Mayor Williams’ Toondah claims need testing

Mayor Karen Williams with Jeff Seeney and Lang Walker signing Toondah agreements in September 2014

Mayor Karen Williams with Jeff Seeney and Lang Walker signing Toondah agreements in September 2014

A letter from Mayor Karen Williams to the Federal Government was one of the many Toondah submissions obtained through Redlands2030’s recent Freedom of Information (FOI) inquiry.

Mayor Karen Williams' Facebook post calling for letters of support on Walker Group's proposal

Mayor Karen Williams’ Facebook post calling for letters of support on Walker Group’s proposal

As a letter of support it was in very exclusive company. The Government said only eight submissions supported the project compared with 1,411 opposing submissions when it consulted about Walker Group’s second referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

During the EPBC referral consultation period Mayor Williams posted this call for supporting submissions on her mayoral Facebook page:

Support #straddie with a letter of support on Walker Group’s Toondah Harbour development proposal …

Why didn’t anyone respond?

What do other councillors think about Toondah?

Redlands2030 understands other councillors were not aware that the Mayor was lodging a letter of support during the EPBC consultation process.

Councillors with concerns about the Walker Group’s project and its likely impacts on the environment and local community have been warned off making any public comments of objection.

It seems that when the Council entered into its ‘commercial in confidence’ agreement with Walker Group during Mayor Williams first term, it agreed to a condition of the contract which exposes any councillor making negative comments about the project to punitive legal consequences.

So the community’s elected representatives have been effectively silenced from speaking out against a project which residents are concerned about.

Are claims by the Mayor believable?

Letter from Mayor Karen Williams to Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport

Letter from Mayor Williams supporting Walker Group’s Toondah proposal. This letter and its covering email can also be viewed as a pdf document.

In her letter Mayor Williams claims:

A revitalised Toondah harbour will encourage more than 45,000 additional visitors to the region every year. This equates to a potential $21 million per annum in tourism revenue and $78 million per annum in additional retail expenditure for the region. 

No substantiation is provided for these claims. Redlands2030 is not aware of any publicly available report by a credible entity which supports this assessment.

The same comment applies to often repeated statements that the project will result in 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs.

Is Toondah a tourism project?

Toondah Harbour Infrastructure Agreement plans

The Mayor refers to Toondah Harbour being awarded Austrade Tourism Major Project facilitation status in early 2017.

Redlands2030 questioned the responsible agency earlier this year to find out why Toondah was bestowed with such an ‘award’ and what benefits would result from this ‘status’. They refused to comment.

To be eligible for this status, projects must have a capital value of more than $50 million according to the Federal Government’s website.

But the Walker Group’s Toondah project is primarily concerned with residential development.

The Toondah Harbour Infrastructure Agreement (made publicly available following a right to information request by Redlands2030) suggests the value of investment in tourism infrastructure could be much less than $50 million.

Going through the back door

By sending this letter to the minister for Infrastructure and Transport, it appears that Mayor Williams was trying to go through the back door. The EPBC consultation process requires submissions to be sent to the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Decisions about EPBC Act referrals are required to be made, not by the Government, but by the Minister for The Environment and Energy currently Josh Frydenberg.

A cryptic note on the covering email steers the Mayor’s letter appropriately into the formal submission process.

Printed below is the full text of Mayor William’s letter supporting Walker Group’s Toondah proposal.

The letter and its covering email can also be viewed as a pdf document.

Mayor Williams’ letter supporting Walker Group

Honourable Darren Chester MP
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I write to urgently request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the Toondah Harbour Priority Development area (PDA) Project. Ideally I would like to meet prior to Thursday 8 June, which is when the Federal Government is scheduled to make a decision on the Walker Group’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity conservation (EPBC) referral for this project. I appreciate this date is fast approaching and in your position you have a very full diary, so if you are unable to meet in person by this date I would be more than happy to meet with a senior representative within your department or alternatively discuss over the phone.

