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Land Management Issues (Term of References 1 and 3)


  • Where slashing is established as a fire management measure adjacent to Canberra Nature Park, the cost of ongoing control of Chilean Needle Grass should be factored into the fire control budget and active and regular control undertaken to prevent the slashed area becoming a source of infestation into the Nature Park.




  • A policy should be developed, implemented, monitored and enforced to minimise slashing, which can aid the spread and establishment of Chilean Needle Grass.




  • Where private leases adjoin Canberra Nature Park and Chilean Needle Grass is present the lessees should be required to undertake control, as specified under the Pest Plants and Animals Act (This grass is required to be contained under the Act, but this requirement is generally not being enforced). It would also seem reasonable to assume that control of declared pest plants would be a condition of any leases granted which lie adjacent to a Canberra Nature Park.




  • Fuel reduction activities should be designed to minimise impact on prime woodland bird habitat. Loss of habitat should be offset by “shrubbing up” areas more remote from housing. For example a program of shrub planting could be undertaken on the former tip site within the Red Hill Nature Park or on the area now cleared of shrubs between Garran and Red Hill suburbs. This offset should be an integral part of and funded as part of the fuel reduction programme.




  • There should be improved management of pedestrian and off-road cycle traffic within Canberra Nature Park to minimize their impact on the environment. 




  • Parkcare Groups such as the Red Hill Regenerators should continue to be supported by the ACT Government as a highly cost effective way of achieving high conservation outcomes and delivering ongoing community education.



Park Administration (Term of Reference 4)


  • Factors that will improve the turnover of rangers being responsible for a particular area should be investigated. This should include ensuring pay parity with NSW government agencies in order to minimise movement of rangers from the ACT.




  • To date the co-ordinator of Parkcare has been a person with facilitation and communication skills. There would also seem merit in this person having a supervisory role of on-ground activities and expertise in bush regeneration to advise Parkcare Groups on the most appropriate ways of addressing a particular regeneration issue, assisting in coordination between volunteer and the professional activities and ensuring that inappropriate activities are minimised.

Yours sincerely

Julie Toms

President

Red Hill Bush Regeneration Group

19 February 2010



SUBMISSION OF THE RED HILL REGENERATORS

Comments on Terms of Reference

Term of Reference 1


Assess the condition of the forests, woodlands and grassy woodlands, including the effects of grazing by stock and/or kangaroos, vertebrate pests and weeds
In considering this term of reference it is essential to recognise that condition is only a temporal state. Equally important as assessing current condition are the questions what can management achieve in relation to improving condition and what gradual loss will continue unless current management practices are modified. Too frequently, currently degraded areas are destroyed as areas of little worth, without consideration of how easily they could be improved or the future potential conservation value they could have.
The temporary state of condition is well illustrated by Red Hill’s vegetation. In 1997 around 54% of the Red Hill woodland remnant was dominated by woody or herbaceous weeds. By 2005 that figure had dropped to around 14%, today woody weeds occupy less than 1% of the remnant area and herbaceous plants are dominant over less than 10% of the remnant. The Draft Woodlands for Wildlife Action Plan 27 (2003) mapped about 10% of the vegetation on Red Hill as substantially and severely modified, 10% as secondary grassland (moderately modified) 65% as moderately modified and 15% as partially modified. Today over 50% meets the criteria of being partially modified (high condition) and only around 5% would be classified as substantially or severely modified (low condition).
Over a 15 year time span a dozen threatened or rare plants have been monitored on Red Hill. Most have shown dramatic increases including a 300% increase in the number of the endangered Button Wrinkelwort. Unfortunately the only clump of Native Mint (Mentha dimentia) was slashed as part of fire control measures, and is just hanging on.
Exotic perennial grasses such as Chilean Needle Grass and African Lovegrass pose the biggest threats to Red Hill’s vegetation and the Group has spent hundreds of hours controlling these species. Unfortunately the spread of both species has been aided by slashing on public land, and failure to control infestations on private leases. Frequent slashing appears to favour Chilean Needle Grass over native perennial grass tussocks, while contaminated machinery and slashing undertaken while it is bearing seed appears to have spread the grass widely. Exotic perennial grasses have also been left to flourish on neighbouring land, including the Federal Golf Course and the 3ha lease adjacent to Kent Street owned by Hindmarsh Pty Ltd. The Red Hill Regenerators has undertaken some control on both parcels of land (to stem the source of spread) but it would appear that the current lessees have done nothing in this regard.
Recommendations:

  1. Where slashing is established as a fire management measure adjacent to Canberra Nature Park, the cost of ongoing control of Chilean Needle Grass should be factored into the fire control budget and active and regular control undertaken to prevent the slashed area becoming a source of infestation into the Nature Park.




