Project update – February 2023
We’re starting the new year with a number of initiatives to help us better understand and manage the Ginninderra site. We’ll be undertaking a conservation survey on Ginninderra West to build on and update our knowledge about the site’s ecological values, as well as carrying out minor works to improve the day-to-day management of the site.
We recently engaged an environmental consultancy firm to undertake ecological surveys and conservation assessments on Ginninderra West. These extensive surveys will further build on and update our knowledge about the flora and fauna species at Ginninderra and help inform our approach to managing the site and future conservation planning.
The surveys of Ginninderra West have already started and over the upcoming 12 months will include:
- Updating the vegetation mapping into Plant Community Types (PCT)
- Continuation of mapping and assessment of threatened ecological communities
- Targeted surveys for key invertebrate species of interest, birds, and plant species such as the Ginninderra Peppercress (Lepidium ginninderrense)
- Individual assessments of mature native remnant woodland trees in paddock areas to update their conservation status and investigate potential nesting hollows used by Superb Parrots (Polytelis swainsonii) and Gang-gang Cockatoos (Callocephalon fimbriatum)
Native vegetation has previously been mapped for the entire Ginninderra site and assessed against the criteria for threatened habitats. However, most studies relating to Ginninderra West are now greater than five years old. The new survey work will help update our knowledge about the ecological values of Ginninderra West.
We are also commencing work to upgrade the existing roads on the site to help address site access issues during wet weather. The upgrades will involve grading and weatherproofing the roads as well as upgrading the drainage. We will also be repairing gates and fencing to improve emergency services access to the site, including upgrading the entrance gate on Kuringa Drive.
The dry weather is a perfect opportunity to undertake these works. A view from the water tower on site shows how the summer heat is affecting the landscape.
We are currently working to engage a contractor to remove buildings from Ginninderra that are no longer required. This work will help prepare the site for proposed future development.
None of these works will occur in identified conservation areas, and consistent with our standard environmental management practices, specific measures will be in place to ensure trees and sensitive vegetation proximate to these works will be protected.
Project update – March 2021
What a different start we have had to 2021 than 2020, which was a year like no other in recent memory.
CSIRO Ginninderra, like many parts of our local region, has benefitted from a milder and wetter start, in stark contrast to last year when bushfires, smoke and hot temperatures were prevailing across large areas of the eastern states.
With the La Niña weather pattern influencing conditions, Ginninderra weather station recorded 169 mm of rain in January and February (42 mm above average) and maximum temperatures on site in the 20s or below for all of February and most of January. The maximum temperature recorded at Ginninderra across summer was 37.20C on 26 January.
Unlike past decades, there are no agricultural crops in the ground at Ginninderra to take advantage of these conditions, however the recently planted Blakely’s Red Gum provenance trials and community shrub plantings, in the box gum woodlands and dry forest areas, are reaping the benefits.
A legacy of benefits from agricultural research at Ginninderra continues for our farming sector with news like the recent Australian record NSW Canola crop, just one example.
After more than 60 years operation, 2021 will mark the final decommissioning of agricultural research at Ginninderra, as we take the next steps to prepare Ginninderra East for future sustainable urban development. As we have reported previously, CSIRO has moved the focus of its agricultural research to a state-of-the-art and digitally-enabled site – the Boorowa Agricultural Research Station – which was officially opened in November 2019.
While Ginninderra will farewell farming research, it will continue to host a range of exciting environmental and sustainability research which we will provide further updates about over coming months. Across the nation we continue to solve challenges through innovations such as recent advances in smart technology enabling Australians to live safely and independently at home for longer.
Moving forward in a COVID-safe and digitally-enabled way, our Ginninderra team is engaging with key experts and a number of Commonwealth and ACT agencies as we work through all of the environmental, heritage, infrastructure, land planning and site technical activities needed to realise the vision for a sustainable urban community.
Project update – September 2020
With wattles blooming and lambs relishing the green pastures – spring has arrived at Ginninderra.
