Reports & Submissions – Friends of Mount Majura
Jul 142014


FoMM have lodged a submission to the ACT Government’s ACT Offsets Policy and Delivery Framework – Position Paper.

The environmental offsets position paper has been prepared by the ACT Government to provide the community with an opportunity to provide comments on the proposed content of an ACT environmental offsets policy. Finalising a policy is a requirement for a one stop shop for environmental approvals.

The position paper includes:

  • the ACT environmental offsets policy and delivery framework and
  • offset requirements for Act listed species.

The FoMM submission is available here…

Mar 162014
Justice Robert Hope Park

Justice Robert Hope Park in the Watson Woodlands

You may remember a recent article in the Canberra Times about conservation offsets which we posted on this website here.  Today Radio National had a lengthy and informative piece on the way some companies which plan to trash an area with significant biodiversity get permission for the trashing on the agreement they will protect an offset area of equivalent natural value. Background Briefing showed how in many cases the offset area is clearly not equivalent in terms of environmental value.  The very last segment in the program concerns the Watson Woodlands and the government’s plan to ‘offset’ its destruction by ‘protecting’ Justice Robert Hope Park. Continue reading »

Mar 042014

Max, the pirate, picks up old fence material

Sunday was a perfect day for a serious bush clean-up in the Mount Majura Nature Reserve behind The Fair in North Watson. Within 2 hours over 30 registered cleaners collected 10 bags of land-fill rubbish, 6 bags of recyclables, 7 car tires, a large amount of metal scrap too big for bags, a pile of building rubbish and hazardous barbed wire.

1953 Australian Penny with Queen Elizabeth II on ‘head’

Special findings were a 1953 Penny with the Queen Elizabeth heading and the bottom of a beer bottle dated from 1961. An old car dumped in a gully was far too big for volunteers and the coordinates will go to the Parks Service for later removal.

Old tins and broken glass were most frequently picked up however most items were rather old probably from those days when the area was used for car racing and cross country horse riding.  Only a few recently dumped items were found, which is really good news.

The Tregurtha family return with their findings.

A big thank you to all participants for a job well done!

Some photos are at


Feb 042014

majuraparkwayoverviewWe like to think of Canberra as Australia’s Bush Capital, so it is ironic that the ACT Government has adopted a policy whereby conserving our biodiversity is becoming dependent on its destruction.

Dr Philip Gibbons a Senior Lecturer in biodiversity conservation at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU and Professor Jochen Zeil, the Convenor of FoMM have an Op Ed in the Canberra Times of January 29th which you can read here

Jul 282013

National Tree Day 2013 has been a terrific success.  More than 200 people came out into the bush to help. Plus we had wonderful coverage of the event on the local ABC news program in the evening – view Plantings galore mark National Tree Day – and the Canberra Times on Monday – see Locals work hard to restore environment.

Shane Rattenbury showing excellent planting skills.

To all volunteers and supporting organisations: a big Thank You

Lots of pictures are being uploaded to the Friends of Mt Majura Flickr site. Some of them can be seen if you click here.

Making a lasting contribution

National Tree Day was a wonderful opportunity for new and old neighbours of Mount Majura to work together, get to know each other and promote the joys of our local bush environment. This year we could admire the progress of the plants that were planted during the 2012 Tree Day as we extended the rehabilitated area.

Decorated tree

Customised ‘adopt a tree’ tags were provided for families who wanted a special link with their personal tree. They will come back in the following days and months and give their special tree some extra TLC!

Where: Mount Majura nature park behind (east of) The Fair in North Watson close to Tay / Ian Nicol Streets intersection. Use the nature park entrance on Antill Street opposite Carotel for a 5-minutes walk to the planting site. Limited parking space is available at The Fair residential site.  Click on this map to view the planting area and access.

The Fair planting site.

List of species (pdf with photos)

How to plant: 10 steps to help your seedling survive

Media Release

National Tree Day is held annually by Planet Ark which runs the Australian wide project to encourage mass tree plantings and to communicate the merit of trees.

