National park proposed for Canberra's Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura recreation area
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National park proposed for Canberra's Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura recreation area

A new national park is being considered for the popular Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura area, but details are scarce on what environmental protection might be offered.

The ACT government announced a feasibility study this week, honouring the 2016 parliamentary agreement between Labor and the Greens.

Roxy the goanna shifted her egg chamber on Mount Ainslie after being disturbed by dogs or people.

Roxy the goanna shifted her egg chamber on Mount Ainslie after being disturbed by dogs or people.Credit:Matthew Higgins

It follows a National Parks Association election pitch to consolidate the "nationally significant" lowland grassy woodlands, including the two peaks and Mulligans Flat.

Rod Griffiths from the association said there was no intent to prohibit existing recreational activities.

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"The NPA believes the park will raise awareness of conservation values, but our proposal is not to change existing rights to the existing areas," he said.

"Where we add new areas, that's a different kettle of fish."

Mr Griffiths said he envisaged that dogs on leash would still be allowed in the new national park if it goes ahead.

Some have said Ginninderra Falls should be a priority for park status, but complications include its NSW border location on private land.

"The NPA believes the national significance of our lowland grassy woodlands should take priority at the moment, but that's not saying we don't see potential for a national park at Ginninderra Falls in the future," Mr Griffiths said.

"It would be useful for us to look at how we connect all our national parks across the ACT and into NSW."

Environment minister Mick Gentleman announced a panel chaired by commissioner for sustainability and the environment, Kate Auty, would be formed to investigate the proposed national park.

Terms of reference include evaluating the pros and cons, and making a recommendation whether to proceed.

Members will be given the NPA policy paper and other information "as required".

The NPA proposed a national park be created initially from existing reserves.

"Ultimately, it would expand to include the lowland grassy woodland areas earmarked for reservation under the Gungahlin strategic environmental assessment and other important lowland grassy woodland sites, such as those found in Majura," the paper says.

"The creation of the national park would incorporate the largest single reservation of yellow box red gum grassy woodland in Australia. This ecosystem is listed as critically endangered nationally ..."

"The creation of a new national park will raise the ecological standing of the land incorporated in it in the eyes of the community."

The reference group was announced about the same time amateur conservationists revealed a young female goanna has laid her first eggs on Mount Ainslie.

Former senior curator at the National Museum, Matthew Higgins, said the goanna christened Roxy had shifted her termite mound location to a better camouflaged site.

Despite the disturbance, Mr Higgins said lizards, people and domestic animals could co-exist, providing dogs were kept on a leash.

"When they're off leash they're not under control and reptiles are at risk," he said.

"When you have a species like this, which is rarely seen in the Canberra area and listed as threatened in much of its range elsewhere in Australia, you've got to do the most you can to give the animals a fair go."

Mr Higgins said he was undecided about the benefits of a proposed national park in the area.

"It needs to be more than a national park in name," he said.

"What greater protection will it give than currently in place as the Canberra Nature Park?"

He urged that people respect wildlife while enjoying the outdoors.

"It is a place for people [Mount Ainslie]," he said.

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"We can't stop that happening in the centre of Canberra. It's great that people get out there, but we do need to have a balance.

"It comes down to people respecting the wildlife, especially these rare species."

Michael Gorey is a reporter at The Canberra Times

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