  1. A policy should be developed, implemented, monitored and enforced to minimise slashing aiding the spread and establishment of Chilean Needle Grass




  1. Where private leases adjoin Canberra Nature Park and Chilean Needle Grass is present the lessees should be made to undertake control, as required under the Pest Plants and Animals Act (This grass is required to be contained under the Act, but this requirement is not being enforced). It would also seem reasonable to assume that control of declared pest plants would be a condition of any leases granted.

Whereas the condition of Red Hill’s vegetation and native plants has steadily improved, monitoring indicates the reverse for the woodland bird fauna. This is a widespread phenomenon but undoubtedly has been exacerbated on Red Hill (and elsewhere in Canberra Nature Park) through the thinning of the shrub layer. This has occurred in two waves. The first wave was a massive reduction in woody weed growth from 1990 to about 2005. In 1989 woodland weeds covered 20% of the eastern half of Red Hill, since then hundreds of thousands of woody weeds (covering in total tens of hectares) have been removed and percentage cover of woody weeds is now less than 1%. Concerned about what impact removal was having on woodland birds, one of the Group’s members, Darren Evans, undertook a Master’s thesis (through Canberra University) and concluded that most woodland birds favoured a medium level of woody weed invasion (around 10-15% from memory). Removal of woody weeds resulted in a marked decline in both woodland bird diversity and abundance. However, over time as native wattles and eucalypt saplings began to replace the woody weeds, the diversity and abundance of bird species began to return to what it was prior to weed removal. However before a pre-weeding level was reached the second wave of shrub removal occurred. On Red Hill, for up to 100m from residential properties, most of the wattle and eucalypt saplings were removed as part of fuel reduction measures. This resulted in significant reduction of about 20% of the available bird habitat on Red Hill. Like most reserves within Canberra Nature Park, much of Red Hill reserve is steep hilly land. The flatter land with deeper, moisture and nutrient rich soils abuts the edge of the reserve and houses. Thus it was the prime, highly productive habitat that was largely impacted by fuel reduction programs. Woodland birds that ten years ago were common on Red Hill are now either absent (e.g. Varied Sitella, White-winged Triller) or rare (e.g. Scarlet Robin, Double-barred Finch).


In recent years there has been a real problem with proliferation of tracks on Red Hill as well as their widening by down-hill cyclists.
Recommendation

  1. Fuel reduction activities should be designed to minimise impact on prime woodland bird habitat. Loss of habitat should be offset by “shrubbing up” areas more remote from housing. For example a program of shrub planting could be undertaken on the former tip site within Red Hill or on the area now cleared of shrubs between Garran and Red Hill suburbs. This offset should be an integral part of and funded as part of the fuel reduction programme.

  2. There should be improved walking track management and management of off-road cyclists. 

Term of Reference 2



Identify actions to protect and enhance these areas, including land use or boundary changes while taking into account their purpose, values and location and the status of indigenous species and communities protected in the nature reserve system
As detailed in Appendix 1, the woodland remnant of Red Hill is one of the most significant of its vegetation type in Australia. Like other areas in Canberra Nature Park, undeveloped gazetted road reserves dissect the heart of the remnant and would have devastating impacts if ever developed. Two undeveloped gazetted road reserves exist on Red Hill, both supporting threatened or rare species and containing high quality endangered woodland.
In relation to increasing impacts associated with climate change and the increasing fragmentation of the ACT’s lowland vegetation a valuable way to conserve Red Hill’s conservation values is to increase both the size and connectivity of the protected woodland remnants.
In all about 50ha of endangered woodland, that is a contiguous component of the Red Hill remnant, exists outside the current conservation reserve. Given the high conservation value of the remnant and its unsuitability for anything but a conservation use, the boundary of the reserve should be amended to include these areas. These areas include approximately 15ha of open space land in the north-west portion of Hughes (Block 57), all of the land zoned urban hills and ridges and most of the adjoining land zoned for community facilities (Block 24 -between Rusden Street and Hindmarsh Drive in Garran) and about 20 ha of land currently within the concessional lease held by the Federal Golf Course.
There is approximately 15ha of high quality endangered Yellow Box-Red Gum woodland within the north and north-western portions of the Federal Golf Course Lease. The lessee has a poor record of woodland management, which includes tree felling, dumping of spoil, building and garden refuse, and only rudimentary weed control. The Red Hill Regenerators has spent over 100 hours controlling weeds in this 15ha area. The Group understands that the Golf Course lessee is not adverse to this area being added to the adjoining nature reserve.
An additional 4.25ha of land occupies the eastern section of the golf course lease (adjacent to the golf course access road). Although pines have been planted in part of this area it still has considerable conservation value, both in its own right and as an important component of the wider Red Hill remnant. It is dominated by, and contains, over 300 natural Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum and Apple Box trees. A hundred of these trees have a trunk circumference (at 1m above the ground) of at least 50cm. Fifty-three of the trees have a circumference above 150cm and about 60 of the native trees meet the criteria of being regulated trees requiring the approval of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna before they can be removed. The trees comprise a significant proportion (at least 5% of the total) of hollow bearing trees found on Red Hill. Hollows appear to be a limiting resource, as all nest boxes (about 50) that have been placed on Red Hill have been readily utilised, largely by native possums and birds. The 4.5ha also supports at least 58 native plant species, while the treed component largely supports a native understorey and meets the Commonwealth definition of critically endangered Yellow Box – Red Gum woodland. Thirteen of the plant species recorded in this area are considered as ‘important species’ by the Commonwealth. Although woody weeds are currently common, much of this area could be gradually restored, with care taken, so that its current excellent structural woodland bird habitat is retained. The Federal Golf Club is currently proposing an inappropriate residential development over this area.
Recommendations