The organizers gratefully acknowledge the support and help from the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, the Conservation Council ACT Region, Greening Australia, the Majura Mountain Scouts, the North Canberra Community Council, the Hackett Community Association, and *Village Building Company.
*Village Building Company gave funds as part of an agreement with community groups to mitigate the impact of “The Fair” residential development on the natural values of Mount Majura nature park.
Jul 202013

The ACT Land Development Agency proposes a medium dense residential development in North Watson abutting Justice Robert Hope Park (Watson Woodlands) in the north. The proposal was referred to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodeversity Conservation Act (Reference Number 20126418).

FoMM submitted the following comment.

FoMM Submission (EPBC_20126418) pdf

Community Engagement and Stakeholder Relations

Economic Development Directorate



EIA Policy Section (EPBC Act)



Waltraud Pix                                                             Jochen Zeil

Friends of Mt Majura                                               Friends of Mt Majura



EPBC Reference number: 2012/6418

Section 64 Block 9 District of North Canberra, Medium Density Residential Use



Summary Recommendations


(1)  The proposed release of Section 64 Block 9 for Medium Density Residential Use in North Watson should be rejected.


(2)  The North Watson area as a whole, including the Majura Horse Paddocks, should be subject to a Strategic Assessment under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) similar to the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment (Umwelt 2013) with emphasis on critically endangered grassy woodland conservation, particularly of currently unreserved Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland under the CAR criteria of the nationally ratified Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (ANZECC 1996).


(3)  The remnant patch of Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlandsof Section 64 Block 9 and of Justice Robert Hope Park should be managed concurrently for conservation, for the present habitat values and for connectivity and should be protected in perpetuity.


Detailed justification


1.    The remnant grassy woodland of Section 64 Block 9 (Sec64/Bl9) is listed critically endangered under the Commonwealth EPBC Act and endangered under the ACT Nature Conservation Act and is a particular grassy woodland vegetation type Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands (Office of Environment and Heritage (2011) Plant Communities of the South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps within the Murrumbidgee Catchment of New South Wales,

Sec64/Bl9 contains mature trees with exceptionally high habitat value that provide habitat for residential and for migrating birds.


2.    Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands is not well documented and includes most likely only a few remnants within the ACT (and region), none of which is currently reserved for nature conservation. The sites in the ACT are: (a) Sec64/Bl9 proposed for development; (b) Justice Robert Hope Park abutting Sec64/Bl9 in the south and zoned Public Open Space; (c) possibly parts of Kenny located to the north of Sec64/Bl9 which is currently subject to an environmental strategic assessment in conjunction with the development of Gungahlin; (d) possibly a 7 hectare site on Mt Majura, which has been removed from the nature reserve and very regrettable has been placed into horse grazing paddock (Variation to the Territory Plan No. 182 (April 2002),  further information; and (e) a narrow strip on Mt Majura zoned as Hills, Ridges and Buffer, which is subject to heavy and ongoing degradation due to management as an Outer Asset Protection Zone (OAPZ), to changed hydrology and to the introduction of utilities.


The Preliminary Documentation prepared on behalf of the Land Development Agency (Moore et al 2013) lists two sites containing habitat similar to Sec64/Bl9 located further to the south of Sec64/Bl9. It is highly unlikely that the biological attributes of these two sites are comparable to Sec64/Bl9 given the different aspect, topography and terrain of the sites. One of the two sites is to some degree affected by the construction of the Majura Valley Parkway.


3.    The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (ANZECC 1996) provides for a strategy to protect biological diversity through “the establishment of a comprehensive, representative and adequate system of ecologically viable protected areas” (CAR criteria). It is unlikely that the ACT (and region) has achieved the protection of Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlands under the CAR criteria of the nationally ratified strategy, which warrants an assessment and investigation of the current extend and status of this ecological community in the ACT.