After a horrendous hot, dry and bushfire smoke-filled summer, it’s encouraging to see the spring growth and green landscape that has emerged from good rainfall across autumn and winter. The signs of spring are all the more welcome after the extended impacts of COVID-19 across the country, and indeed the world.
We’re very happy to report the excellent growth and progress of the 5000 shrubs planted by community volunteers in the Box Gum Woodland and Dry Forest sites in 2017 and 2018. Some of these plots now feature shrubs towering over 3-4 metres and visible evidence of the return of native bird species.
Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19, the Canberra hailstorm and bushfires, our team has been making steady progress on conservation activities as well as the preliminary planning for future urban use at Ginninderra.
On the far north of the site, near Wallaroo Road, a trial has been established to help support the survival of Blakely’s Red Gum, an iconic species of the Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands. With this species suffering from dieback, CSIRO and the ACT Government are partnering in provenance trials to compare the survivability of Blakely’s Red Gum trees grown from seed collected from different parts of Australia. Ginninderra is among four sites in the trials and seed is being provided by CSIRO’s Australian Tree Seed Centre.
As part of the grassland restoration trials in partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group, research activities are also continuing at the five sites on the Ginninderra property.
Our Project Team continues to work through preliminary planning, environmental and technical studies that will help to inform the proposed future sustainable development at Ginninderra East.
As part of this, CSIRO has also been meeting via teleconference with the relevant Commonwealth and ACT agencies to work through matters of traffic, infrastructure, environment and heritage.
Stay tuned to this website for further news about further activities and developments.
Urban Living Labs enable greener, smarter, cleaner cities
New opportunities to demonstrate smarter, greener and cleaner cities are emerging through the ‘COVID reset’ and CSIRO’s first Urban Living Lab – a collaboration with developer, Celestino in Sydney Science Park west of the Sydney.
Temperatures in Western Sydney have intensified with recent hotter summers and Penrith City Council and other local government agencies engaging with CSIRO and Sydney Science Park to understand how urban greening can help mitigate this.
CSIRO Researcher Dr Simon Toze says, “We’ve measured a 5 to 8 degree difference between sensors under trees and those outside, in the sun. There’s also growing evidence that urban greening is good for our physical and mental health.
“But trees need water and nutrients. How we manage the need for water – for people, the environment, for growing trees, for everything else we need – is going to become critical.
“We can find much smarter ways of using water using AI (artificial intelligence). We could recover nutrients or other material from waste and put those back into trees and other infrastructure – a circular economy.
“Some of the waste can go to energy, not just combustion energy, but producing hydrogen.
“So you get this whole integrated approach – that’s where we’re hoping to start to take things. With COVID, we’re at that crossroads, where things like this can happen.”
Dr Toze hopes the COVID reset will include renewed interest in AI within the home, especially for managing appliance and energy use, not just for energy savings in the home, but to balance out peak loads in the grid.
“But people will need to see the social and the economic benefits first. That’s what we want the Urban Living Labs to demonstrate.”
Dr Toze also hopes to see fewer cars in post-COVID cities, from better design that brings home, work and services within walking or cycling distance for everyone – the ‘20- and 30-minute neighbourhoods’.
“We could start to change the structure and function of roads so they become greener and the road surface more porous. You’d have children able to play on the streets again.
“Another thing we’re looking at is the idea of community gardens. There are so many benefits, to do with health, exercise, food security, social capital, and so on. We hope to study it from an energy–water–circular economy perspective, involving citizen science.
“We’re fortunate with Sydney Science Park because it’s just starting to develop. We’re in the process of looking at what can we put into buildings – what technologies are already commercially available and others that are still not commercially available but are close to market.
“So we can plan, from the ground up, smart water systems, smart [hydrogen-based] energy systems, virtual power plants and so on. It will all be designed as part of the infrastructure.
“COVID is showing us a different way to move forward.
“One of the interesting things we’ve seen during the shutdown is how quickly the air quality has improved in a lot of cities around the world. There are cities in India where locals can see the Himalayas again after 40-50 years.
“To me this is proof that change is possible.”