  1. A review of undeveloped gazetted roads should occur across Canberra Nature Park. As part of this review the two undeveloped gazetted roads that exist on Red Hill (one that joins the summit road to Strickland Crescent and one that connects the northern part of Hughes to the summit road) should be de-gazetted and subsumed into Canberra Nature Park.




  1. Woodland with high conservation value that is contiguous with the Red Hill remnant should be added to the Red Hill Nature Park including Open Space in north-west Hughes, public land between Rusden Street and Hindmarsh Avenue and about 17ha of wooded land that occupies the north, north-western and eastern portions of the Federal Golf Course concessional lease.

Terms of Reference 3

Review existing land management programs and practices for Canberra Nature Park and areas that adjoin them. This is to include, but will not be limited to, agistment, leasing, culling arrangements, Land Management Agreements or plans of management which may apply
Over the last 21 years the major focus of both the Red Hill Regenerators and the ACT Government has been weed control. Generally the Parkcare group has been well supported by PCL and there has been a co-ordination of effort. Parkcare groups have done the majority of cutting and dabbing of woody weeds and chipping of thistles, vebascum and other herbaceous weeds. PCL or government contractors have been responsible for spraying the larger infestations of herbaceous weeds, spraying some woody weeds and collecting weed material removed by the Parkcare group. As indicated earlier the combined result in terms of vegetation condition has been spectacular.
Nevertheless, there should be improved coordination between Canberra Nature Park management and volunteers on specific weed management - currently there is very little real coordination and much could be gained by professional spraying being coordinated with the Group’s efforts via an agreed annual work plan.  For example, the Group could map weed infestations, Canberra Nature Park could arrange for spraying of larger patches while volunteers mop up and tackle outliers.
Weed (and to a lesser extent rabbit) control programs, involving both Parkcare and PCL, have been maintained and assessed over the long term.
Both parties have also undertaken minor gully erosion control works (gullies are now stabilised) and walking track stabilisation and rationalisation works. Cattle grazed Red Hill until 1995. The removal of the cattle enabled the erosion and track stabilisation work to occur and seems at least partially related to the replacement by native grasses (mainly danthonia, stipa and microlaena) of areas previously dominated by thistles, exotic annual grasses (wild oats and bromus) and Paterson’s Curse. A joint project is about to establish a sign-posted walk over part of the Hill.
Recommendation


  1. Parkcare should continue to be supported as a cost effective way of achieving high conservation outcomes and community education.

Throughout this time Red Hill Regenerators (and it would appear government staff) have rarely consulted the Canberra Nature Park Plan of Management, with it being too generalised a document for it to be of practical use. There is also the issue that on Red Hill the plan has no statutory basis as the Planning and Development Act 2007 does not apply to designated land. Thus the plan is essentially both impracticable and unenforceable. There have been discussions regarding establishing an operational plan to guide a program of activities. However, because of the immediate focus on weeds, particularly woody weeds, activities have usually been agreed verbally between PCL and the Group and usually no more than a year ahead at a time.


