Page 744 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 1 April 2008

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portion of the defence land will be retained for nature conservation purposes? What is planned for the unleased ACT land which adjoins it?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. It gives me an opportunity to again reiterate the government’s long and repeated position in relation to the high quality grasslands that constitute the area of land at Lawson but which are a matter of some current controversy within our community.

The ACT government has repeatedly and publicly iterated its view that those lands at Lawson—essentially those lands currently enclosed within the Lawson naval station fence—should be retained as nature reserve in perpetuity. That is our stated, declared, oft-repeated public position: that there is an area of high quality grassland—an intact eco-system at Lawson—that should be protected in perpetuity as nature reserve. That has always been our position. It is our publicly stated and repeated position, and it remains our position.

It has to be understood that the area of land within the fence is of such high quality, is an intact ecosystem, because it is within a fence and is enclosed. It is one of the great ironies that the land that we are currently concerned about at Lawson—the Lawson grasslands—is of the quality it is for the very reason that that part of Lawson has operated as a naval station for almost 80 years. It became the prime communication station for the Royal Australian Navy in the 1930s and has been fenced ever since that time. As a result it has not been grazed heavily by sheep and cattle; it has not been ploughed; it has not been sown with exotic grasses.

It is unlike those other portions of Lawson—those portions of Lawson within ACT government ownership. They are outside the fence. They were in times past part of agricultural rural leases. That part of the land in the ownership of the ACT government is currently agisted to a local cattle producer. It continues to be grazed. The grasses are exotic essentially and mainly Phalaris. There is no intact native grass ecosystem; it is exotic-grassed rural lease. It is the ACT government’s intention that that part of Lawson, in the next year or two, be subject to release for residential development.

There is a further piece of defence land. That is essentially that part of Lawson that constituted the residences for those navy personnel who staffed the naval station. The houses have been removed. They were removed about 20 years ago. The footings are still there. The roads remain intact. It was once a settlement. It was a fully operational naval base with residences. Those residences were removed only in the last 20 years or so. The roads remain. The trees remain.

It has been the commonwealth’s expressed intention that that part of those defence-owned lands be developed by Defence Housing as housing for defence personnel. In the last round of serious negotiations between the ACT government and the commonwealth in relation to the possibility of the joint development of ACT government non-high ecosystem-quality lands and defence lands of the same category an opportunity for co-development was discussed.

In terms of the specific boundaries of an area that would constitute a nature reserve as announced by the ACT government, they are as broadly included within the fence.

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