* This week’s blog is an extract of the CSIRO Ecos article by Mary-Lou Considine.
|In the face of climate change and heat waves, the Darwin Living Lab looks to create a thriving, cooler tropical capital. (Image: Louise Denton)|
|Smart hydrogen based energy systems, smart water systems and virtual power plants will all be part of the infrastructure in future cities.|
Project update – April 2020
So much in the world has changed since our last Ginninderra Project Update in late 2019. The word ‘unprecedented’ has appeared numerous times in 2020 as we have seen one crisis or natural disaster after another.
Following hot and dry conditions in spring and summer, the ACT region, like many parts of the country, experienced large-scale bushfires and hazardous air quality from bushfire smoke.
A destructive hailstorm swept through Canberra in late January and was followed by heavy rains and then COVID-19. As we have reported in recent articles on this site, CSIRO has been in the midst of research efforts to respond to and address such challenges.
CSIRO’s Ginninderra property has emerged from the summer in good condition and the vegetation and community shrub plantings are benefitting from more than 250mm of rain in the two months since early February.
With the opening of the Boorowa Agricultural Research Station in November 2019, most of our Agriculture and Food research has now moved from Ginninderra and work is continuing to prepare for future sustainable urban development alongside ongoing ecological conservation and restoration.
Towards these goals, our Project Team has been progressing preliminary urban and statutory planning, as well as environmental, geotechnical, infrastructure demand, traffic and heritage studies, and liaising with the relevant Commonwealth and ACT agencies. CSIRO is committed to carrying out the due diligence and technical studies ahead of the next steps to procure future development arrangements.
Ecological research and management is also continuing including a range of projects in the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands. The next round of biennial autumn burns in the grassland restoration trials are due to go ahead in May as long as the conditions are suitable and all approvals are in place. This project is a partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group and includes five trial sites at CSIRO Ginninderra.
We look forward to reporting further on these activities over the coming months.
Ginninderra shrubs Spring to life
A drizzly start to Spring, along with the significant rain this week, has provided welcome refreshment to the Ginninderra shrubs planted in partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group by more than 100 members of the local community, the Green Army and the Indigenous Green Army back in May 2017.
After careful monitoring by the CSIRO, we are delighted to report that 95% of the 3500 shrubs planted are thriving.
“This impressive survival rate is testament to the care our community volunteers took to follow planting instructions, and gives our shrubs the best possible start”, said CSIRO ecologist and planting day coordinator, Jacqui Stol.
To keep the vegetation safe and sound, all 13 of the planting sites have now been securely fenced to protect them from sheep and kangaroos on the property.
“We are also preparing for the warmer months by ensuring any weeds in the area are removed, since they would compete with our plants for water and nutrients.
Allowing shrubs to grow in the best possible conditions brings us closer to our ultimate objective – to create a safe habitat and foraging site for vulnerable woodland birds”, Jacqui said.
There is always more work to be done, and the CSIRO is continuing discussions with the Ginninderra Catchment Group to plan for future restoration activities.
Stay tuned for further opportunities to get involved or re-live the planting day with our video below!
Understanding community attitudes and wellbeing
Understanding community wellbeing and the prevailing attitudes to urban growth and development, are two vital ingredients in planning for an exemplar urban estate of the future.
To support this goal for Ginninderra, CSIRO is carrying out research that will underpin a more liveable, sustainable and resilient urban development. One aspect of this research involves benchmarking current levels of community wellbeing and responses to urban growth in suburbs adjacent to the Ginninderra site.
This benchmarking was the main aim of a survey of over 700 randomly selected residents comparing Canberran suburbs adjacent to the Ginninderra site with the rest of Canberra. The survey results are captured in Dr Rod McCrea’s report: ‘Community wellbeing and responses to urban growth’, which is now available on the project website.
To summarise his findings, residents adjacent to the CSIRO site have good overall community wellbeing, especially with personal safety and the general environment (e.g., air quality and level of noise). The appearance of these suburbs was also pleasing (e.g., parks and walkways) and they were generally satisfied with the provision of local services and facilities. However, there was less satisfaction with public transport options, and traffic was seen as becoming more of a problem in their district.