The Australian Natural Heritage Charter details the ten management steps that are required to make sound decisions for managing and restoring natural heritage places. Steps 1- 4 are about gathering appropriate information. In light of this information Step 5 develops a conservation policy, while Steps 6 - 10 are about developing, implementing and constantly reviewing a plan. The Steps are shown below. A major failing of the Canberra Nature Park Plan of Management is that it only addresses steps 6 - 9.
Steps for a developing a conservation plan
Step 1: Obtain and study evidence about the place

Step 2: Identify/contact people or groups with an interest in the place

Step 3: Determine the natural significance of the place

Step 4: Assess the physical condition and management issues

Step 5: Develop a conservation policy

Step 6: Determine the management strategies and conservation processes which will be used

Step 7: Decide on responsibilities for decisions, approvals and actions

Step 8: Prepare the conservation plan

Step 9: Implement the conservation plan

Step10: Monitor results and review the plan


The inadequacy of the Plan and how that has led to poor management is best exemplified by how the Plan fails to identify significant features and how government management has subsequently occurred blind to these features and to their detriment. For example, the Management Plan identifies that Red Hill is important because of two geological sites and that it is the habitat of endangered Button Wrinkelwort. As detailed in Appendix 1, this ignores that the Red Hill woodland remnant as a whole is of national importance, with a multitude of values. Red Hill contains one of the largest remaining remnants of it’s the Yellow Box – Red Gum woodland type in Australia. It supports one of the highest diversities of woodland plants recorded in South-Eastern Australia, and it is significant habitat for 10 threatened and 20 regionally uncommon plant, bird, lizard and grasshopper species. It is a prominent wooded back-drop to the Parliamentary Triangle and contains historic
red-flowering plantings, which Walter Burley Griffith directed to be planted to enhance Red Hill's Landscape value. Exposures of metamorphic hornfels and volcanic dacite are regionally significant examples of their type and an important educational feature.

Perhaps it is the lack of appreciation of Red Hill’s high value, and that the Planning and Development Act 2007 (or its predecessor) does not apply, which explains why over 30 infrastructure development or protection projects have occurred on Red Hill over the last 20 years and why they have never been subject to impact assessments other than a ‘tick a box’ one page form, a description of works and at best an on ground inspection by PCL staff (who may not be aware of the range of values that could be impacted and who may not have had the skill or knowledge to identify significant features).


Infrastructure developments located on Red Hill in the last 20 years include at least three fibre optic cables, two telecommunication towers, culvert construction near Mugga Way, a gas pipeline, a water pipeline, a water pumping station, clearing and fencing around existing water tanks, three separate installations of water infrastructure on existing pipelines or water tanks, replacement of powerline poles and regular clearing under powerlines (some times as much as a 50m swathe). Major park management impacts that have had adverse impacts include widening, grading and creating fire trails, fire fuel reduction and removal of trees from the 1:100 year flood protection cut-off drain that rings part of the reserve. In total these activities have cleared tens of hectares of endangered woodland and removed hundreds of trees and thousands of shrubs. They have directly destroyed threatened and protected species and habitat of other threaten species. The cumulative impact has seen significant degradation of around 20% of the Red Hill Nature Park.
The Red Hill Regenerators has repeatedly requested copies of the impact assessments undertaken for the works, but has only ever been supplied a one page ‘tick a box’ assessment. As far as is known the National Capital Authority has only ever assessed one of the activities, a telecommunication tower, and it was at NCA insistence that the proponent move the tower from the preferred weed infested location outside the reserve to a location inside the reserve on high quality woodland supporting regionally significant plant species.
The lack of assessment and knowledge of potential impact has resulted in many inappropriate and unnecessary impacts. For example widening of a fire trail destroyed about 10 plants of the endangered Button Wrinkelwort. If widening had just occurred on one side of the existing track the plants could have been avoided without impacting on the width of the track. Similarly recent inspection/repair of the gas pipeline involved digging pits with the spoil being placed on relatively undisturbed understorey of endangered woodland, when it could have been stored on part of an adjacent track, or at least could have been placed on geothermal material for a minimum period of time. Other examples include vehicles being parked on top of threatened plants, bulldozers and heavy machinery being needlessly driven tens of metres into the bush, with blades down (it appears just so the machinery was parked out of sight), slashing of plants leading to their near extinction from the woodland remnant, and concrete waste being hosed down onto high quality understorey.
Linked to the lack of works assessments is that there appears to be little supervision of works undertaken within Red Hill Nature Park and no prosecution when works are undertaken in an illegal manner. For almost a decade Red Hill Regenerators have being urging the Government to ensure that ACTEWAGL conduct its on-park activities in an exemplary manner. A promised MOU has never eventuated, while illegal activities continue. In 2008 Parkcare groups met with ACTEWAGL and government representatives to try and improve the situation. Attachment B includes a list of shoddy and apparently illegal activities of concern to Parkcare groups and provided to ACTEWAGL in 2008. ACTEWAGL did respond in a positive manner for a while, but lately seems to be reverting to poor practice.
Attachment C documents a list of poor practice concerning fire management sent in a letter to the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services (TaMS) in 2008.
ACTEWAGL is not the only organisation or individual not being prosecuted for undertaking apparently illegal activities within Red Hill Nature Park. As far as the Group is aware, in twenty-one years there have been no prosecutions or infringement notices issued regarding illegal activities on Red Hill. This is despite dogs being walked off- leash on a daily occurrence, bike riders utilising unapproved tracks on a weekly basis, horse-riding and wood collecting occurring several times a year, rubbish dumping and littering being regular occurrences, and motor bike, car and heavy machinery incursions occurring infrequently. There was (around the year 2000) a fairly successful programme of encouraging adjoining neighbours to stop incursions into the reserve, but other than this there have been little attempt to dissuade illegal activity. The ongoing flaunting of regulations continues to be detrimental to the Park’s conservation values and management.
A factor that compounds the lack of law enforcement, the lack of impact assessment and lack of detailing the values of Red Hill and their specific location, is that there has been a fairly constant and rapid churn of rangers responsible for the Nature Park. This has left little time to establish localised knowledge and expertise or working relationships with volunteer groups. Around 30 different rangers have had responsibility For Red Hill Nature Park over the last 20 years. Part of the churn seems to be related to PCL organisation restructures, which have seen staff shuffled around and former agricultural, forest or parks and gardens staff taking on conservation ranger roles for which they are not well qualified. In addition, the relative low remuneration of ACT conservation rangers (around $20,000pa less than equivalent positions in NSW), has seen some of the most competent staff move outside of the ACT.

