Page 4313 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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Kangaroos and wombats are present in significant numbers in both Namadgi and Tidbinbilla and many of the bird species have returned to their original habitats.

We have all followed the progress of Lucky the Koala, the only resident koala in the area to survive the bushfires. After a long and restful recovery at the National Zoo and Aquarium, Lucky was returned to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where she will live out the remainder of her life. Earlier this year, eight koalas from Kangaroo Island in South Australia were released to keep Lucky company in the re-established wet forest enclosure. While these koalas were sterilised, fertile koalas from local gene stock will gradually be introduced into the enclosure at a later date, helping to repopulate the Tidbinbilla koala population.

Importantly, the repopulation of our iconic corroboree frog is also progressing well. Up to 80 per cent of the habitat of the northern corroboree frog was burnt out during the January 2003 fires. After the fires the ACT government embarked on a captive husbandry program at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to raise frogs for release back into the wild as a way of bolstering declining populations. The program has been extremely successful and there are now about 700 healthy frogs living in captivity at Tidbinbilla. The first breeding-age frogs will be ready for release in less than two years.

The area is gradually returning to its former glory and visitor numbers to the reserve have continued to increase. Much of this can be attributed to the extensive work the ACT government has done in ensuring the future success and preservation of the area. Following the bushfires, the ACT government established the non-urban steering committee, chaired by Sandy Hollway, to investigate opportunities for non-urban ACT.

In December 2003 the ACT government agreed to the final report of the non-urban study, which recommended that the Tidbinbilla precinct be developed as an educational and scientific hub and that the reserve retain its function as a captive wildlife reserve and assume an enhanced educational and research focus. The ACT government’s aim is to reinstate and enhance the previous functions of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and provide a valuable community, scientific and cultural resource for local residents and visitors alike.

A lot of work towards fulfilling that aim has already commenced. In August 2004 the ACT government released the publication Shaping our territory: business case and master plan: Tidbinbilla. The plan represented a comprehensive assessment of the operations of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and identified future directions for the area, including the construction of a nature discovery centre within the wetlands precinct.

In April 2005 the ACT government agreed to implement a concept design for the nature discovery centre, the NDC. Sanmor Consulting Group, nationally recognised planners with an extensive background in managing zoos and public spaces, developed the concept. The concept consists of a number of linked animal and habitat experiences, including redeveloped wetlands, Australian bushland, riparian wetlands and new brush-tailed rock wallaby exhibits.

In October 2005, following a national tender, the design contract for the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve nature discovery centre project was awarded to Taylor Cullity Lethlean. The centre will further assist with the revitalisation of Tidbinbilla reserve, enhance the Tidbinbilla wetlands and give visitors access to an unparalleled

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