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Ecologically Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance

The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development defines the goal of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) as ‘development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends’.

The NCA reports on its ESD commitments through Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

NCA Activities in line with the Principles of ESD
The NCA undertakes activities including managing National Land and carrying out works to maintain or enhance the character of the National Capital and administering the National Capital Plan in accordance with the principles of ESD outlined in the EPBC Act. ESD considerations are incorporated into the NCA’s policy framework, such as the National Capital Plan.

The NCA has in place other formal guidelines to facilitate staff consideration of ESD and the principles of ESD when undertaking business activities. These guidelines include the Risk Management Policy and Framework, and the Guidelines for Events on National Land.

In all of our functions and operations, the NCA:

  • Develops and implements cost efficient measures and adopts effective technologies to minimise waste, energy and natural resource use, and to prevent and minimise pollution.
  • Complies with environmental laws, regulations, agreements and other requirements either directly or through compliance by our contractors and suppliers.
  • Systematically manages activities to achieve and promote continual improvement by setting environmental objectives and targets, and assessing our achievements.

The NCA and its employees are committed to improved environmental performance. It achieves this through embedding environmentally friendly practices into everyday activities.

NCA Outcomes Contributing to ESD
The NCA’s outcomes provide the framework for the NCA to ‘manage the strategic planning, promotion and enhancement of Canberra as the National Capital for all Australians through the development and administration of the National Capital Plan, operation of the National Capital Exhibition, and delivery of education and awareness programs and works to enhance the character of the National Capital’.

Effect of NCA Activities on the Environment
The NCA has established a number of corporate initiatives to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment. As a result of corporate environmental efficiency initiatives, the NCA has a work culture that:

  • actively recycles paper, cardboard, toner cartridges and co-mingled recyclables
  • collects and recycles compostable waste (eliminating it from the waste stream)
  • collects and recycles soft plastics, batteries and light globes
  • promotes efficient use of water in kitchens and washrooms
  • efficiently uses recycled paper and office appliances
  • has a conservative approach to the use of office lighting and air conditioning
  • is committed to electronic record-keeping.

The NCA uses 10 per cent green energy on all of its contestable sites managed under the Whole of Government Energy Contract.

To raise awareness of the impact of energy consumption on the environment, the NCA participated in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s ‘Earth Hour’ awareness event in March 2020. This is the 12th year the NCA has been involved in Earth Hour.

Measures taken to minimise the NCA’s Impact on the Environment
Minimising the NCA’s impact on the environment is a key objective of NCA’s strategic planning, promotion and enhancement of Canberra as the National Capital for all Australians. In 2019-20, these measures included:

  • Grinding and screening felled trees and leaves on National Land for re-use as compost and mulch to improve soil condition in garden beds and around young trees.
  • Ongoing use of an upgraded irrigation control system with Cloud-based technology and installation of data loggers on water meters allowing easy identification of water leaks in the system. These measures continued to achieve a reduction in water usage from the previous years. The majority of irrigation occurs at night, with only some exceptions such lawn remediation, during irrigation audit and repairs, or when additional water is applied to trees during extended dry periods.
  • The water within the Lake is observed, sampled and analysed to monitor the Lake’s water quality in accordance with the Lake Burley Griffin Water Quality Management Plan and the ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality (the Guidelines) (ACT Health, 2014). This provides information about the environmental health of the Lake as well as providing information to Lake users on the suitability of water-based recreation during the recreational season (mid-October to mid-April). All responses and advisories issued due to adverse water quality are in line with protocols, legislation and the Guidelines.
  • Lake water is used for all irrigation in Commonwealth Park instead of treated, potable water. This means water used on these gardens and lawns are not over-treated for this purpose.
  • Ongoing partnership using an Environmental Care Agreement with the Friends of the Grasslands to undertake weed management and re-planting on conservation grasslands in the NCA National Capital Estate.
  • Drafting of a new Environmental Care Agreement with ACT Wildlife. ACT Wildlife is able to provide specialist care and rehabilitation of sick and injured native fauna and release recovered animals back to habitat. This includes care for the grey headed flying-fox colony which camps in Commonwealth Park from spring to autumn each year.
    DID YOU KNOW? Along the Lake Burley Griffin pathway are five metal strips in the concrete, representing the five music stave lines. The plinths at the Australian of the Year Walk are placed in musical note position to the score of Advance Australia Fair.
  • Fuel management which is consistent with the Bushfire and Works Plan for fire-prone areas of National Land, including the conservation grasslands. The Ecological Management Plan for these areas prescribes a number of principles to promote native grasses and lower the fuel load by managing the fire risks. In 2019-20, activities included fire trail maintenance, slashing of firebreaks and three hazard reduction and ecological burns with the assistance of the ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers at Yarramundi Grasslands, Scrivener’s Hut Conservation Woodland and Stirling Park. The NCA continues to implement policies to achieve a sensible balance between the use of the land and the Lake and protection of their environmental and heritage values as set out in the applicable Heritage Management Plans.
  • Use of goats for weed management in external areas. Goat grazing on weed species creates less soil disturbance than manual removal methods, and reduces the amount of herbicides used.
  • Minimising the NCA’s impact on the environment is a key objective of NCA’s strategic planning, promotion and enhancement of Canberra as the National Capital for all Australians.
  • Under the National Capital Plan, matters of national significance include ‘development of a city which both respects environmental values and reflects national concerns with the sustainability of Australia’s urban areas’. One of the key objectives of the National Capital Plan is to ‘support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices’.
  • Active management of the colony of flying foxes in Commonwealth Park through preparing a draft Flying Fox Management Plan, with input from a range of community members and experts. Following events in 2019-20 (starvation, extreme heat and severe hail storm), an Extreme Weather Event Response Plan has been developed as an attachment to the Flying-Fox Management Plan.
  • Finalising a Tree Management Policy to ensure a robust and consistent approach for the management of urban trees in readiness for current and future challenges.
  • In Feb 2020, NCA renewed fleet vehicles with selections based on fit-for-purpose and low CO2 emissions.

Further activities that may be explored by the NCA include:

  • preferencing zero-emissions fleet vehicles with the aim of achieving an emissions-free fleet of vehicles and other modes of transport
  • phasing out single use plastics by event operators and tenants in NCA-managed premises
  • recommending that events do not use latex or rubber balloons
  • installing recycling bins across the national estate.

Photo of National Reconciliation Week Illuminations 2020 on the National Carillon, Aspen Island. Photographed by Dom Northcott. Reconciliation, a continuing journey of growth and togetherness, Nikita Ridgeway of Boss Lady Creative Designs. Narrative created by Reconciliation Australia.