Terms of Reference 4



Identify any urgent actions and longer-term changes that are needed to improve the management of these areas. This is to include identifying successful management measures that should be retained
Matters regarding this Term of Reference have been detailed and discussed above, and lead to the following recommendations:
Recommendations

  1. A specific management plan should be developed for Red Hill nature reserve (the Red Hill Regenerators would be happy to assist in its production) it’s structure should reflect the steps of the Natural Heritage Charter and it should contain a thorough documentation of Red Hill’s values. There would seem use in this also being done for other major components of Canberra Nature Park.




  1. Developments on park by agencies, other than PCL, should only be located on the park when it has been demonstrated that there are no other prudent and feasible alternatives. It should only be a last resort option.




  1. Any such development should be subject to mandatory and adequate impact assessment, similar in detail to the Review of Environmental Factors, required for developments within the NSW reserve system. These should allow for public scrutiny. A condition of approval should be appropriate supervision, with any input from PCL paid for by the proponent. It is relevant to this and the preceding recommendation that most of Canberra Nature Park is not subject to the ACT’s Planning and Development Act 2007.




  1. Activities on park undertaken by PCL that could have a significant environmental impact such as creating new fire trails, widening fire tails or extensive fuel reduction activities, should also be subject to impact assessment similar to the Review of Environmental Factors, required for developments within the NSW reserve system.




  1. Guidelines should be developed to assist in determining when it is appropriate for such impact assessment to be produced.




  1. The MOU with ACTEWAGL should be finalised and enforced.




  1. Active law enforcement should commence, which is likely to require improving the capability within PCL. If the legislation is not going to be enforced there is little value in having it.




  1. Factors that will improve the stability of rangers being responsible for a particular area should be investigated, and this should include pay parity with NSW.




  1. To date the co-ordinator of Parkcare has been a person with facilitation and communication skills. There would also seem merit in this person having a supervisory role of on-ground activities and expertise in bush regeneration to advise Parkcare Groups on the most appropriate way of addressing a particular regeneration issue, assisting in co-ordination between volunteer and the professional activities and ensuring that inappropriate activities are minimised.

Terms of Reference 5



Identify knowledge gaps, research or survey needs, and compliance and monitoring requirements that may be necessary to support improved management programs and practices while taking into account the context of the areas and effects of climate variability

The Red Hill Regenerators plan to undertake a count of kangaroos on Red Hill, following a methodology suggested by Ken Fletcher in PCL. The Group does not consider kangaroo grazing to be a current issue but wish to establish a baseline from which to document fluctuations in kangaroo population. In 2010 the Group, with assistance from PCL, plan to identify and map rabbit warrens to enable more effective control of this pest species.


