A PORTION OF the land on the Queanbeyan Eastern Escarpment earmarked for housing development will likely be protected for its environmental values instead.
The move is significant because the area is a wildlife corridor connecting eastern and western ranges. The land has significant environmental values and includes one km of river frontage to Queanbeyan River. While part of the land is degraded, it is possible to rehabilitate degraded woodlands.
The proposed conserved land, which could exceed 50 ha, could also be joined to the Cuumbean Nature Reserve, subject to discussions between the NSW Government and the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC).
The land in question is part of a proposed development called Jumping Creek Estate. Valley Creek runs through the area and drains into Queanbeyan River. Local conservation groups, most notably Queanbeyan Landcare, spent a good deal of time and effort with support of government grant funding removing weeds and addressing soil erosion before the land was earmarked for housing.
Jumping Creek Estate is comprised of three parcels. Former Queanbeyan City Council agreed to rezone two of these for housing as part of the Queanbeyan Comprehensive Local Environmental Plan in 2012. The third portion was set aside for further consideration because of the environmental values and the differing views of two state departments about its suitability for housing.
” Evidence of threatened species, Koalas moving through
Developers Peet Ltd – who are also finishing Googong, proposed as recently as August 2016 to build on the contested parcel, subject to government approval. But a report to the QPRC Planning and Strategy meeting of 14 February advised that the developers had decided not to proceed with building on this parcel.
Access risk with fire
The decision followed further studies of the site and an assessment by the NSW Rural Fire Service, which flagged concern at the proposal for a single access point. The topography of the site and the cost to add a second access point meant it would be difficult to address the fire risk, so the developers proposed handing the land over to QPRC.
Around 40 lots were proposed for the parcel. It’s not clear at time of writing if this was additional to the proposed 280 lots for the development or was included in that number.
Representatives of Peet told the council meeting they were keen to progress development of the other two parcels.
However, there is still no detail on access to the proposed development from the Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) around Greenleigh. A disagreement between QPRC and the developers over who would pay for the junction meant it was scrapped from the EDE construction contract last year.
Council staff said the contested parcel of land in public ownership would protect Valley Creek. This would go some way to reducing the risk from development to water quality and aquatic habitat in Queanbeyan River which provides habitat for native water rats and platypus. However, the remaining land on which development is proposed also includes river frontage.
Nevertheless, councillors agreed at the 14 February meeting that QPRC staff should continue to discuss with developers taking responsibility for the proposed conservation parcel.
Whole development site offers wildlife, threatened species habitat
There also remain concerns about building on the rest of the proposed development site.
Environmental studies undertaken as part of the EDE project showed that area of the escarpment has forest in good to moderate condition – something that is becoming increasingly rare in NSW – as well as woodland in moderate condition. These vegetation communities provide habitat for state and federal threatened species, including Rosenberg’s goanna, the golden sun moth, scarlet robin and several species of bats.
Residents have also sighted evidence of koalas moving through the territory, and several residents identified what appeared to be squirrel gliders. These and other animals will also be at risk from domestic animals, vehicular traffic, and the loss of remnant woodland including trees that act as staging posts for birds moving through the wildlife corridor.
Above: Threatened Squirrel Gliders may inhabit the area. Image supplied.
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