Exploring Ginninderra’s past, present and future
After more than half a century of dedicated scientific research, CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station is entering a new phase. Planning and engagement has commenced to deliver a new benchmark in liveable, sustainable and resilient urban development.
The Ginninderra Field Station was established in 1958 as a site for plant and agricultural research. This was in anticipation of the closure of the Dickson Experiment Station to make way for urban development in that area, which eventually occurred in 1962.
As with the Dickson site, the Ginninderra Field Station has now been surrounded by urban development and is no longer optimal for CSIRO’s agricultural research. In 2011 CSIRO started considering options for Ginninderra’s future use.
Rather than simply sell the property, CSIRO saw Ginninderra as a great opportunity to bring its research together to make a difference, not only for local residents and the ACT, but for other Australian cities, people, industry and the environment.
The sustainable urban development of Ginninderra presents an opportunity for positive social, environmental and economic impact for the ACT and Australia, while generating revenue for the reinvestment into CSIRO innovation and research infrastructure.
In December 2012, CSIRO sought advice from the National Capital Authority about the correct process for seeking an amendment to the National Capital Plan. Through this, a long-term vision to deliver a new benchmark in sustainable urban development has arisen.
It’s a vision that has emerged through engagement with CSIRO’s science capability, undertaking environmental and heritage investigations, and initial conversations with the community, and one that will continue to evolve and bring lasting benefits.
CSIRO staff first met with ACT Government officials in July 2014 and have met regularly since then to discuss the possibilities for the potential development of the Ginninderra Field Station for urban use.
These meetings confirmed that the site presented an opportunity for greenfield development, which has been supported by the NCA’s response to the key issues considered as part of Amendment 86: ‘The CSIRO Ginninderra site presents an opportunity for greenfield development that can make use of existing infrastructure and services, and provides a more suitable alternative to cater for the growth of the city than other greenfield sites.’
CSIRO’s engagement with community groups, nearby residents and industry associations began in August 2015, coinciding with the land’s inclusion as part of Amendment 86.
This first round of engagement with the local community in September 2015 included three drop-in sessions at Gold Creek, Evatt and Charnwood and involved more than 220 people. This is only the beginning, as CSIRO aims to involve more of these people and groups in the conversation about how we can design and work together for a liveable, sustainable and resilient urban area.
On 5 May 2016, classification of the Ginninderra Field Station to ‘Urban’ as part of the National Capital Plan was approved. This decision paved the way for CSIRO to seek Expressions of Interest (EOI) for a suitable development partner.
Following the closing of the EOI on May 23, CSIRO is evaluating and shortlisting suitably qualified developers, ahead of a Request for Proposal process later in the year.
CSIRO is excited about the opportunity to continue to work with the community, government, research partners, and other stakeholders, to create something unique at Ginninderra.
CSIRO is also committed to continuing the discussions with ACT Government agencies to harmonise with future planning goals and aspirations.
Future steps for the Ginninderra project include a site visit with conservation groups and workshop in June, community forum in July, additional community meetings in early 2017, as well as planning, approvals and detailed design in 2018. The earliest that any development could commence on the site is in 2019.
Firing up grassland restoration at Ginninderra
TV images of towering flames and fast moving fire fronts from major bushfires across Australia have left deep impressions of the destructive and sometimes unstoppable force of summer blazes.
With such coverage, it’s harder to appreciate the positive and regenerative effect that fire has on our native vegetation when used in certain ways and at certain times.
Finding out how fire and other management methods can be used to recover native grasslands is the focus of community-led research in ACT’s Ginninderra catchment, according to Ginninderra Catchment Group Coordinator Karissa Preuss. A great part of this work is on CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station, and in support of CSIRO’s nature conservation and restoration commitments at the site.
“We are into the second stage of a community driven project to find out the best management regimes for supporting restoration of the threatened Natural Temperate Grassland,” Karissa said.
Natural Temperate Grassland (NTG) of the Southern Tablelands is the most threatened ecosystem in Australia. Through past grazing, farming and city development, the ACT has less than five per cent of the NTG that existed prior to 1750.
Ken Hodgkinson, a Research Fellow with CSIRO Land and Water and a member of the North Belconnen Landcare Group (within the Ginninderra Catchment Group), has been a key part of the community effort.
“At our Evatt trial site, we tested five different treatments for managing the grasslands including: a low mow, a high mow, four spring burns at two year intervals, four autumn burns at two year intervals, and a control strip where we did nothing.
“To our surprise, the autumn burn was the best and most spectacular because we saw 10 native plant species that did not appear in the other treatments.