Long term monitoring counts of significant plant species have been established by the Group, and will be continued to ensure that activities which the Group undertakes are favourable to these plants.
Long term vegetation monitoring could be improved. Long term plots have been established by the Group. However, the experimental design of these monitoring plots has resulted in them being of value in only demonstrating major changes such as the change from weed to native understory dominance.
The woodland bird monitoring should continue, as reduction in numbers is of particular concern and restoring woodland bird habitat should be a major focus of future management.
There is at least one important invertebrate on Red Hill, the Perunga grasshopper. Given that Red Hill is one of the largest and most plant diverse woodland remnants of its type remaining, it is likely that other significant invertebrates could exist on the Hill. There should therefore be an invertebrate survey undertaken.
It is not known whether there has ever been an archeological survey undertaken of Red Hill, despite the large amount of development activity and the known abundance of sites at nearby East O’Malley. A survey should therefore be undertaken in conjunction with the local Aboriginal community, and this is probably true of much of Canberra Nature Park.
Terms of Reference 6

Identify ways for ensuring effective communication and involvement of stakeholders, including Aboriginal people, whose actions potentially, indirectly or directly, affect these areas

Continuation of Parkcare is an effective means of communication and stakeholder involvement. The Aboriginal community should be asked how they would wish to be engaged.
Terms of Reference 7

Identify potential biodiversity offset management actions or sites

Loss of woodland bird habitat is a key issue that could be offset by plantings in suitable parts of Red Hill. It may be appropriate to establish a team of professional bush regenerators within PCL to undertake such works. Such teams have worked well in undertaking offset works for developments undertaken in local councils across Australia. A dedicated team, with assistance from volunteers such as this Group, would build up expertise and would encourage synergies across the ACT.


Terms of Reference 8

Identify the evidence justifying the need for managing grazing pressure in the context of sound reserve management practices

Up until 1995 cattle grazed on Red Hill. Since their removal the quality and diversity of the understorey on Red Hill has increased dramatically. Summer growing and ‘green” native grasses have in many areas largely replaced previous expanses of summer dry exotic annuals such as wild oats, brome grass and thistles. Cattle were briefly introduced to a part of Red hill following the 2003 fires. Cattle targeted some of the rarer species in this area (eg Linum trigrum) and may have hindered their recovery.


We do not consider that the current level of kangaroo grazing is having a significant detrimental effect, though some of the rare pea plants such as Lotus australis and Desmodium brachypodium seem to be preferentially and heavily grazed, by what it is assumed to be kangaroos.

ATTACHMENT A: Red Hill - Statement of Significance
Summary: Red Hill contains one of the largest remaining remnants of its woodland type, anywhere in Australia. It supports one of the highest diversities of woodland plants recorded in South-eastern Australia, and it is significant habitat for 10 threatened and 20 regionally uncommon plant, bird, lizard or grasshopper species. It is a prominent wooded back-drop to the Parliamentary Triangle and contains historic red-flowering plantings, which Walter Burley Griffith directed to be planted to enhance Red Hill's Landscape value. Exposures of metamorphic hornfels are a regionally significant example of their type and an important educational feature.
Full Statement of Significance

Red Hill supports one of the largest remaining remnants of endangered Yellow Box - Red Gum grassy woodland in Australia. This woodland type once covered over 25,000 square kilometres, in a belt stretching from Melbourne to South Queensland. Over 90% of this vegetation belt is now cleared.1


The woodland on Red Hill is a component of the White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands, which was listed nationally as critically endangered on 17 May 2006.2 Yellow Box - Red Gum Grassy Woodland has been listed as endangered in the ACT since 19 May 1997.3
YellowBox - Red Gum woodland has been highly fragmented and generally exists as isolated patches smaller than 5ha in area.4 “In terms of size, connectivity, diversity and condition, the ACT remnants are exceptional, especially the presence of larger patches (over 100 ha) in good condition.”5 There are no Yellow Box - Red Gum remnants greater than 100ha in Victoria or the Murray catchment of NSW6, and there are no remnants of 200ha or greater in southern NSW7. Remnants greater than 200ha are extremely rare. There are only four remnants left in Australia of 1000ha or more and all are in the ACT8.
Red Hill supports a Yellow Box - Red Gum woodland of about 250ha. It is a vital component of the second largest Yellow Box - Red Gum woodland remnant in Australia that covers about 1,200ha from Red Hill to East O'Malley - Symonston-Mugga Lane and Callum Brae. Although Hindmarsh Drive will be a barrier to some species, most woodland plant and animal species will be able to disperse across it.
Because of its relatively large size and that much of the understorey is in good condition, Red Hill supports one of the highest native plant diversities recorded in a YellowBox - Red Gum woodland remnant anywhere in Australia. About 175 native woodland species have been recorded on Red Hill. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has a data-base of plant species records from about 800 grassy ecosystem (grassland + grassy woodland) sites across south-eastern NSW and the ACT. Fewer than 5% of these sites have a recorded diversity of over 100 species9. It is relevant that remnants of particularly high quality have been targeted in the surveys.
Given the size and diversity of its endangered woodland it is not surprising that Red Hill supports important populations of many rare or threatened species:


  • Over 7,500 plants of the nationally endangered daisy the Button Wrinkelwort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides) occur on Red Hill in 5 main locations. This is one of the larger populations of this daisy remaining10. Scattered over the Hill are about 200 plants of Swanson's Silky Pea (Swainsonia sericea) which is listed as vulnerable in NSW11 and is even rarer in the ACT12.




  • Regionally rare plants are taken to be those species which occur in less than 5% of the approximately 800 grassy ecosystem sites recorded in the ACT and south-eastern NSW. Red Hill contains major populations (1000s of plants) of the regionally rare Yellow Burr Daisy (Calotis lappulacea), Nawarra Burr (a native tomato Solanum cinereum) and Silky Bluegrass (Dichanthium sericeum). The Hill also supports smaller populations of the following regionally rare plant species: Native Tickbush (a pea sub-shrub Indigofera adesmiifolia), Vanilla Lily (Arthropodium milleflorum), Barbed Wire Grass (Cymbonpogon refractus), Large Tick-Trefoil (Desmodium brachypodum a large clover like plant with small pink pea flowers arranged on a long spike), Native Flax (the herb Linum marginale), Austral Trefoil (sub-shrub with sweet-pea like flowers Lotus australis), Native Mint (Mentha diemenica), Lesser Guinea Flower (Hibbertia calycina), a Greenhood Orchid (Pterosylis spp.), Tiger Orchid (Diuris sulphurea), Native Sorghum (Sorghum leiocladum), Rats Tail Grass (Sporobolus creber), Small-leafed Clematis (a vine Clematis microphylla) and a matrush (Lomandra bracteata).




  • Red Hill is also significant habitat for rare and declining woodland bird species. Since 1997 regular surveying has indicated that Red Hill maintains a steady population of 12-14 pairs of the Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata), with annual breeding events. This bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW13. Monitoring of woodland sites within the ACT (including Red Hill), by the Canberra Ornithologist Group indicates an increase of this bird in woodland remnants. However, in the ACT it is still regarded as an uncommon though widespread species.




  • The ACT is a stronghold for the Gang Gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) which breeds on Red Hill. Outside of the ACT the Gang Gang has suffered a 44% reduction in reporting rate over the last 20 years and is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW.14 The Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), a finch with a red beak and white spotted side, occasionally nests on Red Hill, while the Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), a small black cockatoo with red tail feathers, is an occasional visitor that feeds exclusively on the Hill's Casuarina cones. Both of these birds are listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW15 and are even rarer in the ACT. The Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) and White-winged Triller (Lalage sueurii) are both listed as vulnerable in the ACT, and were previously observed regularly on Red Hill. Unfortunately neither of these birds have been recorded on Red Hill since 2003, when prime breeding habitat for these species was destroyed by housing development at nearby East O’Malley. The Scarlet Robin (Petroica multicolor) has been nominated by the Canberra Ornithologist Group to the ACT Government for listing as vulnerable to extinction in the ACT. This Robin was once common on Red Hill, but is now only sighted occasionally.




  • Twenty years ago the Double-barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii) was a very common sighting on Red Hill, today it is a rare sighting, but it has recently been observed nesting on Red Hill. The Double-barred Finch is regarded as a species of concern in the ACT as it is essentially a woodland bird that was only recorded in low numbers during the woodland bird monitoring conducted by the Canberra Ornithologist Group from September 1998 across 13 woodland areas at 128 monitoring sites. Callum Brae, which together with Red Hill forms a larger woodland complex, contains relatively large populations of both Double-barred Finch and the Diamond Firetail. Both these birds are relatively mobile and as part of a larger connected habitat Red Hill could have importance in the sustainability and recovery of these in the ACT.




  • Red Hill is also important habitat for several woodland bird species that have suffered rapid regional population declines over recent decades. These birds include the Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris), Painted Button Quail (Turnix varia) and the Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus), as well as the Speckled Warbler and Diamond Firetail noted above16.

