Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 359..
Remnant woodland at Harcourt Hill
MS TUCKER (11.08): I move:
That pursuant to subsection 37 (2) of the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991, the Legislative Assembly recommend to the Executive that the ACT Planning Authority be directed to:
(1) initiate a variation to the Territory Plan to incorporate the remnant woodland in the southern part of the Harcourt Hill estate adjacent to the 13th hole of the golf course into the adjacent hills, ridges and buffer areas land use policy area of Percival Hill; and
(2) until this Plan variation is finalised, not approve any development that encroaches on this remnant woodland.
This motion is about saving a very beautiful patch of remnant woodland on the southern edge of the Harcourt Hill estate, but it also raises a number of issues to do with the use of provisions relating to defined land in the Land (Planning and Environment) Act and with ministers keeping promises.
First, I give some background. The Harcourt Hill estate in Nicholls is a joint venture between private developers and the ACT government which involves a housing subdivision surrounding a golf course. I recall that the previous Labor government started this development. A variation to the Territory Plan put through some years ago before my time in the Assembly set overall boundaries for residential land, open space and the major roads in the estate and also classified the whole area as defined land. Defined land is a provision in the land act which allows PALM to vary the Territory Plan in relation to the defined area of land without having to go through the normal plan variation process involving public consultation and the Assembly committee.
The eastern boundary of the Harcourt Hill estate is Percival Hill, which is more like a ridge which separates Harcourt Hill from Palmerston. It is zoned as a hills, ridges and buffer area under the Territory Plan. The hill is covered by patchy native woodland and some native tree plantings, but at its southern end it is a largely intact area of remnant native woodland. That is what this motion is about. The boundary of the original Harcourt Hill estate lease is a convenient straight line which goes along the western side of the ridge, not far below the ridge line and right through the woodland.
I became involved in Harcourt Hill in mid-1999 when I was told by a local resident that a large strip of native trees on the western side of Percival Hill which had been planted some 10 years earlier by the government as part of forward landscaping in Gungahlin had been bulldozed to make way for the Harcourt Hill subdivision. The resident was appalled, and so was I, that what appeared to be shown on the Territory Plan as open space along the ridge had been taken over for development without any public knowledge.
In the correspondence with the Minister for Urban Services, Mr Smyth, that followed this incident it came to light that, while the area was indeed originally shown as open space on the Territory Plan, the area was also part of the defined Harcourt Hill estate and that the government had the power to rezone this land as residential, at the request of developers, without needing a plan variation.