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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2232 ..

When the National Capital Plan talks about Canberra’s landscape setting and layout within the territory, and having given it a garden city image of national and international significance, it is impossible to envisage this without taking the Canberra Nature Park into account.

In the process of inquiring into the draft plan, we learned a number of important things. We discovered there are increasing risks to the ecological integrity of the Canberra Nature Park from high levels of use, expanding residential development and climate change. There appears to be a shortfall in resourcing for the Canberra Nature Park, and that constrains compliance, education and conservation activity by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, who hold responsibility for managing the Canberra Nature Park. There is a need for more holistic management of the Canberra Nature Park, including a greater focus on connectivity between the reserves in order to achieve the best possible conservation outcomes for flora and fauna.

We also learned that in schedule 3, “Management objectives for public land”, the Planning and Development Act provides that objectives for our nature reserves are to conserve the natural environment and to provide for public use of the area for recreation, education and research. Where there is an inconsistency between those, the objective of conserving the natural environment should take precedence. This means that conserving the natural environment is, without question, the overriding objective for managing the Canberra Nature Park.

Many submitters noted in this iteration of the plan that the superior status of the natural environment appears to have given way to other things—recreational use in particular—in ways that were not contemplated by the act. We need to keep in mind that that is a really dangerous thing for future generations, for wildlife and for our nature. For this reason, we recommend that the plan be amended to set out clear, concise and measurable propositions throughout; that it provide clear articulations across its goals and actions; and that it include reserve plans comprising measurable actions and goals in the body of the plan.

Taking into account the size and importance of the Canberra Nature Park and the number of goals and actions set out in the draft, we recommend that staffing and other resource requirements be included in the plan and in budget papers. We do not want to see high aspirations undermined by a lack of resources.

In conducting this inquiry, we found that comments made in the consultation process had not always been reflected accurately and sufficiently in the draft plan. We recommend that future management plans accurately reflect the matters brought forward in consultation.

We were also concerned about the pressure on the Canberra Nature Park brought about by high use, residential development and, in particular, by climate change. Taking this into account, we recommend that the ACT Parks and Conservation Service continually monitor the Canberra Nature Park reserve management plan and ensure that it is responsive to the fire and pandemic events which have recently had such a significant effect.

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