Most of Red Hill is composed of metamorphic rock, but Silurian volcanic rocks outcrop behind Garran in the south-west of the Nature Park. The nationally vulnerable and aptly named Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) has twice been recorded under Red Hill's volcanic rocks. This legless lizard feeds on ants and moves through their burrows. It is rarely seen and even in known habitat many hundreds of rocks have to be overturned to locate it. Red Hill is likely to support a viable and significant population of this lizard17.


The invertebrate fauna of Red Hill is yet to be surveyed, but as a large woodland patch it is likely that Red Hill would support populations of invertebrate species of conservation significance. On 22 October 2006 three females of the threatened flightless Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga ochracea), were observed near Davidson’s Trig. This grasshopper has an X across its back, blue “shoe” colouring at the extremity of its feet and reduced wings. The Grasshopper was previously observed in the early 1990s, behind Calthorpe's House18.
The red soil of Red Hill is caused by weathering of rocks called hornfels. Hornfels are created when sedimentary rock is metamorphosed, without melting, by contact with very hot, molten rock. Red Hill contains some of the best exposures of hornfels in the region and is an important geological education site19. The best examples of hornfels on Red Hill are the hard rock outcrops between the summit restaurant and the golf course access road, in the old quarry 50m south-west of the restaurant and rock outcrops above Strickland Street, Deakin.
Hornfels is a hard rock and very weathering resistant. This explains why Red Hill remains as a fairly flat and long ridge rising above surrounding plains. In designing Canberra, Walter Burley Griffith saw Red Hill as an important landscape element, with the prominent ridge-line forming the backdrop to the Parliamentary Triangle.
Eighty year old plantings on Red Hill are another important association with Walter Burley Griffith and also with the ACT's first Government Nursery Chief, Charles Weston. By the turn of the nineteenth century much of the higher vegetation on Red Hill had been cleared. Burley Griffith called for replanting and the cessation of grazing. Grazing continued until 1997, but plantings occurred from 1917 until the early 1920s. Burley Griffith's replanting schemes for Canberra's hills had different coloured shrubs on each of the hills, Mt Ainslie was to be pink, Mt Pleasant white and of course Red Hill was to be planted with red flowering plants. About 5,000 plants of Callistemon citrinus (Crimson Bottlebrush) and Grevillea rosmarinifolia (Rosemary Grevillea) were planted under Weston's direction. The Bottlebrush were planted in rows just to the east of the kiosk. The original plantings can still be observed as bottlebrush is able to resprout following fire. The Grevillea was planted adjacent to the summit road, just above the Golf Course road junction. Grevilleas are killed by fire, but the plantings have set seed so that these red flowering plants also remain on Red Hill.
Footnotes

  1. listing advice for White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands - 2006, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts p9

  2. (http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/communities/box-gum.html)

  3. (http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/communities/box-gum.html)

  4. Gibbons P. and Boak M. (2000) The Importance of Paddock Trees for Conservation in Agricultural Landscapes. A discussion paper for consideration by the Riverina Highlands Regional Vegetation Committee. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.)

  5. listing advice for White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands - 2006, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, p.5

  6. Davidon I. Woodland Management Notes for the Murray Catchment. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, 2005 and the nomination document of Yellow Box Red Gum woodland for listing as an endangered ecological community.

  7. Rainer Rehwinkel, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Grassy Ecosystems research Officer, Personal Communication, 2006.

  8. ACT Government 2004 Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy. Action Plan No. 27. (Environment ACT, Canberra), Chapter 5.

  9. Rainer Rehwinkel, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Grassy Ecosystems research Officer, Personal Communication, 2006.

  10. Population number from 2005 count of this endangered daisy on Red Hill. Counts of other populations are available in the Draft Recovery Plan for the species currently being prepared by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.

  11. www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au/index.aspx

  12. Rainer Rehwinkel, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Grassy Ecosystems research Officer, Personal Communication, 2006.

  13. www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au/index.aspx

  14. ibid

  15. ibid

  16. Reid J.R.W. (1999) Threatened and Declining Birds of the NSW Sheep-Wheat Belt. A report to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

  17. Osborne W. and Jones S. (1995) Recovery Plan for the Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella). ACT Parks and Conservation Service Technical Report 10. Note: This lizard was also sighted during an activity of Red Hill Regenerators in 1999.

  18. The Grasshoppers were observed during weeding activities of Red Hill Regenerators, photographs were taken during the 2006 observation and the identity of the grasshopper confirmed by Environment ACT.

  19. Owen M. 1987. Geological monuments in the Australian Capital Territory. Australian Heritage Commission.

Attachment B

Examples of observed deleterious work practices by ACTEWAGL in Red Hill Nature Park

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