Rare orchid uproots grave sites at Hall

NEGOTIATIONS have begun to move burial allotments at the Hall Cemetery to save a rare orchid.

The Tarengo Leek Orchid can only be found in five locations in Australia, including the Hall Cemetery.
Mid-last year an ecological report from the ACT Government Environmental Research and Planning Unit recommended that the ACT Public Cemeteries Authority stop all sales of new allotments at the cemetery.
The rare orchid has been an issue for the cemetery since the early 1990s, but until the report, it was managed by seasonal, controlled mowing
The report found that the orchid was growing on unused, reserved allotments and suggested that owners be asked to move to an alternative site.
“There’s the potential for the orchid to pop up anywhere,” ACT Public Cemeteries Authority chief executive officer Hamish Horne said.
“If it does, we have problems. We would need to try and negotiate for [an allotment] to move to another spot where it isn’t.”
Mr Horne said it was a very difficult decision for families to move to a new allotment.
And although Mr Horne won’t specify exact numbers of allotments in danger of being moved, he said at this stage owners have been contacted and are happy to enter negotiations.
“People understand that we have this ongoing issue,” he said.
“We do need to get it sorted. But we are allowing families as much time as they need.”
Over the past few months, an environmental survey has been conducted in an adjacent block, tipped for potential development to expand the cemetery to allow for burials, without interfering with the orchid.
The Public Cemeteries Authority is currently putting an application under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, depending on the results of an environmental survey, for permission to move graves if necessary.
Hall Cemetery is not uncommon to other bush cemeteries found around Australia, in that it’s a “depository for rare plants”.
Mr Horne says there are about six wild flower varieties, plus grasses and forbs.
“It’s a little oasis here,” Mr Horne said of the four hectares that’s currently only one quarter full.
“There’s been no grazing in this area.”
According to Mr Horne, the Hall Cemetery is typical of what ACT’s central grassy woodland would have looked like before development.
“The orchid is the jewel in the crown of the whole grassy woodland,” he said.
“If we were to cause the death of an orchid, we could suffer a huge fine.”
The Tarengo Leek Orchid is listed as Endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act), the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the ACT Nature Conservation Act 1980.

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