17 December 2018

Unlocking the potential of our natural grasslands

| Suzanne Orr MLA
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Friends of Grasslands ACT sharing their knowledge of the North Mitchell Grasslands

It’s vital that Canberra’s greenspaces are protected so we can keep our city clean and green.

Our nature reserves and parklands not only provide us with fantastic opportunities for recreation but they ensure we can mitigate the impact of our growing urban footprint.

As Canberrans, we have proudly adopted the Bush Capital as our city’s colloquial name. From the Brindabellas in the south to Mulligans Flat in the north, Canberra is thriving with vast areas of greenspace and important ecological environments.

One of the spaces that I have grown to love is the North Mitchell Grasslands in Franklin.

This space is a high grade grassland that is home to a number of threatened or significant species.

The urban areas of Franklin, Mitchell and Flemington Road surround the grasslands, and there’s a small reticulation pond towards the southern end which adds to the biodiversity within the site.

People who live in Gungahlin’s suburbs are familiar with the area as it’s easily noticeable when travelling along Flemington Road. To some people it may look like a barren patch of brown grass, but to many people it is a treasure within the middle of Gungahlin.

The Friends of Grasslands ACT are considered to be the guardians of this natural greenspace, and they do a lot of work in partnership with the City Services Directorate to maintain the health of the area.

Throughout their efforts to maintain this high-grade grassland, it’s become clear that the site has huge potential to be used by locals as a place of recreation and education.

Similar to the Mulligans Flat Sanctuary where visitors can explore the space and learn about the inhabitants of the area, there is a lot that can be discovered within the North Mitchell Grasslands.

A group of volunteers joining me and Andrew Leigh MP at one of our Grasslands clean-up events.

I am passionate about taking care of our natural environment so that it can take care of us. As part of that passion, I’ve partnered with Friends of Grasslands ACT to run clean-up events at the North Mitchell Grasslands. The number of local residents who turn up to lend a hand each time we run a clean-up shows that there is a shared love and appreciation for this space within our community.

That’s why I want to see this space transformed into an area that can continue to provide the environmental benefits to our city, while at the same time educating us on what natural treasures are on our doorstep.

The Cyprus Views Grassland Reserve in Victoria is a prime example of how urban areas can form around protected natural greenspaces.

The Grasslands were enhanced as a result of a collaborative project between the University of Melbourne, the Victorian State Government, the Myer Foundation and people with a passion for their local environment. Cyrpus Views continues to thrive and just goes to show how a collaborative environmental approach can protect already existing greenspaces in our urban environments.

From the conversations I’ve had with locals so far, people are keen to open up the grasslands and get to work in making it a usable space in a similar way.

I’ll continue to engage with the community on how we can achieve this together, and I encourage anyone with a passion for the environment and our greenspaces to get involved so we can all work together.

In protecting our environment and taking action on climate change, it’s important that we bring more nature into our urban areas. Opening up the North Mitchell Grasslands is a perfect way of doing this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do as a community to bring it to life.

Suzanne Orr is a Labor Member for Yerrabi in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

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I think this is a very worthwhile initiative considering some of the ‘green space property development’ that has occurred over the last decade.

I just wish ACT Labor MLA’s had shown this level of engagement when their Party through Education Minister Mr Barr, closed 3 Primary Schools, 2 Pre Schools and the High School in the single Suburb of Kambah.

All those school ovals, playgrounds and basketball courts have been replaced by high density housing developments resulting in less recreation spaces for the neighbourhood kids (an area of concern that Ms Orr writes about above).

The decision also resulted in much worse education results, for the neighbourhood kids now attending the super school that replaced the 6 closed schools across the suburb.

Can we please get some consistency in our MLA’s concerns and consistency in their actions for all Canberra, not just some cherry picked locations.

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