4.    Moore et al ( 2013) suggest that the ACT government has taken the following two actions to compensate for the loss of EPBC listed yellow box-red gum grassy woodland (YBRG) of Sec64/Bl9 and propose that these government actions satisfy the advanced offset requirements under the EPBC Act (Australian Government  2012): (1) setting aside the grassy woodland of Block 7 Section 72, now named Justice Robert Hope Park (JRHP), and (2) supporting environmental management actions to enhance the conservation values of JRHP.


4.1 The process to protect the YBRG grassy woodland of the JRHP started in the late 1990’s just before the commencement of the EPBC Act and before the YBRG grassy woodland was listed endangered and then critically endangered (effective 17 May 2006) under this Act. This process was entirely driven by the volunteer community, concerned with nature conservation. The community recognized the value of the YBRG grassy woodland of the JRHP (Gilles 2000), whereas the ACT government failed to recognize or assess the grassy woodland value of the JRHP, which was not included in Action Plan No.10 (1999) for YBRG nor in the Action Plan No. 27 (2004) ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy. If the ACT government is of the opinion that it set aside the JRHP as a proactive action to offset the loss of critically endangered YBRG in Sec64/Bl9 it should have declared JRHP as future offset and establish (and manage!) the conservation status of JRHP at the time of declaration. This would have been crucial for government actions to enhance JRHP to be measurable.

Using the JRHP as advanced offset action would appear to be not compatible with the offset requirements under the EPBC Act.


4.2 The ACT government action to enhance JRHP was to provide the community a grant mainly to assist with the construction of a fence. The community received this grant on application under the competitive ACT Environment grant scheme that is open to environmental groups of the ACT. In addition, the community received a grant on application under the competitive Federal Government Bushcare grant scheme to assist with the preparation of a management plan.

The provision of a grant to community as part of the competitive ACT Environment grant scheme and a grant received under a Federal program should not qualify as an ACT government offset action to compensate for the loss of critically endangered YBRG on Sec64/Bl9.


5.    The evaluation of the offset proposal (JRHP) does not take into account the impact of a 100m wide Outer Asset Protection Zone (OAPZ), which Moore et al (2013) suggest to be entirely located inside the JRHP in case the development of Sec64/Bl9 should go ahead. The evaluation does also not take into account the impact of a storm water pipe proposed to be constructed inside JRHP. OAPZ and stormwater pipe would impact on roughly 25% of the JRHP. The management of OAPZ could in principle achieve outcomes that are sympathetic with the management for environmental values. However, in our experience, OAPZ management in nature reserves causes severe degradation, introduces and spreads weeds such as Chilean Needle grass (Weed of National Significance) and suppresses desirable native groundcover. We are not aware of any example, where OAPZ management has been neutral in regard to conservation values or has delivered positive conservation outcomes.


6.    The evaluation of the offset proposal fails to take into account the suite of impacts caused by a dense residential development at the hard edge of a nature reserve and that have the potential to degrade the habitat value of adjacent JRHP – and nearby Mt Majura nature reserve – such as:


·              Increased spread of exotic flora and fauna;

·              increased human presence, including domestic animals (dogs and cats), which may affect amongst other things, the breeding success of birds (JRHP and adjacent Sec64/Bl9 provide major breeding habitat for Red-rumped Parrot);

·              increased littering and dumping of garden waste;

·              increased noise and light pollution that is increasingly known to affect fauna;

·              change of nutrient loads from water shed of the proposed adjacent road that may affect vegetation composition and may render management of native groundcover more difficult;

·              increased inappropriate use of nature reserves and vandalism that may affect conservation values and that will have a devastating impact on the motivation of volunteers, who have in the past and continue to do the only work in the JRHP that maintains its conservation value.


