It is hard to see an economic justification of the Toondah Harbour PDA

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Mangroves, wetlands, foreshores provide significant economic benefits to the community and should be factored into development decisions!

The cost of environmental decline in South East Queensland is well established and measured by an economically rational assessment of these costs.  The report is a good read i.e. Managing What Matters.  It was written as a call to arms to increase awareness of the need to protect and improve South East Queensland’s declining natural resource assets. Why wasn’t this information referenced and then used to inform the planning and decision makers and the rush to endorse the Development Scheme now being enacted for the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area.

Managing What Matters is an economic study into the impact of environmental decline in South East Queensland. Commissioned by SEQ Catchments (SEQC) in 2009, the work is part of SEQC’s  commitment to the quality NRM planning in Queensland and measures for the first time the social cost to the community and the impact on business of environmental decline in South East Queensland.

Broadly it found:

  • The social cost of this decline is estimated conservatively to be $5.2 billion over the next two decades.
  • 90 per cent of those that took part in the research believe that protecting the environment is equal to or more important than economic growth.
  • Respondents indicated they would be prepared to pay almost $300 per household per annum to avoid a decline in resource conditions from the current level
  • A ‘do nothing more’ scenario will put at risk up to $8 billion in potential turnover for the tourism industry in South East Queensland over the next 20 years.
  • The $1.2 billion primary production industry will continue to suffer productivity and profitability risk from declining resource condition.

This report makes a mockery of the technical reports provided that purport to justify the Toondah Harbour (and  probably the Weinam Creek) PDA development schemes. There is no economic value placed on the natural or amenity values of the foreshores, waterways, wetlands or parks.  The community should be alarmed that there is no valid or rational assessment behind the intent to develop the Toondah Harbour PDA and further no value placed on the adverse impacts on the health of Moreton Bay in planning for the sites.  The suggestions are that the development assessment process will account for environmental, social and cultural values.  These values should be included in the planning decisions. In the current (government) paradigm (and the logic of Redland City Council) the so called rationalist views are blind to the real costs of foreshore and on water development.  The proponents of the PDA schemes should be required to justify their “solutions”‘ on a proper benefit cost basis, i.e. the rational arguments should be used to consider the full economic impacts.  Selective positive impacts and no( or low) regard to adverse impacts have haunted so many development proposals of the last few years including the Cross River Tunnel, the Airport Link, Go between Bridge and many more.

The arguments in favour of the development of Toondah Harbour need to be full and frank assessments of the Benefit costs and not just a sales pitch, trying to take advantage of the well positioned public assets without regard the full costs of development and the loss of amenity and community benefits.  The world has moved on from a cargo cult styled economic analysis and smart development should account for the full impact and not take a short cut to substituting “private benefits” for a proper assessment of community benefit costs.  The report “Managing What Matters” is not even referenced in the published Technical Reports” used by Redlands City Council and the State Government to “justify” the development of the PDA.

Is it that such a rationalist assessment would not suit the growth paradigm that seems to b e the given assumption that underpins decisions to proceed with the PDA?

Without a benefit cost analysis, a business plan, or an input/output analysis how is it we are on the edge of committing valuable public assets to underpin private profits. Is this really an economic rational approach?

An economic rationalist view of the value and threats to Moreton Bay is detailed in the report: Managing What Matters, which is available in full or summary form, as follows: