Where’s the Ramsar site management plan?

Moreton Bay Ramsar site areas (in red) and Sibelco's Enterprise sand mine on North Stradbroke Island

Moreton Bay Ramsar site areas (in red) and Sibelco’s Enterprise sand mine on North Stradbroke Island

Toondah Harbour plans shouldn’t be assessed until a management plan for the Moreton Bay Ramsar site has been put in place says  Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI)

In its submission to the Federal Government, FOSI says:

…a twenty two year delay in creating a management plan “to promote the wise use and conservation of” the Moreton Bay site should be considered a national disgrace.

FOSI also says a that decision about the current Walker Corporation proposal for Toondah Harbour should be informed by further public participation “including via a public inquiry as empowered under the EPBC Act” because:

Many individuals and organisations concerned about protecting Moreton Bay and the Cleveland foreshore in particular, are likely to want to be heard.

Redlands2030 is publishing submissions about plans for dredging and construction at Toondah Harbour referred by Walker Corporation to the Federal Government for environmental assessment. The FOSI submission is reprinted, in full, below.

Submission 2 – EPBC referral 2015/7612 Toondah Harbour

Minister for the Environment
By Email only – EPBC.Referrals@environment.gov.au cc. greg.hunt@environment.gov.au

Reference Number 2015/7612 – Walker Group Holding Pty Limited

FOSI is responding to the invitation to make public comment on this referral because of its relevance and connection to North Stradbroke Island. Approximately half of North Stradbroke is included in the Moreton Bay Ramsar site.

The Moreton Bay Ramsar site was listed on 22 October, 1993. The EPBC Act and Regulations (schedule 6) require that management plans consistent with the Australian Ramsar Management Principles, be formulated and implemented. Relevant extracts from the EPBC Act (Sections 333 and 335) are also attached.

Astonishingly, twenty two years after its listing, no management plan exists for the Moreton Bay site, apart from for Moreton Island. Your department concedes this – see atached screen print of your department’s online information about the Moreton Bay Ramsar site under the ‘more information’ tab. The screen print information also highlights the practical importance of management plans:-

“Management Plans– used to formulate and implement planning so as to promote the wise use and conservation of wetlands”.

How can members of the public properly assess this proposal and make submissions in the absence of a management plan? Perhaps more importantly, how can you or your department’s officers properly and fully assess the proposal’s likely impact on matters of national environmental significance when there is no completed Ecological Character Description and no management plan for the whole site, despite it being a requirement of the EPBC Act and the Ramsar convention?

It is apparent, including from the Walker Group’s own expert reports forming part of the referral, that the Toondah Harbour and Weinham Creek proposal is likely to have a prolonged, significant impact upon four “matters of national environmental significance” under the EPBC Act:-

  1. The Moreton Bay Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance;
  2. A Listed Threatened Ecological Community;
  3. Listed Threatened species, some endangered;
  4. Listed Migratory species.

We submit that you should have no difficulty in deciding that this proposal is a controlled action and therefore requires your approval before it can lawfully proceed.

The proposal is a very radical one. It involves areas of publicly owned land being effectively converted into private ownership and being used to generate private profits. It also involves the reclamation and conversion of approximately fifty hectares of marine and tidal environments to private ownership and private profits.

The marine area to be reclaimed is supposedly protected by the Ramsar convention, to which Australia is a signatory. The referral documents indicate that the proposed dredging and other associated activities will impact a significantly larger area of the Ramsar protected waters of Moreton Bay, for at least several years.

Once you have decided that the proposal requires your approval, we trust that in considering the next issue, that is whether to approve the current proposal, that you will allow further public participation, including via a public inquiry as empowered under the EPBC Act. Many individuals and organisations concerned about protecting Moreton Bay and the Cleveland foreshore in particular, are likely to want to be heard.