While social aspects of community wellbeing were generally rated favourably – like community inclusion, spirit, trust and social interaction – community participation in local activities was not perceived to be as high. The lowest aspect of community wellbeing was citizen voice, which included low levels of trust in private developers and not feeling involved in their decisions.
Overall, they did not feel their local area was coping or adapting to urban growth very well and while their attitudes and feelings toward urban growth were still positive on average, they were generally lower than other districts in Canberra.
“Data shows that perceptions of urban growth were generally favourable in the Canberra area,” Dr McCrea said.
Previous CSIRO research (conducted in Melbourne) found, “good planning, adequate leadership, access to information and community groups working together, are key factors for community acceptance of urban growth.”(1)
“There are many positives from urban growth if it’s done well. We need to prepare our cities to be able to adapt well to change” Dr McCrea said.
Some unique aspects of Ginninderra are exciting prospects for the surrounding community. ‘Smart working hubs’ and extensive environmental considerations are just two endeavours expected to change how we interact in our future suburbs. Baseline research from CSIRO also shows the great opportunity for Ginninderra to engage positively with the community.
The survey data showed awareness of new developments around Canberra was strong:
Do you know of any new or proposed urban developments near where you live? (Yes/No)
|Area or district||% Yes|
|Suburbs adjacent CSIRO site||79%|
When asked about future research possibilities, Dr McCrea added, “The longer-term aim is to repeat and monitor how well we are performing. We now have a baseline measure for the Ginninderra Project to see how future development is perceived.”
As part of our initiative to explore science, technologies and innovations which deliver more liveable, sustainable and resilient urban growth, we plan to monitor community wellbeing, resilience, adaptation, and attitudes about urban growth as the Ginninderra site develops, as well as in the surrounding suburbs.
We would like to thank the survey participants Canberra-wide and the many individuals and groups who have attended the consultation sessions and who continue to provide feedback on the project.
We welcome feedback from everyone, and value the views of residents who live in suburbs adjacent to the site, and will continue to engage with all key stakeholders into the future.
McCrea, R., Foliente, G., Leonard, R., & Walton, A. (2015). Responding to change in a growing Melbourne: Community acceptance, wellbeing, and resilience. Paper presented at the State of Australian Cities Conference 2015: Refereed Proceedings, Gold Coast. ISBN: 978-1-925455-03-8.
Celebrating NAIDOC Week at Ginninderra
Last Thursday, members of the community and Ngunawal custodians came together to better understand and protect important Aboriginal cultural heritage at Ginninderra.
As part of NAIDOC Week 2017, the Mulanggang Traditional Aboriginal Landcare Group, Ginninderra Catchment Group and CSIRO invited members of the Canberra community to learn about the rich cultural landscape of our CSIRO Ginninderra property and the ways of helping to look after country.
The event was attended by 17 members of the community and commenced with a Heritage Interpretation Walk, led by Ngunawal custodian Wally Bell. Wally spoke about the significance of Ginninderra Creek and how native vegetation was used for the provision of food and medicine. He then took us to several scar trees on the site and discussed how the bark was often used.
“The Ngunawal people’s traditional country contains many sites of Aboriginal significance due to our occupation of this area for over 21,000 years,” said Wally. “An experienced Ngunawal descendent can provide an interpretation of the local Aboriginal cultural practices and the cultural landscape.”
“Aboriginal people’s connection to country has come from our belief systems involving the ability to feel at one with the natural environment for thousands of years, if we care for the country the country will care for us.”
The Heritage Interpretation Walk was then followed by a community planting activity where participants, led by the Aboriginal Green Army, helped to restore the shrub layer in a patch of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands on the site.
“Replanting a shrub layer, together with restoring native grasses, maintaining fallen logs, mature trees, hollows and nesting sites, will help bring back more of the birds that have retreated along with the decline in area and quality of remnant woodlands,” said CSIRO Land and Water ecologist and woodland expert, Jacqui Stol.
