Environment and Planning Forum Minutes - August 2016

Community Councils and Industry

Andrew MacKenzie – ACT Institute of Landscape Architect
Damian Haas – Belconnen Community Council
Larry O’Loughlin - Conservation Council ACT Region
Ewan Brown – COTA
Stephen Hodge – Cycling Promotions
Denis O’Brien – North Canberra Community Council
Jeff Ibbotson – Pedal Power
Clare Wall – Planning Institute of Australia
Glenys Patulny - Tuggeranong Community Council
Mike Reddy – Woden Valley Community Council

ACT Government

Dorte Ekelund – Director-General, EPD (Chair)
Annie Lane – Executive Director, Environment, EPD (Chair for second half of meeting)
Brett Phillips - Executive Director, Strategic Planning, EPD
Juliana Cieslar - Communications, EPD (minute taker)
Andrew Pedersen - Director Asset Acceptance, Schools and Active Travel, TCCS
Alix Kaucz – Territory Plan, EPD
Greg Baines – Conservation Research, EPD
Margaret Kitchin – Conservation Research, EPD
Matt Kendall – Catchment Management and Water Policy, EPD
Danswell Starrs – Catchment Management and Water Policy, EPD
Anke Maria Hoefer – ACT Frogwatch Coordinator


Angie Bletsas – ACTCOSS
Adam Hobill – Building Designers Australia
Barbara Norman – Climate Change Council
Jenny Mobbs – COTA
Kevin Cox – Gungahlin Community Council
Greg Weller – HIA
Pat McGinn – Weston Creek Community Council
Gary Rake – Deputy Director-General, EPD
Tony Carmichael – Executive Director, Strategic Planning, EPD
Ann Lyons Wright – Executive Director, Sustainability and Climate Change, EPD
Daniel Iglesias – Director, Parks and Conservation, EPD
Jess Buik – Executive Officer to the Director-General, EPD

1) Welcome & Apologies

The Director-General, Dorte Ekelund, welcomed attendees and introduced Andrew Pedersen, the new Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate (TCCS) representative.  

2) Notes and actions from previous meeting – 23 June 2016

Notes and actions from the previous meeting were agreed.

Denis O’Brien asked whether the meeting papers could be sent out closer to the meeting date.

The Director-General agreed to draft papers being sent out soon after the meeting and again closer to the meeting date.

Action Item 1: EPD Secretariat to send out meeting papers to members twice – a draft of the meeting papers soon after the meeting and again closer to the meeting date.

Jeff Ibbotson asked whether the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Kate Auty, would be addressing the forum.

The Director-General confirmed the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment would be addressing members at a future forum. In the meantime, members can follow the Commissioner on twitter. The twitter address is @EnvComm_ACT

Action Item 2: EPD Secretariat to reconfirm the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment will be presenting at a future forum meeting.

Post meeting: On 24 August 2016 EPD Secretariat reported the Commissioner has agreed to present at the forum in early 2017.

Three papers were emailed to members with the minutes. They were about chip sealing, a new bike training facility, and plot ratio.

Clare Wall stated the plot ratio information was useful. Jeff Ibbotson stated that the plot ratio paper explained how the ratios worked but did not address whether they were working well.

There was concern expressed about the loss of space for trees/imperious surfaces. The Director-General informed members that it was difficult to control levels of imperious surfaces paring on a block after a development was completed.

Larry O’Loughlin asked about run-off and the Director-General provided a brief explanation about rules applying to run-off.

3) Introduction to the Parks and Conservation Service – presentation by Daniel Iglesias
This item has been deferred until the next Environment and Planning Forum (27 October 2016) due to Daniel Iglesias being unwell.

Action Item 3: EPD Secretariat to reschedule Daniel Iglesias’ presentation on ‘Introduction to the Parks and Conservation Service’ to 27 October 2016.

Damian Haas commented that Daniel Iglesias’ presentation on quolls attracted the highest attendance of people at any Belconnen Community Council meeting.

The Director-General stated that two sightings of the nationally endangered spotted-tailed quoll had recently been reported on the outskirts of Canberra.

4) Vegetation Mapping – presentation by Greg Baines
Margaret Kitchin introduced Greg Baines, senior vegetation ecologist with the Conservation Research Unit of EPD.