The $1.4 billion Toondah Harbour redevelopment will see the tired ferry terminal transformed into a regional tourism attraction. The harbour is the main departure and arrival point for ferry and water taxi services between the mainland and North Stradbroke Island. It is also used to launch recreational and commercial craft, and comprises of (sic) residential and open space land. The benefits of this once in a lifetime project cannot be underestimated, representing unrivalled tourism, cultural and economic growth opportunities for the region. This is supported by the fact that earlier this year, Toondah Harbour was awarded Austrade Tourism Major Project facilitation service status.

A revitalised Toondah harbour will encourage more than 45,000 additional visitors to the region every year. This equates to a potential $21 million per annum in tourism revenue and $78 million per annum in additional retail expenditure for the region. This project will generate more than 1000 jobs per annum during the construction phase, 500 jobs per annum post construction, with jobs supported by visitor expenditure equating to more than 250. This economic activity is vital for the Redlands, in particular North Stradbroke Island, which is not only the destination for most people who use Toondah Harbour but also an island facing uncertain times as it prepares for the end of sand mining in 2019.

While there is understandably a great deal of excitement about this project, there is also a great deal of work to be done. This new EPBC application is not asking for approval of the project, merely it is asking to allow Walker Group to take it to the next stage of assessment – to have it tested against the science through an Environmental Impact Statement. I have always supported such scrutiny, and believe Walker Group should have the opportunity to demonstrate the acceptability of the proposal through an EIS.

I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this important project and its benefits for the Redlands and wider community.

Kind Regards

Mayor Karen Williams
Redland City Council

23 May 2017

Other submissions about Walker Group’s EPBC referral

Submissions about Walker Group’s proposed Toondah Harbour project were obtained by Redlands2030 through a crowd funded Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The Federal Government says that in response to Walker Group’s latest EPBC referral there were 1,419 submissions – 1,411 opposing and eight supporting the project.

Many of the submissions have been published by Redlands2030 – links are included below:

Opposing submissions Supporting submissions
1,411 submissions opposed the project referral 8 submissions supported the project referral
Ramsar Secretariat warns on Toondah impacts Toondah project gets support from Grand View
Jobs impact of Toondah overstated, dishonest Brisbane Marketing submission on Toondah
Walker Group’s Toondah plan is unacceptable Property Council advocates for Toondah project
AMCS says Marine Park is too valuable to risk Infrastructure Association supports Toondah
National Parks Association Toondah submission Straddie Chamber supports Toondah project
Don’t take Toondah treasures from us Sealink profit up but Straddie route challenging

Redlands2030 – 2 October 2017

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

3 thoughts on “Mayor Williams’ Toondah claims need testing

  1. Mayor says: The $1.4 billion Toondah Harbour redevelopment will see the tired ferry terminal transformed into a regional tourism attraction.

    Reality: 2011 RCC documents refer to a provision of 200 dwellings to support 200 wet berths and 350 dry berths to service a Toondah Harbour PDA. The PDA lodged with the state received none of the “extended and extensive community consultation” it was subsequently awarded for. It was presented “sight unseen” in its PDA lodged form, and proposed an unpublished land mass almost 10 times the published land mass of 6.8 Hectares, including several SIGNIFICANT amendments never made publicly available for stakeholder or community scrutiny.

    One sacrifice was the surrender of international treaty protected Ramsar wetland that does attract qualified recreational revenues and tourism, as well protected Aboriginal Middens and the largest remaining colony of Koala’s in South-East Qld, neither of which, I note, is no longer recognised as such on RCC Maps, despite being located within a protected Historical and Cultural Precinct.

    Interestingly, the fact that Australian Cities Reports has estimated that 52% of Queensland’s economy relies upon a healthy Bay, has also been cheerfully ignored, as has the smell that will impact a 5 kilomentre foreshore, making it difficult for residents to tolerate living here, let alone encourage tourist visitation, if this specific development is to proceed.

