Redlands2030 is seeking community support in finding out why Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg didn’t declare Walker Group’s proposed Toondah dredging project to be “clearly unacceptable”.
Environmental impacts of Walker Group’s proposed Toondah Harbour dredging project will be assessed under Federal environment laws following a decision by Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on 8 June 2017.
Freedom of information ain’t free!
The Minister’s reasons for making his decision raise numerous concerns about Walker Group’s proposed development plans.
To learn more, Redlands2030 has sought information from the Environment Department under Freedom of Information (FOI) law.
The information Redlands2030 is seeking relates to why the Minister decided that Walker Group’s proposed Toondah project should be assessed under Federal environment law instead of being declared “clearly unacceptable”.
Requested information includes reports by the Minister’s staff, correspondence between the Government and Walker Group and submissions made by members of the public in response to Walker Group’s referral.
‘Freedom of Information’ sounds good but it can be expensive. In this case the Federal Government has advised that it will cost $551.67 to get the requested information.
To help us pay for this information through FOI, Redlands2030 is appealing for donations from anyone in the community who is concerned about the proposed dredging of internationally significant Ramsar wetlands and construction of 3,600 apartments next to Toondah Harbour.
To clarify what you are contributing money towards, you can reference ToondahFOI when making a donation.
Minister’s decision about the Toondah Harbour project
Reasons given by Minister Frydenberg for having the Toondah project controlled under Federal environment law include likely significant impacts on:
- the ecological character of the Moreton Bay Ramsar wetland
- listed migratory shorebird species including an ecologically significant population of the Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit
- other listed migratory species including dugongs, indo-pacific humpback dolphins, and three turtles species (Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill)
- threatened species and communities such as:
- Eastern Curlews, Great Knots, Curlew Sandpipers and Bar-tailed Godwits
- Koalas and Grey-headed flying foxes which are both listed as vulnerable
- Loggerhead turtle (endangered), Green Turtle (vulnerable) and Hawksbill Turtle (vulnerable).
The Minister noted that Moreton Bay is one of only two Ramsar sites in Australia that supports the critically endangered eastern curlew throughout the year, with juvenile birds not migrating until they are 2-3 years old. He also noted concerns about the proposed buffer distance between Walker Group’s proposed development and the shorebird roost on Cassim Island.
Commenting on Walker Group’s proposal the Minister said:
The referral lacks detail on the proposed development, such as the size of the marina, the number of apartments, the height of buildings and the extent of dredging required to upgrade the channel. The referral has not considered indirect impacts from the proposed action such as light pollution, the potential for increased weeds and domestic animals, and human traffic.
Walker Group’s Toondah proposal was made a “controlled action” under Federal law by the minister on 8 June 2017. Since then the community has been given no further information about how the project’s assessment might happen.
Who will oversee the environmental assessment?
Of particular concern to many in the community is whether the Toondah project’s environmental assessment will be managed by the Federal Government (whose bureaucrats appear to have many misgivings about the project) or the Queensland Government which is widely perceived to be biased in favour of the project proceeding regardless of its many significant environmental impacts.
The Federal Government’s commitment to FOI
The Australian Parliament first considered introducing freedom of information (FOI) legislation in the 1970s. In 1979, a Senate committee report outlined three reasons why FOI is important:
- FOI allows individuals to see what information government holds about them, and to seek correction of that information if they consider it wrong or misleading.
- FOI enhances the transparency of policy making, administrative decision making and government service delivery.
- A community that is better informed can participate more effectively in the nation’s democratic processes.
These reasons are still valid today. More recently, a fourth reason for FOI has emerged — there is greater recognition that information gathered by government at public expense is a national resource and should be available more widely to the public. This idea was explicitly recognised through the reforms to the FOI Act in 2010.
Other investigations by Redlands2030
We are also pursuing investigations relating to various decisions by Redland City Council and the Queensland Government through Queensland’s Right to Information laws which are also expensive and can take months to complete, but that’s another story.
Getting information through FOI is not free, quick or easy
While the Federal FOI legislation provides for information to be made available to the public there are exemptions. The process can take many months and the Government can and invariably does impose charges which can be hundreds of dollars.
Redlands2030 lodged its application for the Toondah FOI in July and we hope to get a response in early September.
But we will only get the information after the full charge of $551.67 has been paid.
Can you help?
Your contribution would be appreciated – there is a window “Support Redlands2030” and a Donate button on the Redlands2030 website.
You can also support Redlands2030 by participating in our Garage Sale at the Cleveland Scout Den on Saturday 2 September from 6:00AM to 2:00PM.
Every dollar contributed goes to meet the costs of our investigations and our vigilance.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few” (Wendell Phillips 1852)