Urgent steps needed to protect Canberra’s unique environment


Today, the ACT Government has released the independent 2023 State of the Environment Report, prepared by the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment

Minister for the Environment, Parks and Land Management Rebecca Vassarotti said the report reflected the urgent need to prioritise protection of our environment in all government decisions.

“Our environment is in crisis. Urban expansion, bushfires, and rising temperatures are all contributing to the decline of the bush capital.,” Minister Vassarotti said.

“Nature doesn’t respect the boundaries of ministries. The message to the government in this report is clear: we need to consider and give greater priority to the environment in every decision we make.

“Previous State of the Environment Reports have shown that Canberra’s footprint is expanding, contributing to environmental destruction on the outer edge of our city.

“Fast forward to 2024 and Canberra’s city boundaries continue to expand in the north and west with several developments in the Molonglo Valley, Gungahlin and West Belconnen.

“With the ACT’s population is projected to grow by 70 per cent by 2060, we have a long way to go to sustainably manage our growing city.

“The Commissioner’s report says that if we are to prevent environmentally destructive impacts of urban development, we must focus on building more houses inside our current city footprint instead of continuing to spread out.”

Minster for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury said the report was a sobering reminder the government needs to continue to invest in restoring waterways and improving the quality of the water entering our creeks, rivers, lakes and ponds.

“This report highlights the damaging impacts of the Orroral Valley bushfire on local rivers, and the impacts of urban development and nutrient pollution on our local waterways and lakes,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“The combined impacts of climate change and urban development are making it more important than ever that we take good care of our waterways by improving water quality, restoring vegetation along rivers and creeks and managing sediment runoff from urban development and rural land use.

“In good news, despite these pressures the report found that we are making progress, noting the positive outcomes for urban water quality of our Healthy Waterways work and the adoption of water sensitive urban design approaches.

“We thank the Commissioner for her independent and comprehensive analysis across all key aspects of the ACT’s environment, which will help us take an evidence-based approach to addressing the environmental challenges we face.”

In the report, the Commissioner noted progress towards creating a sustainable future for Canberra, highlighting the ACT’s 100% renewable electricity grid, legislation to establish a net-zero target for greenhouse gas emissions, cessation of new gas network connections, and the adoption of a target for no net waste sent to landfill sites.

The Government will provide a formal response to the 2024 State of the Environment Report in the coming months