In submitting on the issue of whether you should approve or not approve the proposed development, FOSI intends to ask you to also consider the cumulative impacts on the Moreton Bay Ramsar site from this proposal and other current activities. One such activity is the so-called Enterprise sand mine on North Stradbroke Island. As you know from our previous correspondence with you, despite your department’s three year long investigation, no decision has been made on whether the mine has been operating unlawfully for over a decade. It commenced in 2004 without being referred for approval under the EPBC Act. The attached image shows the mine’s proximity to Moreton Bay Ramsar areas. We note that we have provided you previously with a detailed September, 2012 report of Dr Errol Stock, a geologist and expert on the hydrology of North
Stradbroke, that the mine has had and continues to have significant impacts upon Ramsar protected areas to the east of the mine, the 18 mile swamp section. We also provided you with a report from Dr Stock in February, 2015 detailing serious impacts which the Enterprise mine has caused to the Ramsar area to the west of the mine,
in an area known as the Ibis Lagoon system.

In passing we note that Attachment A to the referral inaccurately indicates that a sand mine near Point Lookout is within the Moreton Bay Ramsar site. This is incorrect, as can been seen from the map of the Moreton Bay site on your department’s website.

In conclusion, a twenty two year delay in creating a management plan “to promote the wise use and conservation of” the Moreton Bay site should be considered a national disgrace. The Ramsar Treaty and the EPBC Act and regulations clearly intend that proposed actions impacting the site be assessed by the public, and by you and your department’s officers, against the provisions of a management plan.

This is also the only logical and rational approach. Completing an assessment of the current proposal in the absence of a management plan would be irresponsible, particularly given its nature and extent. As the Minister responsible for the protection of our environment, isn’t it time for you to make a stand on the astonishing absence of a management plan, by refusing to complete your assessment of the proposal until a management plan is implemented?

We look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely,
Friends of Stradbroke Island Inc.
PO Box 167
Point Lookout Q 4183

8 December, 2015

FOSI submission attachment EPBC Act sect 333

FOSI submission attachment EPBC Act sect 335

FOSI submission database


Publication details

This submission has been extracted from a pdf document provided to Redlands2030 by the Department of the Environment.

This information became publicly available via the Department’s Disclosure Log following a Freedom of Information request which Redlands2030 understands to have been submitted by Walker Corporation.

In many cases, the name and contact details of the person or organisation making a submission have not been made publicly available, indicated by “S47F”.

Submission number is by Redlands2030, reflecting the order of publication on our website.

Here’s a link to Submission 1.

Published by Redlands2030 – 7 August 2016

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

4 thoughts on “Where’s the Ramsar site management plan?

  1. In a society where cigarette companies are legally allowed to sell products that kill people it is hard to see how any proof that destroying the environment is bad for the planet is going to stop people doing it. As long as there is profit in the government will turn a blind eye. With the tobacco industry the government legitimises the process by collecting tax from peoples addiction. Awesome.
    Where money is involved ethics seem to get pushed aside.

  2. How incredible that there is no management plan for this Ramsar site as required by the Federal Government’s own laws! The Federal Government must comply with its own requirement for a management plan for the whole Moreton Bay Ramsar site before this Toondah Harbour proposal can go any further. The site has to be considered as a whole before selling off more than 50 hectares of it to a private developer. It would make a mockery of the law if this went any further without the Federal Government complying with its own laws.

  3. after sending my enquiry twice to Minister Trad, months later I am still waiting to hear whether the 50 or so hectares of tidal mudflats were purchased by the Walker Group, if yes at what price ,how was the price established, if no, was this public tidal mudflats donated to the developer ?

    • Ms Siegel, I was about to suggest you re-send to Minister Trad, especially as you raised these points at the R2030 “clean slate” event. No one could answer and a ministerial response is very important on those questions.
      However, what if…..
      What if Minister Trad has read your letter very carefully, taken it on board, and is in the process of advising Mr Walker that she’s sorry her predecessor (in the other party) and the Redland mayor (still the same one) got carried away in promising the world? Minister Trad must also be aware of the strength of community submissions to Canberra that quite fly in the face of the orchestrated award winning community consultation carried out by Walker.
      Are we now down to compensation for Walker wanting to withdraw?
      Who has to pay, State or Council? Or does Walker have to wear the commercial risk?

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