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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 March 2010) . . Page.. 889 ..

Commissioner for the Environment Act—Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment—Report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation—Government response.

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

I am pleased today to table the ACT government response to the report on ACT lowland native grassland investigation undertaken by Dr Maxine Cooper, the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. The government commissioned the report because of concern that our native grasslands were deteriorating. In terms of size and the threatened animals they support, the ACT grasslands are amongst the most important remaining in Australia. They are a key component of the ACT’s biodiversity and the government is committed to their protection.

Confirming our concerns, the commissioner found that, of the 50 remaining native grassland sites, 30 were either in a critical condition or approaching a critical condition. The key causes of deterioration were weed infestation, inappropriate mowing, and overgrazing by kangaroos, rabbits and stock. The commissioner recommended 41 on-the-ground, urgent actions at 26 sites. Five of these sites are on commonwealth land.

Both the ACT and commonwealth governments responded to these urgent recommendations as a matter of priority, and the condition at most sites is now improving. Thirty-four of the urgent recommendations have already been or are being implemented. The other seven actions were considered and will either be implemented in part or when funds are available, were found not to be necessary or, in one case, could not be implemented because of public safety concerns.

The commissioner recommended that, where possible, all 20 high-conservation or category 1 grassland sites should be reserved or placed under conservation management. Half the sites, comprising 44 per cent of all remaining lowland grassland in the ACT, are already part of the conservation network or are under conservation management. The future of a further five category 1 grassland sites, around a quarter of all remaining lowland grassland, is the responsibility of the commonwealth government.

In line with the recommendations of the commissioner, the government will be collaborating with the commonwealth to seek appropriate management of these grasslands. While we support in principle the conservation management of these lands, it is a commonwealth responsibility to implement and fund the conservation management of these areas.

The long-term future of four other category 1 sites, at Callum Brae, Majura West, Harmon Bonshaw North and Harmon Bonshaw South, is being addressed within the eastern broadacre planning project being undertaken by the Planning and Land Authority. Protection of significant grassland is a key matter of this investigation.

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