Greg’s presentation focused on the importance of vegetation mapping and knowing where species are located so the species under threat could be conserved in planning and management. Up to 75% of the ACT has been mapped to date using Lidar digital technology. Lidar allows EPD to develop a structural view of different species of trees and their height, and is a valuable planning and decision making tool that is being used to inform fire management.

The Director-General added that Lidar can also be used for modelling of urban areas.  

Members’ comments

Glenys Patulny asked whether people know of these endangered areas and whether this information has been sent to catchment groups. Greg Baines replied in the affirmative.

Andrew MacKenzie asked whether trees older than 100 years could be mapped and was advised that Lidar can sometimes map old mature trees when they occur in woodlands as isolated trees.

Denis O’Brien asked whether invasive species can be mapped and was advised that unless the invasive species is of a high density it won’t appear on imagery. Invasive vegetation mapping is not the major focus of the work currently being undertaken.

Damian Haas asked whether the urban forestry review previously undertaken by Maxine Cooper had been incorporated into vegetation mapping and was advised that it had not.

Damian Haas asked whether the Ginninderra experimental site had been mapped and was advised that it was yet to be mapped.

Damian Haas also asked whether fenced off trees in the Gungahlin area had fed into the mapping and was advised that they had not.

Greg Baines reported that Lidar mapping of tree canopy in urban areas has been done.

Larry O’Loughlin asked whether LDA knows about the tree mapping. Greg Baines reported that Lidar is used for mapping on a landscape scale and that it was difficult to map using a paddock scale.

Damian Haas asked whether there were any surprises from the mapping data collected. He was advised that 13 endemic vegetation communities that don’t occur anywhere else have been identified and their names and locations have been recorded.  

Damian Haas also asked whether ESA had expressed an interest in the mapping and was informed ESA had partially paid for the mapping and was using it for the Bushfire operational plan and hazard mapping around the urban areas.

5) Basin Priority Project – presentation by Matt Kendall

Members were informed the Basin Priority Project’s new name is the ACT Healthy Waterways Project.

Matt Kendall informed the meeting that the project consisted of six catchments with 25 priority projects. All monies must be spent and projects completed by June 2019 but reserve projects can be brought forward if priority projects run into technical difficulties or are constructed under budget. The ACT Government has agreed to ongoing operation and maintenance of assets once projects are completed.  

The Director-General stated formal consultation on the project begins in the week commencing 22 August 2016. Consultation sessions will be held in each catchment.  

Members’ comments

Glenys Patulny asked whether the 25 August date was a trial information session and was informed that this session was for project governance groups only so they are well prepared before they go out into the community.

Andrew MacKenzie commented that there is a lot of good work coming out of Denmark in this arena.

Matt Kendall reported that most of the designs for this project were done by ACT consultants who have national and international offices.

***Members were asked to promote the drop-in consultation sessions.

9) Director-General’s update report

The Director-General’s update report was brought forward due to the Director-General having to leave for another meeting.

The Director-General presented her report for July-August 2016. In addition, she mentioned that David Shorthouse had been appointed the chair of the Western Greenway Community Panel, and that the ACT Climate Change Adaptation Strategy was released in July 2016.

The Director-General informed members about the Climate Change Awareness Campaign noting that, an earlier survey revealed that only 40% of people surveyed knew what the ACT Government was doing about climate change. Another survey was currently underway.

The Director-General drew members’ attention to the Urban Sounds consultation, which was launched in the first week of August.  

***Members were asked to promote the Urban Sounds consultation.

Members’ comments

Glenys Patulny asked whether forum members should be promoting the survey.  

The Director-General replied that the survey was not a self-selecting survey and was being conducted by a research company, which was selecting interviewees at random. The results of the survey are expected to be delivered in the week commencing 22 August 2016 and Minister Corbell is expected to make an announcement before the caretaker period commences.

Additional agenda item – Active Travel

The Director-General stated Active Travel is now with TCCS but would be a standing item on future forum agendas.

Action Item 4: EPD Secretariat to ensure Active Travel is a standing agenda item on future agendas.

The Director-General invited Andrew Pedersen (Director Asset Acceptance, Schools and Active Travel, TCCS) to provide a summary of what was happening in the Active Travel space.

Andrew Pedersen provided the following information:

  • 2 positions have been funded in the 2016-17 Budget – an active travel officer and a schools coordinator.
  • The school coordinator role works across government.
  • The Active Travel Advisory Group is meeting in the week commencing 22 August 2016 and the minister will be attending this meeting.
  • Web presence accessibility was being addressed.