The recent development in North Watson, known as ‘The Fair’, provides a very instructive example of how a residential development of medium density affects adjacent conservation areas. The Fair abuts Mt Majura nature reserve in the north-west and has been approved without any measure to mitigate adverse impacts on MNES and other environmental values of the reserve. The construction of TheFair development started in 2010 and by now 360 dwellings are occupied. Here is an incomplete list of issues that have arisen since:

(a)  As requested by the community, but not by government agencies, The Fair has been declared a cat containment area. However, the containment is not enforced with the result that cats are freely roaming within the residential area and have been frequently observed to hunt in the abutting reserve.

(b)  Although the reserve is a dog-on-lead area, dogs are regularly exercised off lead in the reserve and residents of The Fair and other visitors of the reserve have already reported dog attacks.

(c)   Rubbish, including rotten meat, has been dumped in the reserve and littering is an ongoing problem.

(d)  Since construction began, seven mature yellow box trees have been cut for wood collection in the reserve close to The Fair.

(e)  Vandalism of conservation volunteer work and facilities have taken place and mountain bike riders are inappropriately using a walking track that was constructed to provide access for the new residence to the nature reserve.

(f)   Canberra Ornithologists Group reports a decrease of declining small woodland birds (Speckled Warbler) on the northwest corner of Mt Majura (Jenny Bounds, personal communication), an area, which has the highest diversity of declining small woodland bird species along the west slopes of Mts Majura / Ainslie.

(g)  The most disheartening and devastating comment came from Nature Parks Management staff, who suggested that it is futile to continue carrying out work to conserve habitat for declining woodland birds, because the impact of The Fair development will wipe them out anyway.



Conclusion and Recommendations


1.    The whole of North Watson, including the Majura Horse Paddocks, should be subject to an Environmental Assessment similar to the Gungahlin Strategic Assessment. The emphasis should be on the connectivity of critically endangered grassy woodland, particularly Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland (CAR criteria) that provide habitat for threatened, declining or rare bird species and migrating birds. The current ACT Government block-by-block approach in North Watson does not address the cumulative loss of and the increasing pressure caused by urban encroachment on, the remaining critically endangered grassy woodland / Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highland and dependent species in the area. Recent urban and recreational development in the area such as The Fair at the north-western edge of Mt Majura nature reserve in North Watson, the Majura Highway, east of Mts Majura/Ainslie nature reserves, and the Centenary Trail within the Mts Majura/Ainslie nature reserves directly and indirectly impact on EPBC listed grassy woodland and other Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES). These developments have been approved without conditions, offsets or mitigation actions for direct or indirect impact on MNES. It was noted in submissions that the Centenary Trail Referral to the Federal Government contained false information with regard to MNES (Swift Parrot).


2.    The proposed release of Section 64 Block 9 for Medium Density Residential Use (up to 260 units on approximately 4 hectares of land) should be rejected. The remnant EPBC listed grassy woodland of North Watson, including the Yellow Box ± Apple Box tall grassy woodland of the South Eastern Highlandsof Sec64/Bl9 and of Justice Robert Hope Park should be managed concurrently for conservation, for the present habitat values and for connectivity and should be protected in perpetuity.






Waltraud Pix                                                 Jochen Zeil

Friends of Mt Majura                                   Friends of Mt Majura


18. July 2013                                                            18. July 2013





ANZECC (1996) The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity. Report prepared by the Australian & New Zealand Environment & Conservation Council, Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Sport & Territories. Canberra.


Australian Government (2012) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Environmental Offsets Policy, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (October 2012)


Gilles J (2000) Ecological values of the north Watson Woodlands. A case for preservation. Study commissioned by the Watson Community Association Inc.


Moore D, Nash K, Hogg DMcC (2013) Block 9 Section 64 Watson Residential Development and Negus Crescent Extension, ACT. EPBC 2012/6418. Preliminary Documentation, prepared on behalf of the Land Development Agency


Umwelt (2013) Gungahlin Strategic Assessment. Consultation Draft, prepared on behalf of ACT Economic Development Directorate and ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate.



Apr 302013

FoMM celebrates its 10th birthday this year.  They have been years of removing weeds, planting trees and shrubs, and of advocacy for the bush environment of Mt Majura.  The “Before” and “After” photos are stunning.  We have made a big difference!

