberrans. They provide respite from the city buzz, provide a lifeline to our native wildlife and protect our habitat – much of which is shrinking and under threat. Many of us cherish the fact that it is a short walk from our suburbs to a natural environment where we can walk, encounter wildlife, and enjoy the different sounds and sights from our normal city landscape.

The events of this summer, which have seen over 25 million acres of land burned and around one billion animals perish, were devastating. They remind us how precious our natural landscape is and how important it is to protect what we still have. In relation to threatened and endangered species, the increasing threats of bushfire and pressure on urban development highlight that once we lose natural spaces and species, the loss can be permanent.

Given this, the push to rezone a section of land east of Antill Street in Watson to protect the threatened ecological community known as the Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland is particularly important. While this habitat was once common in the area, since 1750 it has declined by 66 per cent. This is not just about protecting the tree species but also the wildlife that calls it home. These include vulnerable bird species such as the superb parrot and glossy black cockatoo, as well as our famous earless lizards (who don’t have fur but are really very cute).

This woodland is located within the suburb of Watson, an area that’s had significant development in recent years. The woodland currently serves as a buffer between the urban environment and the rest of Mount Majura nature park. This is important as the interface creates problems such as roaming cats, dogs walking off lead, the dumping of garden waste and rotting food.

This area is recognised as significant by the local community and a range of groups have dedicated time to its protection including the Friends of Mount Majura, local Park Care Groups, Catchment Groups and Landcare ACT.

Currently, the woodland is zoned to allow future development including leisure and accommodation. Given the significance of the landscape, and the value it delivers to nearby neighbours and to the community more broadly, it is important that its status as a natural asset is recognised and protected.

Usually, proposals for rezoning land aim to wind back our natural and community assets. This proposal goes the other way and aims to include this area into our nature park. It’s a win for our environment, and also a win for a community that values open spaces, trees and wildlife.

The proposal to rezone the Watson Woodland to be joined to Mount Majura Nature Park will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly in August.

Canberra’s bush capital delivers a range of valued respites across the city. Where are the Canberra natural spaces that you most value?

Rebecca Vassarotti is an ACT Greens Candidate for Kurrajong in the upcoming Territory election.

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More hypocrisy from the Greens. The Golden Sun Moth has a significant habitat near the Yarralumla brickworks, soon to be ‘developed’ (bulldozed and and flattened) for apartments, risking a localised extinction of a critically endangered species – all approved by the ACT Labor Government with the consent of their nodding and subservient Greens glove puppets.

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