“After these fires it might look like utter destruction, but the smoke and the heat is bringing new life by stimulating seeds to germinate and compete strongly against the exotic species.”
Following the success of the first project, the second project is expanding the research to more sites and grasslands of varying qualities in the Ginninderra catchment. That’s where CSIRO’s field station comes in.
“The CSIRO Ginninderra station is critical to this project because five of the 15 sites across the catchment are on the property and they include everything from very weedy grasslands to medium and high quality native grasslands,” said Karissa.
The four treatments at each site will include mowing six times a year (common practice in ACT), an autumn burn treatment every two to three years, a second autumn treatment every four to six years, and a control.
“We want to find out if less frequent fire is just as effective as frequent fires because burning has a cost and we want to get the ‘best bang for the buck’ in terms of the ecological response,” said Ken.
This research aims to help catchment managers determine the most cost-effective methods for restoring and managing various qualities of native grassland. It will provide a basis for best-practice future management of grasslands on CSIRO Ginninderra property including how CSIRO can successfully meet its conservation commitments with a nearby urban setting.
The project will also aim to bring in Indigenous fire management knowledge from within the local community.
“We are working with Aboriginal elders and the Mullanggang Traditional Aboriginal Landcare Group with the aim of sharing and bringing together indigenous ecological knowledge and western science,” said Karissa.
The community effort of Ginninderra Catchment Group and associated Landcare and member groups has been backed by various ACT Government agencies including the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate (particularly Conservation and Planning), ACT Parks and Conservation Service (particularly the Fire Unit) and ACT Rural Fire Service. Support from land managers has also been critical, including the ACT Territory and Municipal Services, rural landholders and CSIRO.
“So many community groups and volunteers have helped to make this happen – the Landcare Groups who identified the sites, community experts doing the baseline monitoring of grasses, the volunteers who established the plots and staked them out, and all of Rural Fire Service volunteers conducting the burning,” said Karissa.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to be part of this group of people who are dedicating their personal time to restoring the grasslands in the Ginninderra Catchment.”
CSIRO launches tender for partner to deliver land development in Belconnen
Published on 9 May in the Canberra Times. Written by Natasha Boddy.
The CSIRO has begun the hunt for a partner to deliver a major redevelopment of its massive Ginninderra Field Station to make way for a new urban area on Canberra’s northern outskirts.
On Monday, the research organisation will begin advertising a tender calling for expressions of interest for a joint development partner.
The tender comes only days after the federal government gave the green light to a major shake-up in planning for the ACT, with the first comprehensive review of the National Capital Plan allowing CSIRO to sell off its 701-hectare Ginninderra Field Station and zoning it as urban.
Established in 1960, the field station is on the ACT-NSW border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
According to tender documents, CSIRO currently uses a third of the land.
“This underutilisation of the land is inefficient for CSIRO and the community and greater benefits could be achieved through alternative use of this site,” the documents say.
“CSIRO wishes to partner with a suitable respondent for the purposes of establishing a new suburb(s) compromising residential, commercial, retail and community infrastructure and services.”
The expression of interest closes on May 19, which is expected to enable CSIRO to shortlist potential development partners.
Redevelopment could be underway within two to three years.
The planning changes, announced last week and reported first in Fairfax Media, will also allow residential development in Tuggeranong, west of the Murrumbidgee River, although it will be up to the ACT government to decide when the suburbs go ahead.
The parliamentary triangle’s East and West Blocks will be opened up for use as hotels, offices, restaurants, cafes or retail spaces and outdated federal government office buildings at Anzac Park East and West redeveloped.
CSIRO locks in affordable housing plans for field station site
Published on 24 April in the Canberra Times. Written by Tom McIlroy.
The CSIRO will explore innovative technology, finance and governance models to effectively incorporate affordable housing options into the planned redevelopment of its Ginninderra Field Station.
About 30 experts from universities, social service groups, charities, and banks joined a think tank event on affordable housing options for the 700-hectare site earlier this month, advising the research organisation to use technology to reduce the cost of living on the site and to incorporate place-making and a master plan to manage affordable housing.
The planning comes as the CSIRO waits for federal government approvals on required zoning changes. Once approved, a consortium or joint-development partner will be engaged for the redevelopment project.
Established in 1960, the field station replaced a research site near the Dickson shops. The area has been home to the development of a range of projects including novel grains and agricultural systems. The field station sits on the ACT-NSW border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
Some residents near the field station oppose changing the land’s zoning classification from hills, ridges and buffer spaces to urban area.
