Living Streets Association | 2022 May

Residents who have lived in Watson for the past decade will know that block 74 (next to Solstice) is where you can stop by and say ‘Hi’ to the cows grazing along the fence, and block 76 (next to YWAM) used to be where you could spot tens of Kangaroos lazing around. Sometimes you could have even spotted a Joey peeking out of their mother’s pouch. Sadly, the high amounts of developments concentrated in North Watson in the past 2 years have cut off the vital green belt between Mt Majura and Justice Robert Hope Park, and block Section 76. All the kangaroos that used to reside there have retreated back into the mountain.

In 2018, Watson residents banded together to collect the community’s opinions on Section 76’s Draft Variation Plan. In response to the ACT government, many residents were against the 30% tree retention, because this meant that 70% of the mature trees would be removed. All of the wildlife such as birds and possums would lose their habitat, and the beautiful tree line that can be seen from all directions in the suburb would disappear. Thanks to the community’s communication efforts with planning authorities, it has been said by planners that the approximately 300 trees on Section 76 will all remain! Now the task for our community is to hold planners, developers and the government accountable, and make sure trees don’t disappear one by one to make way for housing development.

Section 76 Interviews- Habitat and Ecology

In January of 2022, Living Streets Youth conducted interviews with residents to look deeper into the ecology of the block, and its importance for people in the area.

Max Pouwer has been a North Watson Resident since 2014. He is a member of Friends of Mt Majura (FoMM) (ACT ParkCare Volunteers) and many other nature conservation organisations because that is his passion.

Living Streets Youth: So you mentioned your interest was in plants, why are native plants so important to have on the block?

Max Pouwer: Well in a word, it’s habitat. It has to be habitat for Australian, native, endemic species. There are many species of parrots in Canberra, more than 20 in fact, and a few of them are on the endangered species list. According to local ecologists, they visit, feed, and nest here. We need these big trees here as nesting for these parrots and also some other animals like possums.

Developers are talking about introducing new plantings, but they were talking about introducing some more exotic species to be food for parrots. If they are going to introduce other trees here, which I encourage, they need to be introducing local native species. Please get some expert advice so that we can have local provenance.

Alex Smythe has been a Watson Resident for 20 years, and he and his wife are Bird Lovers. Living Streets interviewed him to learn how humans can best coexist with the environment.

Living Streets Youth: From your observation over the years, what kinds of birds utilize the space, and how can we support their growth? 

Alex Smythe: It’s mostly used by larger birds as a staging post on their way to other places for foraging and feeding around Canberra and also notably for the Superb Parrots who come here to roost in the evening which is a rather beautiful sight. It would be really nice if any development here could have low level and dense foliage as well which encourages smaller birds because the smaller bird habitat around Canberra is very few on the ground there are lots of native smaller birds and they’re having fewer and fewer places to live, so you could have big birds and small birds.

Ecology Education for the Community

During our various holiday programs and community events, we invited bird enthusiast, Megan Mears, to give bird talks and share some ideas on how we can help improve their habitats. After several presentations about bird life in Watson, many people have realised just how many birds they hear in the neighbourhood every day, and now enjoy stopping and listening to the sounds of nature.

Megan once said that you can hear 15-20 different bird species on morning walks around Watson. To solidify the children’s learning, we created scavenger hunts to spot birds and remember their names. We also played active games with bird call sounds to help us recognise and identify the different bird species.

The Section 76 Ecology Map was created to educate residents about all the bird life they may see around the area. This was used during our school holiday programs at the block for the scavenger hunt activities. You can have a read of our map at this link.