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Time to shift the ACT border and re-open Ginninderra Falls

By Indra Esguerra - 13 September 2016 16

Ginninderra Falls

When I was a kid we used to go out to Ginninderra Falls if we had interstate or international visitors. It was a beautiful place to go, and was guaranteed to make visitors ooh and ahh in the right way. The falls are impressive, and it was only a short walk from the car to a tremendous view. Once you’re there, the landscape around it was also wonderful, and a good place to show off our Canberra bushland.

Or was it? It turns out that the Falls are in NSW, but the border didn’t seem to matter in those days.

The border issue is now coming to the fore in another way – the development of the Riverview area in West Belconnen. Riverview straddles the ACT/NSW border with the first stages inside the ACT and the later stages in NSW. The only road access to the area will be through the ACT. The new residents will be Yass Valley Council ratepayers, they will vote in NSW state and council elections, but all of their services will be from the ACT. They will be using our roads, our healthcare system, our school system, our emergency services. They will essentially be disenfranchised ACT residents. And there are practical issues – who will collect their garbage, which police force and emergency services will cover them?

Unfortunately Ginninderra Falls itself is also in a similar situation. As it is on private lands, it hasn’t been accessible to the public for two decades, due to a combination of unfortunate accidents and increases in insurance premiums.

I would like to see the Ginninderra Falls area become a national park. It is not only picturesque and could take in the area of Ginninderra Gorge joining with Murrumbidgee Gorge, it is an important natural place for us to protect. The Box-Gum Woodland includes threatened and vulnerable species such as the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard, Rosenberg’s Goanna, Little Eagle and the Scarlet Robin.

Not only is it an important area for biodiversity reasons, but also for Aboriginal heritage and culture. Sadly in the ACT we don’t tell the stories of traditional custodians, and their strong and ongoing connection with their land, anywhere near enough. But it seems that this area was important for women in the area at the top of the falls, and for men around the lower falls where they held initiation ceremonies. Additionally, it seems that this is one of the most intact areas in our region that could show a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture in our area – the hunting trail, how lore and initiation ceremonies work with the local landscape, and where things like grinding, dancing and burials occurred.

Ginninderra Falls is a perfect opportunity to create a joint-managed national park that conserves and protects Aboriginal cultural heritage as well as safeguarding the scenic beauty and conservation value of the Ginninderra Falls – but, as this scenic waterfall is not even in the ACT, it isn’t even ours to protect.

There is one common sense solution to addressing both of these issues – just move the border a few kilometres to the north-west, align it with the natural contours of the land (the waterways), and eliminate a series of unsatisfactory practical issues created by an arbitrary line on a map. Then the Ginninderra Falls National Park could be readily created.

A national park could turn the area into a great tourist destination (again), and along with Strathnairn Arts Centre in the vicinity, would be a lovely day out for any group or family – like Cuppacumbalong and Tidbinbilla/Namadgi in the south of the ACT used to be. There is plenty of space around the Falls for a visitor centre, a café and a hotel, and Aboriginal cultural and biodiversity education programs would be a welcome addition to the area and community.

The potential to enhance ecotourism in the ACT is huge – we have some fantastic natural areas, but they are simply not promoted as tourism or business opportunities by the ACT Government. Add to that a dedicated eco-tourism coordinator within ACT Government, and there is real potential for an economic return on top of the environmental benefit of protecting this precious natural places.

Some might consider shifting a border a bold idea – and these sort of things can seem near impossible – but we should start the conversation now with the NSW and the Commonwealth governments for the sake of future Riverview residents, and to ensure Ginninderra Falls are given the National Park status they deserve.

Indra Esguerra is the ACT Greens candidate for Ginninderra and the party’s spokesperson for Biodiversity and Conservation, and Tourism and Events.

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16 Responses to
Time to shift the ACT border and re-open Ginninderra Falls
Deref 3:13 pm 19 Sep 16

Blen_Carmichael said :

We could extend the light rail out there. Yay!

LOL. Yes! And Shane Rattenbury could buy some negatively-geared property there!

