Canberrans are fighting a wave of proposed housing developments stretching from West Belconnen to Sutton and Gundaroo.
In most cases opponents say they are not opposed to development, but want outstanding bushland such as the Ginninderra Falls, and centuries-old gum trees protected from residential encroachment.
At a public forum in Gundaroo on Wednesday night people opposed to developments on the north and south sides of their village said both proposals swept aside environmental protection and inadequate infrastructure.
Yass Valley councillor and Sutton resident David Needham said Sutton was also coming under development pressure. Locals referred to the commuter traffic as the “public service grand prix”.
Sutton had been expecting their village to double when Queanbeyan developer Alex Brinkmeyer proceeded on plans for a 140-lot subdivision.
Councillor Needham said more traffic on regional roads was to be expected.
“The problem is, there is never enough money to keep the roads up to scratch. Secondly, they were never designed for heavy traffic. There is the width issue and underlying pavement. You see how deep they go repairing the Hume Highway, that was never done when the roads out here were first built.”
On the other hand, population growth in the shire was to be expected and was already triggering bigger developments at Riverview at West Belconnen and at Murrumbateman.
A spokesman for the Brinkmeyer development, Des Page, of LINK Management, said work was progressing on a proposal thatcould be ready for lodgement in the first half of next year.
The subdivision would mean a bypass of Sutton. “That is a fait accompli, it is only a question of how and where,” Mr Page said.
Kevin Robertson lives next to the proposed Kyeem development north of Gundaroo, where threatened species live, including superb parrots.
The endangered birds nest in 150-year-old eucalyptus trees. He says the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage identified six of eight threatened species on his property.
He wants all the office’s recommendations implemented should Kyeema proceed. The subdivision layout should be reconfigured to allow a minimum 50-metre buffer zone along the eastern boundary of the rezoning site. Land around the nest trees should be rezoned environmental or recreational.
Gundaroo resident Linda Le Mesurier said among many reasons the two subdivisions should be rejected was the loss of valuable agricultural land.
“The Sydney-Canberra Corridor regional strategy notes the importance of agriculture in the region’s economy, yielding $200 million per annum from direct and indirect agricultural industry,” she said in a submission.
Mrs Le Mesurier said the council’s development policies acknowledged Gundaroo’s heritage value and appeal of the ridge line, river and rural setting. Proposed rezoning land was visible from every entry point to the village.
“This visual amenity will be drastically altered if the gateways to the village become vast sprawling urban development as would occur if 130 new dwellings are built as a result of land released for rezoning,” she said.
Resident Helen Willett said the proposals were irresponsible because Gundaroo had no sewerage treatment works, and there were indications E. coli was already in the groundwater.
Residents believe the addition of 65 on-site effluent dispersal systems risks more contamination of a fragile water source.
Residents said they were happy to see Gundaroo develop sustainably and gradually but no planning policy was in place to manage growth.
“To double a town’s size in one swoop is ridiculous,” says Marguerite Foster.
Friends of Ginninderra Falls president Chris Watson said frustration was growing with a cross-border committee chaired by the ACT’s Land Development Agency.
The group is campaigning for a national park. It wants corridors to protect native habitat when the Riverview Group develops land near the Murrumbidgee River for 11,500 new dwellings.
“We want a inter-government cross-border working group made up of park professionals,” Mr Watson said.