Thanks to the 17 members of the community that attended this NAIDOC event and the combined efforts of 100 volunteers and the Green Army over the past few months, 3,500 shrubs have now been planted at Ginninderra.
Striving for more affordable housing options
Housing affordability remains a major challenge across many parts of Australia including in the national capital – home of CSIRO Ginninderra. Further to our 2016 Think Tank, we remain committed to helping to address this challenge through the future sustainable development proposed at CSIRO Ginninderra.
As we continue the process to identify a suitable development partner, one of the things we are looking for is a similar vision and commitment to finding affordable housing solutions at Ginninderra. We remain open to hearing about good practice and innovative approaches from around Australia and overseas. To this end, members of our project team recently attended the Trueventus Affordable Housing Australia Conference in Sydney.
At the conference, our team heard about recent experiences and case studies in a range of areas, including:
- New and innovative construction methods to deliver affordable housing of better quality, in less time, and at lower cost than traditional construction methods
- Inclusionary zoning, which is already in place in the ACT, where governments either mandate or create incentives for a given proportion of dwellings in new residential developments to be affordable to people on low to moderate incomes
- Mixed tenure developments, where a range of different partnership models are being developed between the public and private sector to foster more inclusive communities
- Transit-oriented developments with mechanisms to create housing opportunities for low to moderate income earners, providing improved access to employment, education and services, without the high commuting costs associated with living on the urban edge
- Examples of various financial models and incentives in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong for attracting greater private sector investment in affordable housing.
Attending events such as this is just one of the ways we are following up on the ideas and interest that was generated at our own high-level Affordable Housing Think Tank in 2016.
What solutions could apply to Ginninderra?
CSIRO is still exploring a range of innovative technologies, finance and governance models that would enable us to deliver affordable housing options at Ginninderra. We continue to engage with various experts in the field to seek advice and to improve our understanding.
In Canberra, we value our relationship with ACT Shelter, who bring great expertise and passion to this issue. We certainly appreciated the support of ACT Shelter at our recent Community Planting Days at Ginninderra, where they hosted a BBQ to sustain our hard-working community volunteers who were planting shrubs to help restore our woodlands.
Our future joint development partner, and their network and collaborators, will also bring fresh ideas and opportunities to be explored and examined. It’s clear, however, that the affordable housing issue is a complex one and there will be no simple solution or quick fix.
A diversity of solutions as part of an integrated, systems approach is likely to be the best way forward and we are committed to identifying what this might look like at Ginninderra.
Green Army helps restore shrubs to the woodlands
In days gone by, the ecosystems of the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands of the Canberra region were managed by local Aboriginal people who lived off the land and its multitude of native species.
Among other practices, the first Australians used fire to help manage the landscape – an approach known as ‘firestick farming’. In those days, the grassy ground and shrub layers that are home to a diversity of plant and animal species were far more abundant and widespread than they are today.
However the diversity in these woodlands has diminished over nearly two centuries of European influence and, in particular, with grazing and the clearing of land for agriculture and settlements.
As we commemorate Reconciliation Week, this week it has been fitting to have the Aboriginal Green Army planting hundreds of shrubs and complementing the efforts of 130 community volunteers. Together these conservation volunteers are helping to reconcile the vital shrub layer in the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands of CSIRO Ginninderra. Thank you one and all!
CSIRO is actively involving Aboriginal people and traditional custodian groups in efforts to understand, care for and protect important cultural and historical heritage in the landscape of Ginninderra.
We have been working with these groups over several years to identify sites and elements of natural and aboriginal cultural significance. Late last year we worked with traditional custodian group representatives to salvage artefacts from the Ginninderra site.
Later this month we are planning to host an Aboriginal heritage interpretation walk at Ginninderra led by a Ngunnawal elder and welcoming the participation of Aboriginal community, Landcare and Green Army groups.
We are keen to work further with Aboriginal custodian and Landcare Groups to help conserve and restore landscape features and, among other things, to share knowledge on fire management methods in the woodlands and derived native grasslands.
CSIRO is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to enable sustainable futures for Aboriginal people and shared research and land management is a key part of that.