Sparkadory 3:43 pm 15 Sep 16

I don’t see this as a political issue as such. It seems to me a great waste to have this incredible area unavailable and the article suggests we can start thinking about if and/or how we might make the area accessible again. I have often wondered about how the falls are going and if we will ever get to enjoy them again, so I’m glad someone has finally put it out there to start discussion 🙂

Obviously land acquisition would require negotiation between ACT and NSW governments, as well as the current landowners. And yes, unfortunately gates are often required to stop people causing damage to areas with 4WDs and trail bikes. It’s not a conspiracy to rob us of our rights. They are not to “lock up” land. The current issue is about unlocking this area anyway, but there will probably need to be some gates…

I look forward to hearing how the issue progresses and what solutions may be out there.

Bonkers 11:36 pm 14 Sep 16

Ignoring arguments around whether NSW or ACT provides emergency services etc… I have very fond childhood memories visiting the falls, and would love to have my children have a similar experience. I still remember seeing a platypus swimming in one of the slower moving area when I was about eight.

It’s such a beautiful place to be, I sincerely hope that “something” can be arranged to allow it to be open to the public again.

PS. Moulis – Any chance you could throw on a shirt?

Grimm 6:22 pm 14 Sep 16

Take a good look people.
This is why you shouldn’t vote for the greens.

“Oh, yes, lets just shift the border. NSW won’t mind at all, just because someone in Canberra wants Ginninderra falls. Also, lets just ignore the fact that it is on private land, owned by somebody who has paid good money for it! Screw them, just take it off them and make it a national park!”

Then, once it’s a National Park, the watermelon party will want to lock it up and keep you all out, just like they do with the majority of National Park now. Don’t believe me? Go for a drive in one and see how much of it you can actually access before hitting locked gates. That’s thanks to the Greens. Lock it all away, because people aren’t part of the environment.

chewy14 4:21 pm 14 Sep 16

TuggLife said :

chewy14 said :

The difference between here and Queanbeyan is that the ACT residents and NSW residents will literally be across the road from each other and the geographic features such as the rivers and creeks make services harder to deliver, not easier. You will have situations such as one side of the street serviced by NSW police and the other by the AFP. It will be a logistical nightmare.

Of course it can be done but it would be much easier if the border was moved to follow Ginninderra creek and the Murrumbidgee river to provide real separation.

But there are already people living on that stretch of road, and have been for a long time. Granted, not the same scale, but what do you think happens at the moment when they need an ambulance, or police assistance? They come from Queanbeyan or Yass?

I think there are already regional agreements in place for hospital services but for police and courts, yes, they will have to be serviced by Yass council as I think the AFP cannot provide general policing to NSW areas except under very limited circumstances. There are numerous law differences that would still apply.

Does a school in the area teach to NSW or ACT approved curriculums?

What about the issue of different levels of municipal services in both jurisdictions. Say Yass Council agree for the ACT government to provide some services for which the ACT currently has higher standards. The residents will expect that higher level of service even though they are Yass rate payers. How will the rest of the Yass council area feel if these residents are provided with better services? What if Yass council decide they only want to pay for the same service as elsewhere? Different service levels for Neighbours?

The same would also apply where Yass currently provides better services than the ACT.

As I said, it can be done but there would be hundreds of issues to work through between the ACT government and the local council/NSW gov.

TuggLife 2:27 pm 14 Sep 16

chewy14 said :

The difference between here and Queanbeyan is that the ACT residents and NSW residents will literally be across the road from each other and the geographic features such as the rivers and creeks make services harder to deliver, not easier. You will have situations such as one side of the street serviced by NSW police and the other by the AFP. It will be a logistical nightmare.

Of course it can be done but it would be much easier if the border was moved to follow Ginninderra creek and the Murrumbidgee river to provide real separation.

But there are already people living on that stretch of road, and have been for a long time. Granted, not the same scale, but what do you think happens at the moment when they need an ambulance, or police assistance? They come from Queanbeyan or Yass?

Ten_Inches 1:03 pm 14 Sep 16

”hasn’t been accessible to the public for two decades”…….hardly 🙂

chewy14 9:39 am 14 Sep 16

TuggLife said :

“They will be using our roads, our healthcare system, our school system, our emergency services. They will essentially be disenfranchised ACT residents.”

You could be talking about Queanbeyan there.

I imagine the problems with services at Riverview will be easier to sort out given the geographical features of the development. You know full well, Indra, there will just be a financial arrangement between Yass Valley Council/NSW Government & ACT Government to provide services. I mean, where do you think Queanbeyan’s garbage goes at the moment? Cross border arrangements already exist and do work.

