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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Endangered grasslands ‘vulnerable’ to proposed development

A proposed Defence Housing Australia (DHA) development in and around the critically endangered Lawson North grasslands has local environmental groups concerned for the health of the area’s biodiversity.

In an open letter to DHA, more than 100 stakeholders, including conservation groups, scientists, land managers and volunteers from the Canberra region, have called for a reassessment of the proposal.

The 100-hectare site of natural temperate grasslands (bounded by Lawson South, Ginninderra Creek and Baldwin Drive) has been listed as critically endangered since 1996 and is one of just 13 remaining, significantly-sized areas of grasslands in the ACT.

Conservation Council ACT executive director Helen Oakey said the grasslands adjacent to the proposed development could face construction debris, increased foot traffic, domestic rubbish, weeds, garden-escapees spreading, and domestic animals.

“The site provides habitat for bird species protected under the Commonwealth EPBC [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation] Act such as the Superb Parrot, and other bird species protected under ACT legislation like the Scarlet Robin,” Ms Oakey said. 

She said developments of this nature were required to offset any environmental harm with a project of environmental benefit, but due to the cumulative loss of nationwide biodiversity, that would be difficult.

“In the context of Australia’s biodiversity crisis and giving consideration to the contribution Lawson North makes to our critically endangered grassy ecological communities, the destruction proposed by this development is unacceptable.”

Friends of Grasslands president Geoff Robertson said the second stage of the proposal on the old Belconnen naval transmission station was deeply concerning.

“Stage two will leave only a narrow strip of grasslands in the east that will be very vulnerable to impacts from the adjacent residential areas, especially as there are few areas of urban open space identified in the development footprint to encourage residents not to use the grassland for recreational use.

“Environmentalists, scientists, and the volunteer community who have signed onto this letter are clear that this proposal is unacceptable, and we urge DHA to reconsider the development to ensure ongoing protection, conservation and enhancement of what are nationally important ecological communities under Commonwealth law,” Mr Robertson said.

A DHA spokesperson said the development was now in the planning and design stage and they continue to work closely with the National Capital Authority, ACT Government and local community to implement a plan that protects the long-term viability of significant areas of the site.

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