Members’ comments

Denis O’Brien asked whether schools can contact the office directly and was advised they could.

Clare Wall asked whether an evaluation program was in place to see whether behavioural change was working. Andrew Pedersen reported such an evaluation program was in place for capital related projects.

Jeff Ibbotsen asked about the status of the Active Travel Plan Strategy and was advised that it was waiting on the Minister’s approval. The strategy is expected to be launched in the next two weeks.

Glenys Patulny raised the issue of footpaths but said she would speak directly to Andrew Pedersen about the matter.

Annie Lane, Executive Director, EPD chaired the remainder of the meeting due to the Director-General’s early departure to another meeting.

Mike Reddy suggested that the figure of 40% community awareness of what the government was doing in relation to climate change could be improved if the Minister provided progress reports towards its 100% renewable energy by 2020. For example, once the Williamsdale Solar Farm is operational, it should be stated how much closer we are to reaching the 2020 goal.

6) Draft variation updates – presentation by Alix Kaucz

Alix Kaucz reported variations 349 (Justice Hope offsets), 339 (Kaleen) and 353 (miscellaneous includes Canberra Outlet Centre) would take effect on 19 August while variations 346 (solar) would commence soon.

Variation 348 (active living principle) would be released for consultation shortly but no exact date is available. Work was also being done on variations to respond to the Woden, Mawson and Belconnen master plans.

Members’ comments

Larry O’Loughlin stated that variation 351 relies on Amendment 86 to the National Capital Plan being approved by the Commonwealth Parliament. If the other doesn’t get approved does this mean variation 351 falls over?  

Alix Kaucz replied that Amendment 86 has taken effect and EPD would need to consider how to respond if this was disallowed.

7) Frogs as an indicator of urban wetland health – presentation by Danswell Starrs and Anke Maria Hoefer

Danswell Starrs stated that frogs are an indicator of environmental health. Simply having fallen logs and healthier riparian zones around wetlands can increase the number of frog species as can a reduction in the mowing and slashing of grass around wetlands.

A recent report by two local citizen groups, Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch and Region Frogwatch, details how the diversity of frogs is linked to the wetlands habitat, connectivity, the presence of feral fish and water quality.

Anke Hoefer stated that her job as the ACT Frogwatch Coordinator involves attracting volunteers to record data about frogs and create a database. Nine different species of frogs are found in the ACT and Anke impressed members with a frog call demonstration for each species.

EPD is supporting the frogwatch program for the next two years.

Members’ comments

Jeff Ibbotson queried whether it is possible to develop a wetland with a frog population at the same time a new suburb is being developed.

Anke Hoefer replied that she would like to see more wetlands with frogs in new suburbs and it is preferable that any new wetland be connected to corridors of nature.

8) Members Issues

Clare Wall asked for a future presentation on how the trees legislation is working, particularly in relation to paddock trees.

Glenys Patulny suggested the presentation cover how decisions are made about what trees to plant where, including deciduous trees.

Action Item 5: EPD Secretariat to coordinate a future forum presentation on the Tree Protection Act. Presentation to include how decisions are made on what trees to plant where, and the protection of paddock trees.

10) Other Business

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 27 October 2016.

Action Summary Table




18 June 2016


Planning regulations being looked at and how this will affect climate change. MBA will liaise with EPD on this matter and also include Commissioner.

MBA to action.

18 August 2016


Meeting papers to be sent out twice – once shortly after the meeting and the second time closer to the meeting date.

EPD Secretariat to action


Reconfirm the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment will be presenting at a future forum meeting.

EPD Secretariat has been advised the Commissioner will attend an early 2017 meeting


Reschedule Daniel Iglesias’ presentation on ‘Introduction to the Parks and Conservation Service’ to 27 October 2016

EPD Secretariat has listed for next meeting


Ensure active travel is a standing agenda item on future agendas

EPD Secretariat


Coordinate a future forum presentation on the Tree Protection Act. Presentation to include how decisions are made on what trees to plant where, and the protection of paddock trees.

EPD Secretariat to list for next meeting.

The ACT Government is committed to improving the accessibility of web content. To provide feedback or request an accessible version of a document please contact us or phone 13 22 81.