Ginninnderra Falls is a lovely spot, but it’s clearly not as simple as moving the border and whacking in a National Park, because access has been poorly maintained. Access to the falls is via private land and the Hyles need to sort it out – I understand how fraught it has been in the past, but they were promising to have it open by December 2016, which suggests they have a plan.

I’m a bit incredulous about why a Greens candidate is encouraging development that close to the Ginninnderra Gorge at all? Why the focus on tourism and not on the potential problems for Riverview residents or the impact of development on a fragile river corridor?

The difference between here and Queanbeyan is that the ACT residents and NSW residents will literally be across the road from each other and the geographic features such as the rivers and creeks make services harder to deliver, not easier. You will have situations such as one side of the street serviced by NSW police and the other by the AFP. It will be a logistical nightmare.

Of course it can be done but it would be much easier if the border was moved to follow Ginninderra creek and the Murrumbidgee river to provide real separation.

reddy84 9:15 am 14 Sep 16

gazket said :

Ginninderra Falls is on private land . Typical Greens lets just take it attitude and justify it with an exaggerated argument.

I bet you haven’t even talked to the residents about taking their properties ?

Hey, have you heard of the West Belconnen/Ginninderry development? The land has already been bought and is to be opened up to the public.

I expect that the NSW and ACT governments will agree to an adjustment of the border along that side. It is not efficient for people living west of the ACT border to be paying council rates to Yass who then pass it back to the ACT so they can pay for garbage collection, public transport etc.
My guess is the new line will follow Ginninderra Creek and the Molonglo River to the point they join.

TuggLife 12:17 am 14 Sep 16

“They will be using our roads, our healthcare system, our school system, our emergency services. They will essentially be disenfranchised ACT residents.”

You could be talking about Queanbeyan there.

I imagine the problems with services at Riverview will be easier to sort out given the geographical features of the development. You know full well, Indra, there will just be a financial arrangement between Yass Valley Council/NSW Government & ACT Government to provide services. I mean, where do you think Queanbeyan’s garbage goes at the moment? Cross border arrangements already exist and do work.

Ginninnderra Falls is a lovely spot, but it’s clearly not as simple as moving the border and whacking in a National Park, because access has been poorly maintained. Access to the falls is via private land and the Hyles need to sort it out – I understand how fraught it has been in the past, but they were promising to have it open by December 2016, which suggests they have a plan.

I’m a bit incredulous about why a Greens candidate is encouraging development that close to the Ginninnderra Gorge at all? Why the focus on tourism and not on the potential problems for Riverview residents or the impact of development on a fragile river corridor?

gazket 9:35 pm 13 Sep 16

Ginninderra Falls is on private land . Typical Greens lets just take it attitude and justify it with an exaggerated argument.

I bet you haven’t even talked to the residents about taking their properties ?

You would think it’s in better shape now with no one being there for 20 years than to turn it into National park and have thousands of visitors walking around the falls p$&!ing all the very close by neighbours off..

I’m sure the “hunting trail” will be fine just the way it is and if aboriginals wanted access to Ginninderra Falls I’m sure there is some sort of permit or law available to them .

Another inner city Greens feel good thought bubble.

JoueurBoy 7:59 pm 13 Sep 16

The problem is where do you literially draw the line. There will eventually be housing outside our borders (or the new borders). Developers should built townships in their own right and have NSW provide services funded by development levies.

To move the border to form a national park would take massive federal funding to buy back the land and remediate the deforrested land at Uriarra between Ginninderra Falls and the existing national park. I doubt that would ever happen.

I am surprised that the land around the gorges has not been developed and the high risk areas handed over for public access so the land owners absolve themselves of public liability issues. Maybe this has been proposed but agreement can not be reached between stakeholders.

Surprise surprise. There were dodgy land deals over a hundred ago too just like today. The border there is straight. Why? You know the saying “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

Why is the author writing the article during an election? What are her motivations?

I think this issue is in the too hard basket. John Moulis said he recalls attempts in 1975 to unscramble the egg.

John Moulis 9:36 am 13 Sep 16

In 1975 there was a proposal to move the border when that land was first identified as suitable for development. It was on the front page of the CT and the straight line was replaced by a bulge up into NSW. A few days later there was another article about landowners not being consulted about the relocation of the border and after that nothing more was heard about it.

gooterz 9:35 am 13 Sep 16

Or we could limit growth out that way. Ohh too late

Blen_Carmichael 7:53 am 13 Sep 16

We could extend the light rail out there. Yay!

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