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Compromised Greens turn backs on biodiversity

Corflute election promises… “real climate action”. Photo: Paul Costigan

“The ACT Greens have been part of the ruling coalition government for a decade or more, yet trees are coming down, suburbs are redeveloped resulting in less shrubbery and fewer birds,” says “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

THERE’S a mature tree in Dickson that the bureaucracy is to remove despite all manner of facts that say it should stay. 

Paul Costigan.

The fate of this tree represents what is wrong with the workings of the Labor/Greens coalition government. This government does not get the importance of biodiversity in urban environments.

When the IPCC report on climate change was released in early August, there was hope that, with immediate actions, some mitigation of disastrous change was possible. There are no longer any doubts about when actions are required. Yesterday was a good time!

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.

Have there been any signs that the ACT government immediately ratcheted up the emphasis to put climate first as the basis for actions large and small? 

Has subsequent announcement reflected a higher priority being placed on the health of the planet and on the well-being of everyone reading this and our future generations? Sadly, it has been business as usual. A big fail.

The ACT Greens have spent a lot of time since the 2020 elections boasting about the wonders of their Parliamentary Compromise Agreement – officially, the Parliamentary & Governing Agreement. 

This document sets out a lot of what a government would be expected to do with the addition of some worthy aspirations to make it sound meaningful. It isn’t. 

Biodiversity is mentioned once in their agreement – as part of Natural Environment (should be part of Planning). Line 7.3 states: “Create a separate biodiversity offsets management fund”. Biodiversity offsets are recognised worldwide as being licences to reduce biodiversity. But never fear, there are many words about creating well-paid jobs for the ACT Greens. The priorities are obvious.

The ACT Greens have been part of the ruling coalition government for a decade or more, yet trees are coming down, suburbs are redeveloped resulting in less shrubbery and fewer birds while new suburbs are never going to become rich biodiverse urban forests. 

Having distractions such as “Demonstration Housing” proves nothing that is not already well documented and does almost zero in addressing the climate crisis. Funding groups to have in-house talks about how to plan to think about the wonders of such concepts as “active travel”, signals more superficial stuff by this government.

Walking around major supermarkets, you will hear how they are committed to dealing with climate change and sustainability. Corporate supermarkets sound more committed to dealing with issues than the party that went to the 2020 elections with the naff slogan – “Building A Better Normal”. The ACT Greens then signed up to a compromising agreement that minimises commitments made during the elections. 

When you realise that the birds are disappearing, the tree cover is being mulched daily and the complexities of biodiversity are being offset (think West Basin), we are supposed to feel better because there is a Parliamentary Compromise Agreement in place. 

Do the ACT Greens members believe the city is doing well on biodiversity?

That tree in Dickson is on the edge of a cleared Mr Fluffy block. Neighbours had fought for and obtained an agreement that the tree should stay. Somehow, in the course of a couple of months, the decision was reversed by another section of the bureaucracy. The tree is to be removed. It is a mature tree that needs to be assessed as part of complexities of the local biodiversity, not as a stand-alone nuisance for a developer. 

Biodiversity continues to be ignored by the Planning Directorate for redevelopments in established suburbs. The city is reducing its biodiversity at a time when it is clear that caring for the planet’s biodiversity assists in dealing with the impact of changes.

Sadly, the ACT Greens have become a lighter shade of pale green. Their compromising agreement with ACT Labor needs to be shredded immediately (action one). Forget about the well-paid jobs and benefits. Read the latest IPCC report (action two) and do something real about biodiversity and related issues (action three).

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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6 Responses to Compromised Greens turn backs on biodiversity

Jane says: September 8, 2021 at 9:43 am

Well written as always, Paul. We couldn’t agree more about the “Greens” and what’s continuing to happen with development in this city. For a group that’s supposed to care about the environment they’re a huge disappointment. The ACT Greens are a good example, in so many ways, of “do as I say, not as I do”.

David says: September 8, 2021 at 11:24 pm


You’re a consistent opponent of higher density development.

Do you not think that urban sprawl is bad for the climate?

JJR says: September 11, 2021 at 10:52 pm

With the ACT Greens Canberra gets the worst of both worlds. You get both urban sprawl and high destiny infill with them. If they were serious about urban sprawl they wouldn’t be allowing the wholesale high density development the Molongolo Valley. Every inch of the valley is being filled with cheek by jowl homes built on micro blocks with no space for garden and streets too narrow to accommodate full size trees and they want the same for older suburbs too. Suburbs with gardens and trees are better for the climate and human health then the high density rubbish the government and developers are pushing for now.

Jane says: September 12, 2021 at 1:20 pm

So true JJR. The Molonglo Valley is awful; a good example of what we neither want nor need. We couldn’t believe it the first time we drove through. The ACT Greens in the current Assembly are very disappointing; if this is an example of their “new normal” they can keep it. A lot of those who were elected last year are definitely “one term wonders”, based on this and other issues, eg the unnecessary and unwanted slow tram to Woden.

Kitty Tsui says: September 9, 2021 at 2:17 pm

So… the Greens pushed to lock up cats in urban areas, but are OK with destroying mature trees? Makes perfect sense – NOT.

Paul Costigan says: September 9, 2021 at 3:11 pm

Thanks David, There are at least three issues covered by your query and statement about my views on urban sprawl, climate and density. They need a longer answer than is allowed in this comment section. Sometime soon I will dedicate an opinion piece to those topics – as they are important issues. Thanks again, Paul Costigan


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