'Over and above': Trust aims to allay Ginninderry environmental fears

The government is hoping a new conservation trust for the Ginninderry development will allay community concerns after the 11,500-home project was given an exemption from an environmental impact statement.

Three regular Canberrans will be picked to sit on the board of the trust overseeing a corridor near the development in the capital's north-west.

Ginninderry Conservation manager Jason Cummings at the Murrumbidgee, which partially falls under the trusts jurisdiction. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Ginninderry Conservation manager Jason Cummings at the Murrumbidgee, which partially falls under the trusts jurisdiction. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The ACT government allowed Ginninderry to be exempt from a full environmental impact statement last year despite concerns about the project, including how it would affect a nearby Little Eagle population.

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the work done in Ginninderry to ensure the development was environmentally kosher was "over and above" what ACT or federal environmental laws would have required.

"It's not been a tick-box exercise," Ms Berry said.

"Knowing this development is going to be here for a while, there's no point in telling the community ... 'No, you're wrong'."

"Bringing them on board for this journey is important."

The trust will oversee a small corridor of land, about 590 hectares in size, along the Murrumbidgee River which includes both the ACT and NSW sides of the river.

If all goes to plan, the Ginninderry development overseen by Riverview will have 11,500 homes spread across the border.

Riverview is a joint venture between the ACT government and developers, the Corkhill Brothers.

Ginnindery Conservation manager Jason Cummings hoped to have the not-for-profit trust up and running by July.

It will include three Canberra community members, two Indigenous advisors, three ACT government advisors and two from NSW.

The two Indigenous members of the trust will be nominated by the Ginninderry Advisory Group, an Indigenous body.

The NSW members will join the trust when the NSW side officially comes on board with Ginninderry; planning approvals are still being sought.

"A lot of work's been done to understand the cultural and conservational values of the corridor," Mr Cummings said.

The soon-to-be developed farmland across Ginninderry is littered with culturally significant Indigenous sites, home to the protected Pink-tailed worm-lizard as well as other native flora and fauna.

Mr Cummings said the financial model set up for the trust would allow it to run long after the developers had left the area.

"That was very important to us," Mr Cumming said.

One per cent of land sales from Ginninderry will go to the trust along with a financial contribution from the ACT government.

Homeowners on Ginninderry's NSW side will be charged $100 a year to go towards the trust.

Mr Cummings couldn't say how much they expected the trust to raise but eventually running costs will be at $2 million a year by 2023.

Initially though, as Ginninderry came online, running costs were at $700,000 per year, Mr Cummings said.

It's also expected to raise money through commercial means, such as parking in Ginniderry's parks, he said.

The trust will focus its work on improving the landscape around its corridor of the Murrumbidgee River, including dealing with invasive weeds and protecting native wildlife while improving access for visitors to Ginninderra Falls.

Mr Cumming said similar models, which he had also helmed, had worked for Mulligan's Flat and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

"We build trust with the local community and they have a say on how the local environment [is] managed," he said.

Riverview Group director David Maxwell said they were expecting approval for the next 800 homes in the next couple of weeks.

They're also expecting decisions on the NSW side of the development from the state by April or May next year.

The ACT side will consist of two suburbs, Strathnairn and Macnamara, and Strathnairn's first residents are expected to move in by mid-2020.

The corridor of land around the Murrumbidgee overseen by the trust won't be publicly accessible until later next year.

The Strathnairn development put up 200-metre buffer zone around a Little Eagle nesting place after conservationists raised concerns.

Mr Maxwell said data indicated the male eagle has travelled as far as the Northern Territory and the female fledging as far as Bundaberg, Queensland.

In 2016, an ecologist warned Canberra's urban sprawl was forcing the vulnerable bird from its native habitats in the capital.

He said while Ginninderry had got an exemption for an environmental impact statement, it was only because of the amount of work done to prop up the environmental values of the area.