It is time now to put FoMM as an organisation on a firm footing.  We are proposing to introduce a membership scheme and an elected committee system to support our work into the future and invite your comments on the

FOMM draft constitution April2013

If you are interested in working with us to establish a more robust organisation, please contact us on


Mar 112013

Letter to Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Municipal and Territory Services requesting the return of land into nature reserve; click here.

Swift Parrot, Lathamus discolor. Photograph Geoffrey Dabb 27.04.2005 at Mount Majura nature reserve.

The Variation to the Territory Plan No 182 (April 2002) moved an area north of the Hackett water reservoir from nature reserve to special purpose reserve, horse grazing. The area contains Yellow box Red gum grassy woodland listed Critically Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act and Endangered under the ACT Nature Conservation (NC) Act. The area contains a large number of mature trees that provide food and breeding habitat for declining woodland species, such as Gang-gang Cockatoo. For several weeks in autumn 2005 / 2008 about 60 / 25 Swift Parrots (Lathamus discolor) were observed foraging in paddock 6 and surrounds. The parrot species is listed as Endangered under the EPBC and the NC Acts.

Yellow box Red gum Grassy Woodland at paddock 6.

Since 2003 Friends of Mount Majura (FoMM) lobbied the ACT Government to return paddock 5 and paddock 6 to nature reserve to protect the conservation values in perpetuity; the paddocks are shown on the map at the bottom.

Open forest with shrub ground cover at paddock 5.

In August 2008 the ACT Conservator for Flora and Fauna informed FoMM that paddock 5 will be returned.

In 2009 the Land Planning Authority ACTPLA advised that it prepares a Variation to the Territory Plan which includes the Conservators’ recommendations.

During the past three years FoMM inquiries about the Variation revealed no further progress.

FoMM wrote to Shane Rattenbury, Minister for TAMS requesting to act without further delay and to return both, paddock 5 and paddock 6 into nature reserve.


Mar 042013

A cat was observed hunting woodland birds in the nature reserve that abuts the new residential development The Fair in North Watson.

The Fair is a declared cat containment area.

FoMM wrote to Simon Corbell, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development and Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services to inquire how the cat containment is enforced.

Here is the Letter Inquiry Cat Containment at The Fair_03.03.13.

Oct 022012

FoMM wrote to the three major parties – the Australian Labor Party, the Greens and the Canberra Liberals – about Issues concerning Mt Majura Nature Reserve and Canberra Nature Park; click on pdf file ACT Election 2012. Find below the response from Katy Gallagher on behalf of the Labor Party and Indra Esguerra on behalf of the Greens (the Liberals have not responded).

Election Issues Response Labor_Katy Gallagher 18.10.2012

Election Issues Response Greens_Indra Esguerra 15.10.2012

Canberra residents are privileged to live in a city with bush on their doorstep. The green assets provide many services to the community and caring for them contributes toward the protection of Australia’s unique natural environment.

Friends of Mt Majura (FoMM) expect the incoming ACT Government to improve the management of Mount Majura and other reserves of Canberra Nature Park (CNP) as recommended by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment in the 2011 Canberra Nature Park report.

We request that the Government adopts actions on a number of issues.

1.      Management of Environmental Woody Weeds.

Woody weeds are threatening the integrity of the nature reserves and the costs of control are high. A number of actions are already in place such as the Environmental Weeds brochure, the biannual Weed Swap and a positive list of species suitable for planting close to conservation sensitive areas in new Molonglo suburbs. The actions are not sufficient for the prevention of new infestations and for the management of existing weeds. We request that the ACT Government adopts additional actions:

  • Prevention is better than cure. Government develops and maintains a negative list of species to be avoided in new developments that abut nature reserves. The list should contain all known environmental weeds of the ACT and will be reviewed on a regular basis. The exclusion of listed species in new developments, public space landscaping and gardens is mandatory.
  • Lead by example. Government develops and implements a plan to remove environmental weeds from public spaces including streetscapes in areas close to nature reserves. This action may affect older suburbs only and can be carried out in stages.
  • Cooperate with residents. Government develops and implements a plan to help remove environmental weeds from residencies abutting nature reserves. This may affect older suburbs only. The Plan may include the following steps: targeted dissemination of information, offering expert advice (similar to energy / water) on identification, how to remove and what to plant instead, and phasing in mandatory removal of the worst environmental weeds.
  • Control severe infestation in high conservation sites. Government provides resources to address severe woody weed infestation in critically endangered grassy woodland. Woody weed invasion of Mt Ainslie grassy woodland approaches a critical threshold; the control is beyond the capacity of volunteers.
  • Government adopts a zero tolerance approach with regard to garden extensions into nature reserves.

2.      Management of Overgrazing.

Overgrazing has a devastating impact on grassy ecosystems causing further loss of biodiversity, irreversible loss of top soil due to erosion and weed infestation. The effect of grazing pressure is well documented. It is impossible to manage the natural environment of CNP without managing grazing pressure.

  • Government provides adequate resources to manage Eastern Gray Kangaroo populations in grassy ecosystems of CNP, including critically endangered grassy woodlands of the Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie nature reserves.
  • Government continues to provide resources for ongoing integrated rabbit management.

3.       Implementation of Operational Work Plans for CNP.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment (CSE) 2011 Canberra Nature Park report recommends Operational Plans for the reserves. Operational Plans are important to assist Parks and Conservation Service, who have a high staff rotation, and parkCare to carry out conservation work in a cooperative and systematic way.

  • Government provides resources to develop and implement Operational Plans as recommended by the CSE.

4.      Review of Dogs in CNP Policy and Regulations.

We estimate over 60% of dogs are walked off leash in the Mount Majura reserve; in the part of the reserve that abuts the new residential development The Fair all dogs are off leash. There is a severe shortage of resources to implement dog management in reserves where they are allowed on leash only.

  • Government reviews Dogs in CNP policy and regulations
  • Government provides the resources to manage dogs in reserves and to enforce regulations.

5.      Return Part of Majura Paddocks into Nature Park.

In 2002 part of the Mt Majura nature reserve was placed into special purpose reserve, horse grazing (Variation Territory Plan No 182, Mt Majura). The area, partly located on steep terrain, contains a large number of trees that provide breeding habitat for declining Gang-gang Cockatoos and other wildlife, and lacks suitable pasture for grazing (view this photograph). Following intense lobbying by the community the Conservator for Flora and Fauna informed FoMM in August 2008 that the parcel of land will be returned into nature reserve (Letter from the Conservator, dated 01.08.08). To this date Government has not acted on this promise.

  • Government returns the southeast part of Majura horse holding paddock into nature reserve to protect its conservation values in perpetuity.

6.      Strengthen Support of Community Engagement in Nature Conservation.

The Draft ACT Nature Conservation Strategy 2012-22 proposes to strengthen community engagement in nature conservation (Strategy 5 of five strategies).  The current support of community volunteering in nature conservation is insufficient leading to frustration and attrition across the government and community sectors that are involved in natural resource management.

  • Government adequately resources support of community engagement in nature conservation in partnership with Government agencies;
  • Government funds a second ACT Parkcare / Landcare coordinator position with an emphasis on field function to assist volunteers with activities such as weed identification and control, biodiversity management and rehabilitation measures.

Waltraud Pix
FoMM coordinator
11 October 2012


Overgrazed Mount Majura (Photograph Waltraud Pix, 17.06.2009). The photograph, taken at the lower west slope of Mount Majura in June 2009 shows the impact of excessive grazing on the ground cover and soil. Soil unprotected by groundcover has been washed away leaving bare scalded areas between few remaining heavily grazed tussocks. The recovery of the ground cover will be very limited due to the loss of top soil and reduced water infiltration. View the impact of grazing pressure in the Mount Majura nature park here.