Ginninderra Project: 2016 Year in review

2016 has been a milestone year for the Ginninderra venture.

In a year that marked CSIRO’s 100th birthday, momentum increased on a project that we believe will leave a legacy for the next 100 years and beyond.

Some of the highlights and milestones across the calendar year are included below.

Amendment 86

Our land was reclassified to ‘Urban’ under the National Capital Plan Amendment 86, giving us the opportunity to move forward with planning.

With the re-reclassification, further significant work was undertaken on areas that could be developed on the site and those that would need to be conserved as part of our commitment to conservation.

The decision to reclassify the land also allowed us to approach the market for Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified development partners.

In 2017, we expect to shortlist applicants and ask them to respond with a Request for Proposal, which will include a draft development control plan. Our joint-development partner will also assist us in ongoing discussions with the community and government (both at a territory and federal level).

Affordable Housing Think Tank

Ideas generated at our Affordable Housing Think Tank in April have provided a springboard for further developing our approach to tackling an entrenched national issue. Thirty experts from the housing sector, ACT and federal government agencies, community organisations and CSIRO research teams took part and focused on identifying solutions to make housing affordable for people receiving the lowest 40% of incomes.

The opportunity for different financing and governance models along with design factors and provision of a diversity of housing stock, were among the many potential solutions covered. Participants also put forward a raft of ideas including measures to reduce household living costs in order to achieve life cycle affordability.

Community engagement

We continued our commitment to ongoing community engagement in 2016 and met with many groups and individuals during the year.

In June, we invited experts from several ACT environmental groups for an on-site visit to discuss the heritage and environmental protection issues and opportunities at Ginninderra. We then held a follow-up workshop to seek their initial ideas and advice on managing key ecological values.

We held neighbourhood drop-in sessions at Evatt and at Gold Creek in August, where approximately 200 members of the community attended and provided ideas and feedback.

We also attended community council meetings in Belconnen and Gungahlin, and have met with the Village of Hall & District Progress Association.

Our conversations with the community around our aspirations for the site and the ongoing comments and feedback throughout the year have been invaluable in generating ideas, challenges and potential solutions.

Our team has been working hard to bring all the ideas together and to work on the objectives, benchmarks and measures that will underpin a unique and successful sustainable urban development at Ginninderra.

Project reports

We are committed to carrying out all of necessary due-diligence reports and releasing them publicly when finalised. One of the major ones released in November 2016 was the Ecological Values Report.

The report featured research that has been undertaken over a series of years on our site.

We also released reports that summarised the neighbourhood drop-in sessions held in 2015 and 2016.

We’d like to thank everybody who has taken the opportunity to give us feedback, to engage, and to input to the vision at CSIRO Ginninderra.

The involvement from the community has been fantastic and we look forward to continue working together in 2017.

Forging new partnerships as we rediscover Ginninderra’s past

The rich history of Hall and district, and the areas once known as Ginninderra and Palmerville, have been a focus of ongoing conversation and discovery for the Hall community and its Progress Association. Now it’s a focus for CSIRO too.

As CSIRO’s Ginninderra property includes parts of the old Palmerville estate and borders on the former Ginninderra village, centred around Gold Creek, we have been keen to learn more about this history and understand how a new development might be able to connect with, and complement, this heritage.

Similarly, the Hall and District Progress Association has been keen to learn about, and have input, into the proposed Ginninderra development, and this has led to a series of positive meetings. CSIRO representatives attended the November meeting of the Progress Association, and the Association has used its own website to encourage Hall locals to keep in touch with the Ginninderra Project.

“We have appreciated the willingness of CSIRO to talk openly with us about the project and we will invite them back to provide regular updates,” said Gavin Mansfield, President of the Association.

Traffic, sustainability, plans for the area north of Kuringa Drive and water quality issues around Halls Creek have been some of the key topics covered in conversations.

Prior to European settlement, the area was known as Ginin-ginin-derry and was home to Aborigines for many thousands of years. While the first European settlement in the area –  the Palmerville settlement – is located on or close to the boundary of the CSIRO property, only a precious few physical features remain.

From the 1850s, the Ginninderra village developed along the Queanbeyan-Yass road and included in its heyday a church, two schools, store, police station, post and telegraph office, School of Arts, boot maker, nursery, Farmers Union hall, annual show, sports teams and a hotel.

The farmlands surrounding the village developed an outstanding agricultural reputation growing grain for the goldfields of Araluen and Majors Creek and then wool for the Sydney markets. In the early 20th century, Ginninderra produced high quality merino wool and Henry Curran of Deasland (the homestead is just across the Barton Highway from where the front gates of CSIRO Ginninderra are today) achieved a world record price at auction.

But when Ginninderra and other NSW lands were resumed in 1915 to create the Federal Capital Territory, the influence of Ginninderra was already fading.

Through the ACT Heritage Grants Program, the story of Ginninderra can now be explored online on the Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre website.

‘Rediscovering Ginninderra’ was the title of an exhibition staged by the Centre for the 2016 Canberra and District Heritage Festival in April 2016.

The material from this exhibition has been made accessible via an online searchable database and the interactive format allows users to explore prominent people and places through photos, documents and references to publications.

Honorary curator Phil Robson said, “This exhibition is informed by the prodigious research and writing of leading Canberra historian Lyall Gillespie, whose collection we now hold. There will be further displays on Ginninderra to come. Meanwhile we hope that recent arrivals to the ACT, descendants of settler families, and everyone else curious about what was here before Canberra will take the opportunity to rediscover Ginninderra.”

The online database is a compilation of Lyall Gillespie’s collections of Canberra’s historical materials and provides links to a wide range of other resources relating to the history and heritage of Ginninderra.

