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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 287

Senator REID —On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I present a report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs, the eighty- second series, third report. I also table extracts from the Committee's minutes of proceedings. I seek leave to make a short statement relating to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator REID —This portion of the eighty-second series relates to the completion of the bicycle path around Lake Burley Griffin. Mr Deputy President, you will note when you read the report that the Committee agreed to a portion, but not to the whole, of the bicycle path as it passes through an area known as the Jerrabomberra Wetlands which has beome an important area for the aquatic system and birds which like to live in such environments. The Committee had serious reservations as to whether the proposed bicycle path was in the best interests of those who use the Wetlands.

The Committee had another aspect of the proposed bicycle path in mind and that was the cost of maintaining it in that area. We felt that we needed to know more about the management, cost of management and funding that would be made available to the Department of Territories and Local Government to maintain what the National Capital Development Commission would provide. That was very much in the minds of members of the Committee when we declined to agree to the proposal. An important aspect is that if the Department is to manage developments in Canberra it should continue to receive the appropriate funds for the purpose. I seek leave to incorporate the rest of my tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

The Report I have just tabled reports on the final item in the 82nd Series of Variations to the City Plan and involves a proposal to construct the final section of the Lake cycleway from Kings Park via the Jerrabomberra Wetlands through to Barton. The proposed cycleway would cost approximately $1.35m.

The Committee has given thorough scrutiny to this proposal, and has inspected the area and taken evidence. The focus of the Committee's attention was on the section of the proposed cycleway route through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands. The other sections of the cycleway appear to be largely uncontroversial and the Committee received no objections to these sections.

The reason for the sensitivity of that part of the proposed cycleway route which goes through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands is the potential for disturbance of a very significant waterbird habitat. The Wetlands is the most important wetland habitat in the A.C.T. and interacts closely with other regional aquatic systems such as Lake George, Lake Bathurst, Googong Reservoir and Lake Ginninderra. It provides an important feeding, refuge and breeding environment for large numbers and species of resident and migrant waterbirds from as far away as Siberia and Japan. Fish and aquatic mammals such as platypus and water rat also form part of the Wetlands ecological system.

The National Capital Development Commission, in proposing the suggested alignment of the cycleway, believed it had struck an appropriate balance between the construction of a cycleway which would have real recreational appeal, and the protection of the Wetlands as a waterbird habitat. A continuous moat would be constructed along the cycleway through the Wetlands to physically segregate the bird refuge area from the cycleway. Plantings would also be made to screen people using the cycle path from the waterbird areas thus reducing the extent of disturbance to the birds.

Although the Department of Territories and Local Government supported the proposed cycleway as part of the 82nd Series of Variations, the Department had major reservations about the proposal. These reservations included the effect of the cycle path on the birdlife, ecology and planned environment of the Wetlands, the cost of maintenance of the cycleway, particularly because of the impact of flooding, and the priority of the cycleway as a recreational project.

Objectors to the cycleway, including the Canberra Ornithologists Group, were concerned that the recreational and environmental objectives had not been properly balanced in the proposal. They believed that the cycleway was located too close to the core area of the Wetlands and would cause such disturbance to the waterbirds that the value of the Wetlands as an area of waterbird refuge would be significantly reduced. The moat was not seen as offering a sufficient buffer to ensure that there were no adverse environmental effects on the Wetlands.

The Committee believes that the question of whether the cycleway should proceed as proposed by NCDC is ultimately a matter for judgment about where the balance should be struck between the accepted objectives of protecting the Wetlands as a significant waterbird habitat while allowing it to be developed as an important recreational resource. In the Committee's judgment, the disturbance created by the use of the cycleway as proposed would significantly impair the value of the Wetlands as a waterbird refuge area, possibly reducing the diversity of bird life in the Wetlands. However, the Committee also believes the completion of the cycleway around the Lake is an important project, and it is not convinced that an alternative alignment for the cycleway away from the core area of the Wetlands would not be appropriate.

The Committee therefore approves the sections of the cycleway on the north side of the Lake and Molonglo River to the Dairy Flat Bridge, and to the south side of the lake from the proposed interpretation area to the junction with the existing cycleway at Wentworth Avenue, to which no objection was made. The Committee also recommends that NCDC, in consultation with DTLG and concerned community groups (particularly Canberra Ornithologists Group), develop an agreed alternative route away from the sensitive western area of the Wetlands for the remaining section of the cycleway which the Committee does not approve, and submit another variation proposal to the Committee.

The Committee is also interested in the wider planning, development and management aspects of the Wetlands and this report makes recommendations about future planning and management of the Wetlands including developing a Policy and Development Plan, drawing up a management plan, and ultimately gazetting the Wetlands as a wildlife reserve.