Design of houses and public spaces was raised by participants, as well as incorporation of CSIRO research outcomes.
Planners could consider allocating blocks of land and specific areas of the site as designated affordable housing supply, with the cost in part covered by higher value sales in other areas. Ballots or other allocation methods will be considered.
A community information session is planned in coming months to give local residents and other stakeholders with the chance to receive an update on the project and to suggest ideas and ask questions.
Beating the heat at Ginninderra
We’ve all experienced the cool relief of seeking respite from a hot day under a shady tree. Recent studies have shown that tree cover plays a large part in combating the urban heat island effect.
Canberra is hot and getting hotter. Temperatures in the ACT have been increasing since about 1950.
Canberra sweltered though 10 consecutive days of 30-degree plus temperatures in early March, providing our hottest start to autumn on record.
This warming trend is set to continue, with recent projections of Canberra’s future climate indicating that temperatures are likely to rise further, resulting in more hot days and fewer cold nights.
This is exacerbated by the Urban Heat Island effect, where cities tend to trap and store heat during the day, staying hotter for longer than the surrounding countryside during the night.
To understand patterns of urban heat across Canberra, researchers in CSIRO Land & Water have used satellite thermal imagery to estimate land surface temperatures and map their distribution.
We recently tested this at Ginninderra Field Station, which yielded some very interesting results.
Dr Matt Beaty, a Senior Experimental Scientist in CSIRO Land & Water said, “As with other cities around Australia, there is a strong relationship between vegetation and land surface temperatures.”
“Newer suburbs, and industrial areas in Canberra with little vegetation cover, are typically much hotter during summer than older suburbs with established tree cover providing dense shade.”
The availability of water is also important. Not just to support healthy vegetation, but to drive the processes of evaporation and transpiration that provide cooling benefits in addition to tree shade.
CSIRO’s urban heat mapping for Canberra has been featured by the ACT Government in their draft ACT Climate Change Adaptation Strategy which is open for public consultation until 3 April 2016.
“There is a lot to be learnt from this urban heat mapping work that is relevant to the proposed urban development of the Ginninderra site and how we adapt our cities to climate change,” said Dr Beaty.
CSIRO heat mapping for the northern part of Canberra (shown below) identifies that during a hot summer day established suburbs are cooler than the Ginninderra site and surrounding countryside.
“This is due to the influence of suburban gardens and associated irrigation, which tends to result in cooler land surfaces than bare cultivated soils and dry sheep paddocks.”
The coolest parts of the Ginninderra site are the waterways and areas with existing tree cover.
“What this means is that large trees, irrigated grass and water will need to be a key feature of the design of any potential future urban development to combat the Urban Heat Island effect through the provision of shade and to drive the cooling benefits of evapotranspiration,” Beaty said.
Based on site investigations so far, approximately 150 hectares of the land on the Ginninderra site is unable to be developed due to its topography, heritage and ecological values, and is envisaged to form an open space network of connected recreational and conservation areas. This idea of ‘fingers of green’ through the site was reflected in the draft concept presented to the community last year.
But it’s not all about trees, other strategies for adapting our cities to increasing urban heat include the use of light-coloured construction materials in our buildings and paved surfaces. Light coloured surfaces reflect incoming solar radiation, reducing the amount of heat that is trapped in our cities.
Jacqui Meyers, another Senior Experimental Scientist in CSIRO Land & Water has undertaken research on the impact of climate change on the heating and cooling energy costs of a typical Canberra home. This research is also cited in the ACT Government’s draft ACT Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.
“The energy required to heat a typical Canberra home in 2070 may be one-third lower, but energy for cooling could more than double,” Myers said.
“An integrated response to urban heat is required, which includes a focus on climate-wise buildings, planning provisions that provide space for trees to shade buildings and pedestrians, and open space networks that support healthy vegetation and waterways to deliver further cooling benefits.”
Overall, there are many opportunities for science to inform the planning and design of the proposed urban development of the Ginninderra site. More tree cover is good for addressing the urban heat island effect, but would also provide many other social and economic benefits.
Protecting and restoring our woodlands
If you walk across the northern end of the Ginninderra Field Station in spring and spot an array of yellow and purple wildflowers with gum trees towering overhead, you have come across an area of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands.
These woodlands once covered large swathes of mid to lower slopes and landscapes across the ACT, Victoria, NSW and southern QLD. Across this region, only 10 per cent of the woodlands remain, with only about five per cent of those remaining in good condition. The picture is slightly better in the ACT, with an estimated 25 per cent of the original woodland remaining and in good condition.
The Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands have been in decline since the 1800s due to grazing from sheep and cattle. They were cleared to make way for agriculture, rural and urban developments.
Existing woodlands and grasslands are now protected under both national and state legislation, to guard against further degradation of these unique ecological systems.
The woodlands are typically made up of three layers: the overstory, which in the ACT consists of Yellow Box, Apple Box and Blakely’s Red gum trees; a patchy shrub layer; and a ground layer of native grasses and wildflowers. However, where the trees have been removed and just the ground layer remains, they are then described as ‘derived native grasslands.’
It’s this ground layer that’s critical to the ecology, according to CSIRO ecologist Jacqui Stol.
“When you look at the landscape most people only notice the trees, but the diversity is mostly in the ground layer. Typically, there can be up to 60 species of native wildflowers, orchids, lilies and a diverse range of amazing local plants at a very high quality site,” she said.
At Ginninderra, studies so far indicate there are approximately 114 hectares of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands on the site of varying quality, including areas where trees have been cleared (derived native grassland). This includes 34 hectares of treed areas in high condition, mostly in the less-developed, northern end of the site, as well as 44 hectares of low quality grassland.
The woodlands at Ginninderra don’t exist in isolation, and are part of a broader ecological system. They link to other nearby woodland areas such as at Mulligan’s Flat, Goorooyarroo, Hall and north-west of Casey and Moncrieff.
“The way we think about how we conserve these sites is within a big landscape matrix,” said Jacqui.
“Ginninderra is part of that bigger picture, and a really important part of the landscape, and how the whole ecology functions.”
How to manage, protect and rehabilitate the patches of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands is an important consideration in Ginninderra’s potential as a site for future sustainable urban development.
A team of CSIRO ecologists from across Australia met in November 2015 to investigate the site and discuss plans for the protection and improvement of the native ecology. They will continue to be involved in the discussions regarding Ginninderra and are well placed to apply best practice in ecological management.
The team hopes local conservation groups and future residents will be able to contribute to maintaining and improving these woodlands.
CSIRO’s significant expertise in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands is on display in a comprehensive guide (linked below) for land managers that was recently published by Jacqui Stol and Suzanne Prober.
Measures such as reintroducing tree and shrub species where they’ve been removed could be implemented to help restore the Ginninderra woodlands.
The reintroduction of ground layer species to areas currently of low quality could return those bright purple and yellow wildflowers to more parts of the Ginninderra landscape.
If you’d like to learn more about the protection and management of the box gum grassy woodlands, download the guide:
Jewels in the Landscape: Managing very high conservation value ground-layers in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands
By Jacqui Stol and Suzanne Prober
Click here to download the guide from the CSIRO Publications Repository
Aspiring for best practice at Ginninderra
As we welcome in 2016, some of the Ginninderra project team have been enjoying a holiday break while others are working hard to scope the vision and potential for a liveable, sustainable and resilient urban development at Ginninderra.
A team of CSIRO researchers, and experts in their fields, gathered in Canberra late in 2015 to discuss the areas of research, technology and innovation that could be included in the Ginninderra venture.
“The workshop produced a lot of ideas and energy about specific science and innovation that we could integrate if the project gets the go ahead,” said science leader Mr Guy Barnett.
“We have some exciting research knowledge and technologies that can contribute to a best practice urban development and we are now working those ideas into a consolidated vision.”
We look forward to revealing these ideas and seeking your input as the project progresses. Stay tuned.
As the vision continues to emerge, the process of seeking reclassification of the Ginninderra Field Station to ‘Urban Area’ also continues.
As mentioned in our last newsletter, we are still following through the processes that govern land reclassification in the ACT.
In the meantime, we’re continuing environmental, heritage and other studies to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the site and needs of a future residential community.
Advancing crop research and sustainability
CSIRO research has led to advancements that impact many aspects of our lives, from the way we conduct our finances to the way we communicate.
Some of CSIRO’s most well-known innovations include WiFi, Australia’s plastic banknotes, extended wear contact lenses and the insect repellent Aerogard.
Our scientists work on solving the nation’s and the world’s biggest challenges across a vast array of research fields.
In agriculture and plant science, CSIRO scientists work on projects ranging from improving grain and crop yields to sustainable farming.
The Ginninderra Field Station has been a key site for some of this research. Our innovations in barley and wheat crops, conducted at this site, have led to improvements in yields, quality and disease resistance, and are making an impact on a national and global scale.
This work includes the development of BARLEYmax, a whole grain with four times the resistant starch and twice the dietary fibre of regular barley grains.
