Ann Lyons Wright - Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment - 4 March 2016

Vegetable harvest

DRAFT GUIDE FOR RESIDENTIAL NATURE STRIPS - CONSULTATION PAPER

Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment on the Draft Nature Strip Guidelines as part of the community process seeking feedback on the draft.

As noted in the draft guidelines, residential nature strips provide many important functions including environmental services, accommodation for essential water, power and communications infrastructure, and public safety for pedestrians and road users.

Opening nature strips up to non-obstructing garden-type development without the need for residents to obtain a permit from the ACT Governent (as proposed in the draft guidelines) will likely provide significant benefits to the ACT community.  The final guidelines will help to illustrate the potential benefits to residents by improving the information available on the opportunities to improve nature strips as well as the attendant responsibilities.

The finalised guidelines will provide a very useful adjunct for any ACT Government promotion of gardening on nature strips. I encourage the ACT Government to broadly publicise the introduction of the new nature strip policy embodied in the guidelines, and to partner with community organisations and local businesses to communicate this new opportunity to ACT residents.  

The availability of the new guidelines would also assist any ACT Government efforts to increase compliance with policy and legislation relating to use of nature strips, including the Public Unleased Land Act 2013.  There is thought to be widespread non-compliance with current policy and law, and I suggest that that this should be addressed during and after roll-out of the new guidelines.

I have number of more specific comments on the draft guidelines, as follows:

Clarity on scope of the draft guidelines  

The draft guidelines appear to be intended primarily for residents. However, there are references to legal requirements of all users of nature strips under the Public Unleased Land Act 2013.  The draft guidelines do not contain sufficient information to fully inform other users (for example builders) of their obligations to protect the nature strip when carrying out activities there under permits, and requirements for restitution in the event of damage. Given this, I suggest that the guidelines might be retitled “Using residential nature strips - a guide for residents”.

I also suggest that an additional, more comprehensive guide regarding the use of nature strips could be produced. This could provide more emphasis on the legal responsibilities and requirements pertaining to use of public land for all users, as well as the opportunities for residents.

General expression of need to prevent environmental damage

In addition to the words under ‘Keeping the nature strip safe’ (page 7) a general statement is needed to the effect that:

‘The development of nature strips must not cause harm to the natural or built environment.’  

Links to relevant forms  

The Guidelines could be enhanced through the inclusion of direct links to the forms for Nature strip landscape development and Storing construction materials on the nature strip, as it is not immediately apparent where these forms are located on the site when viewing the homepage.

Clarity on importance of tree drip line  

There is also an opportunity to encourage better plant watering practices by including a diagram detailing the ‘drip line’ of trees – some ACT residents may not be aware of the importance of the drip line in tree root growth.

Emphasis on planting native species  

I commend the inclusion of native species in the recommend plant suitable for nature strips.  The positive qualities of natives could be emphasised more, particularly that they provide potential habitat for urban wildlife and are well suited to local environmental conditions.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the draft guidelines.

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