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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1744 ..

Watson-review of Territory Plan

Debate resumed.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Business, Tourism and the Arts and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (3.24): Mr Speaker, block 1 section 72 and block 1 section 80 of Watson are part of an area in north Watson that was subject to a variation to the Territory Plan in 1994 under the Labor planning minister, Mr Wood. That was to change the land use policy from entertainment, accommodation and leisure to residential. That variation was subject to an ecological assessment.

These blocks contain yellow box trees and a few redgums in an open woodland structure. However, due to past uses over many years, the understorey of native grasses and shrubs has now degraded and largely been replaced by pasture grasses. The area has been assessed for its ecological qualities. The assessment found that the woodland no longer retained the ecological qualities of the yellow box/redgum grassy woodland ecological community which is declared endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1980. The ACT Flora and Fauna Committee, comprising seven experts in ecology and biodiversity, has concurred with that assessment.

The eucalypt trees are very valuable. I think we all value the mature trees. The eucalypt trees may provide a temporary food source for the endangered regent honeyeater. However, this species is highly mobile and opportunistic in using flowering eucalyptus trees.

An action plan for this ecological community has been prepared. It is a good plan. Representative examples of yellow box/redgum grassy woodlands are protected in other parts of the ACT's nature reserve system, such as Mulligans Flat, Majura, Ainslie, Red Hill, Tuggeranong Hill and the Murrumbidgee River Corridor. This government announced that it would be adding about another 100 hectares of yellow box woodlands to the ACT nature reserve system. That is consistent with the strategic direction set out in the action plan. Nevertheless, the government does recognise the visual and habitat value of the north Watson trees as mature eucalypts and their significance to the Watson community, indeed to the wider community.

With that in mind, PALM has recently varied the Territory Plan under the defined land provisions of the land act to create two new areas of about five hectares of urban open space parkland. This parkland will protect the high-value, mature yellow box and redgum trees within section 72, Watson.

Mr Speaker, other significant trees in the area, as the government has said all along, will be protected through the provisions of the proposed significant tree register and by strict conditions for subdivision development.

Identifying this land at north Watson as urban open space has been chosen as an appropriate means of conserving the trees for their habitat value while still allowing some sympathetic residential development on other parts of the site. I recently wrote to the Watson Community Association to encourage them to apply for a grant through the bush care in the bush capital funding program to assist them with technical advice from

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