Now used in a wide range of commercially available food products, BARLEYmax offers superior health benefits and can help combat cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. Read more about BARLEYmax here.
Ginninderra has also played host to CSIRO’s rotation and dual-purpose cropping work. This work, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, has seen CSIRO breed and release more than 10 dual-purpose feed wheat varieties in the last 15 years.
In addition to plant breeding, the Ginninderra site has played an important role in the work of CSIRO and partners in crop and pasture improvement, soil biology and crop productivity, sustainable farming, and the effects of climate change on crop production and soil carbon.
The recent purchase of 290 hectares of land in the heart of farming country at Boorowa, NSW, will ensure that CSIRO can not only continue this breakthrough research, but do so more effectively at a green field site set up to maximise the use of new technologies. You can find out more about the Boorowa farm here.
The NCA process and beyond
Following the end of the National Capital Authority (NCA) public consultations, it’s time to look at what happens next in the process of seeking reclassification of the Ginninderra Field Station to “Urban Area”.
There are a number of robust processes, with both the Federal and ACT Governments, that govern land reclassification and development in the ACT.
The public consultation phase was an opportunity for members of the ACT community to provide feedback and input on the suggested change. At this stage, the NCA also has the opportunity to consult with key ACT Government agencies, including the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate.
Following the public consultation process, the feedback will be compiled into a report and submitted to the Minister, currently Paul Fletcher, Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects.
If both the NCA and the Minister support the reclassification, there are still a number of other parliamentary processes to follow before the amendment is registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments.
The change would take effect from this point, although the amendment is then put before both Houses of Parliament and is subject to disallowance. You can read more about the process in detail on the NCA website.
We expect to find out about the outcome of the request in February or March 2016.
We share the NCA’s commitment to community engagement. If you have questions or suggestions about the future use of the Ginninderra site, you can continue to contact us through this website.
Throughout this process we will continue to work on environmental and heritage studies to ensure that we have a complete picture of the site’s significant historical and ecological features.
We are hoping that our request to change the use of the land to “Urban Area” is approved. In the meantime, our scientists will continue to look at best practices in urban sustainability that could be adopted at Ginninderra.
We look forward to revealing more about our aspirations that could eventually make Ginninderra a world-leader in innovative and sustainable development.
Community feedback and September drop-in sessions
During September we held three drop-in and information sessions in Evatt, Gold Creek and Charnwood to listen to your comments and answer your questions about the future of the Ginninderra Field Station.
The focus was discussing the CSIRO proposal with residents living in the suburbs surrounding the Ginninderra Field Station: Fraser, Evatt, Spence, McKellar, Giralang, Crace, Nicholls and Hall.
It was fantastic to see so many people who wanted to find out more about the Ginninderra site and speak to the project team. A total of 224 people came along, which shows the high level of interest from the community.
In addition to attendance at events, we have also received over 60 written comments and questions via comment forms and email.
It’s important for us to understand community views in order to make the right decisions for the site in the future.
Thank you for coming along, asking questions, and for your understanding in relation to questions we don’t have the answers to yet.
From the feedback we’ve received so far, a number of clear themes have emerged. These themes include:
- Interest in maintaining the environmental value of the site, including retaining green spaces and corridors and continued protection of protected or endangered species
- The inclusion of community facilities and open spaces in any future development
- That any future development should be sustainable and well-planned, and consider large block sizes
- The need for additional services, for example schools, shops, sports facilities and medical services
- Consideration of traffic and road infrastructure, noting current safety and congestion issues on the roads bordering the Ginninderra Field Station
- CSIRO’s ongoing involvement in the future development of the site
In addition to the drop-in sessions held in September, we’ve also spoken to local groups such as community councils, environmental associations, industry bodies, welfare and social service organisations, and businesses. These discussions will be ongoing and if you are part of a local group that would like to meet with us, please let us know via the contact page.
The comments and feedback we have received so far will be de-identified and passed on to the National Capital Authority (NCA) as part of their consultation phase on the reclassified use of this land.
The NCA consultation process started on 1 October 2015 and runs until 13 November 2015. You can find out more about leaving feedback or attending an event on the NCA website.
While we welcome your comments at any time via the contact page, we won’t be holding any CSIRO drop-in sessions during the NCA consultation process.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring some of the key themes in more detail in the News section of this website, so check back each week for updates.
Don’t forget if you’d like updates straight to your inbox you can subscribe to our monthly email updates.
We look forward to continuing the conversation about the future of the Ginninderra Field Station.