All photos supplied by, and published with the permission of, the Hall School Museum – Gillespie Collection.


Ginninderra Store (close to the boundary of CSIRO Ginninderra today) in the 1890s.


School Mag 1943

Ginninderra Store in the 1890s.


School Mag 1943

Mail coach outside the Post Office.


School Mag 1943

The second Ginninderra store, north of the Queanbeyan-Yass road.


Project update – December

This month we continued to work with the community, while applying CSIRO science to restore and improve key environmental values.

Strong autumn and winter rains and the enthusiasm of many volunteers from the Ginninderra Catchment Group, universities and environmental groups, enabled the planting of one thousand plants on the site as part of the Ginninderra grassland project.

Citizen science is an important focus for us and it was wonderful to have local people and groups participate.

This was a follow-up to the autumn burn grassland restoration trials set up across 13 sites (five of them on the CSIRO Ginninderra property) in the Ginninderra catchment in April 2016.

As progress continues in our search for a development partner, we have refined our vision and are in the process of setting goals, objectives, benchmarks and measures that will underpin Ginninderra and make it unique.

Our next update to the community will be at the Gungahlin Community Council Annual General Meeting tonight (Wednesday 14 December).

We remain committed to engaging with community groups and individual citizens as we move deeper into planning processes in 2017 and beyond.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with our news on a more regular basis, please like our Facebook page.

We would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season and look forward to communicating and working with you again next year.

Grass-roots effort plants first steps to recovery

Described as ‘sweet with a flavour of coconut’ the Yam Daisy was a nutritious staple of the Aboriginal people of NSW, ACT and Victoria until it was almost grazed into history.

Early European settlers to south eastern Australia reported seeing fields of striking yellow-flowered plants being harvested by Aboriginal women and children who used digging sticks to recover the fat and nutritious roots.

The Yam Daisy (Microseris lanceolata), also known as Murnong, was the yellow-flowered herb targeted and its starchy tuberous roots made it a valuable food source, typically roasted or pit baked by our first Australians.

Unfortunately introduced sheep learned how to ‘root-up’ the plant with their noses and cattle also developed a liking for the above-ground part of the plant. This grazing, combined with other activities such as the addition of fertilisers, reduced Yam Daisy to a precarious presence in the landscape.

Thankfully the Yam Daisy survived and now it is one of the first five natives being planted back into the Ginninderra grassland restoration project being led by the Ginninderra Catchment Group, CSIRO Land and Water Fellow, Ken Hodgkinson, and a growing army of volunteers.

“Yam Daisy is one of a number of species that have typically disappeared from our endangered grasslands due to grazing and development, and it’s one of the species in our restoration trial,” said Ken. “There are also two lily species whose tubers were eaten by Aboriginal people.”

The other four species selected for the project are ones that have similarly diminished in numbers under agriculture and are:

“We’ve taken the opportunity of good autumn and winter rains and the enthusiasm of many volunteers from the Ginninderra Catchment Group, universities and environmental groups, to plant several thousand plants into the Ginninderra grassland project,” said Ken.

This is a follow-up to the autumn burn grassland restoration trials set up across 13 sites (five of them on the CSIRO Ginninderra property) in the Ginninderra catchment in April 2016.

“We are bringing together modern science with some of the same firestick farming methods of our first Australians,” said Ken.

To maintain preferred herbaceous food plants like the Yam Daisy, the Aboriginal people are understood to have carried out patch burning in woodlands and grasslands in late summer, with burning at three to five year intervals.

“Thanks to the vision of the catchment group and funding and support from the ACT Government, through the ACT Environment Grants, we have been able to source and buy sufficient numbers of each of the five species from Greening Australia.”

The team planted 10 repetitions of those five species in each of the four treatment plots across the 13 sites, using a ‘Latin Square’ layout, according to Ken.

“All up that is 2600 plants and 1000 of those are planted on the sites at CSIRO Ginninderra.”

The Latin Square is a randomised plot layout that will enable Ken and the team to account for the variation in plant responses and survival caused by differences in slope, aspect and other variables.

“We also have a variation of sites in terms of the quality of remnant grasslands and position in the landscape – for example some at the top of hills, on slopes and in wetter areas at the bottom of the slopes.”

“Some of those sites will dry out very quickly while others can remain wet for long periods and this could be a key factor affecting survival over a hot and dry summer.”

“In line with CSIRO’s aspirations for the Ginninderra property, our goal is to restore and improve key environmental assets. This project will help us to understand which of the management approaches is best for achieving the survival and subsequent spread of the native plant species.”

The four management treatments under trial are:

“We have started assessing the number of species in each plot and their relative abundance and will do this annually to determine trends,” said Ken.

It is very early days but there are some signs already that there are differences.

“One of the first forbs to flower was Early Nancy and we have observed that it is more abundant in the autumn burn plots than in the mown or control plots,” said Ken.

Measurements to begin soon include soil water content, comparative survival of populations of certain native plant species at different altitudes, insects of the grasslands and soil organisms, especially mycorrhiza. The experimental sites are available for collaboration with other scientists.

“Volunteers have come from everywhere to get this project off the ground,” said Ken.

In particular, he expressed his thanks to:

“We have local and neighbouring farmers also taking a keen interest by hosting trials on their property and offering to help with the plantings. It really is citizen science in action.”


Yingxin Wang and Ken Hodgkinson studying the recently planted Billy Buttons.



Yingxin Wang and Ken Hodgkinson studying the recently planted Billy Buttons.



Yam Daisy planted at Ginninderra.



Billy Buttons.



Yingxin Wang and Ken Hodgkinson planting Yam Daisy at Ginninderra.