    The Mayor has consistently and publicly denied any reason to revisit public consultation on the issue, despite such rescission being a legislated requirement in accord with The Economic Development Act 2012 Section 62, under which the PDA was enabled. The latest version submitted by The Chinese backed Walker Corporation is for 3,600 dwellings and a reduced marina of 200 berths, although conflicting accounts of a 400 berth provision also exist.

    How can this residential development, in any way resemble or service a tourist Hub, when the Marina amendments fail to service the needs of the 2011 facility proposed by the then council to accommodate the lesser number of 200 dwellings (one eighteenth the size of Walkers PDA Proposal), only to be made substantially worse again, in failing to service the needs of a dramatically increased population of 3,600 dwellings, with a relatively smaller Marina facility again.

    To summarise, how can a Marina be a Tourism Hub, when the facility is expected to service the needs of a doubled Cleveland residential population, when in reality, the Walker Corporation proposes a Marina with fewer Berths than those required to service the Councils 2011 Toondah proposed population of 200 dwellings? How can it service its own needs let alone those of a Tourist population? The size of the exaggeration speaks for itself, as do job claims.

    Mayor says: “This project will generate more than 1000 jobs per annum during the construction phase, 500 jobs per annum post construction, with jobs supported by visitor expenditure equating to more than 250”.

    Reality: Creating a development of 3,600 dwellings, presumed to accommodate an average 2.5 people per dwelling, with provision for 1500 jobs, the majority of them (1000) temporary and not permanent, is a JOB DEFICIT, no matter how bad your maths is.

    Mayor says: A revitalised Toondah harbour will encourage more than 45,000 additional visitors to the region every year. This equates to a potential $21 million per annum in tourism revenue and $78 million per annum in additional retail expenditure for the region

    I have attended Austrade Workshops, and enjoyed being a National Workplace Assessor, conducting national workshops and participating in International Australian Trade Shows to support our Tourism Industry. I am aware of a number of opportunities capable of attracting far better qualified business and employment to service residents and deliver essential infrastructure here (none of it specified, such as the requirement for 2 new schools offering 3 classes per grade).

    There are alternative opportunities offering annual returns greater than Walker itself is alleging to deliver in 20 years. I echo the invitation to the Mayor to substantiate the figures presented here, because I can’t. I welcome the education, if one can be substantiated on these figures, on this development, as proposed. The simple fact is, that we can deliver Walkers 20 year result, and better on an annual basis, without surrendering the health of our bay, Ecosystem and waterways to do it.

  2. The Walker Proposal for Toondah Harbour in Moreton Bay is on the nose and it is rapidly becoming common knowledge. Talk of tourism and jobs is simply a smoke screen, which is fading as residents and councillors alike realise this is nothing more than an environmentally destructive unit construction proposal over a Ramsar Migratory shore-bird region of Moreton Bay. Councillors and residents alike have been intimidated by influential people with a vested interest in the multi-million dollar unit project. Let me ask one question – has anyone considered the effects of packing another 10,000 residents and 6,000 cars into an area that is already lacking road, rail and parking infrastructure? What about schools? Where are we going to locate another primary and secondary school for all the extra students? Has that been considered by either the local council or the State Government. I have seen the State Government Development Plan to 2041 and it appears to have been developed by a couple of school children, not that the LNP have done anything of note on the subject of infrastructure. Both major parties have let down the residents of the Redlands, along with Redland City Council.

  3. Re attracting tourism to Redland City by way of Toondah Harbour…gateway to Nth Stradbroke Island that could serve as a stepping stone to other nearby islands.
    In no way can tourism be encouraged by erecting apartment buildings around the harbour site of some 3,600 units plus all other recently completed high rise buildings in Cleveland…bearing in mind the high volume of traffic that comes with growth.
    What is of major importance to Redlands is what the wider community have been saying all along which are the words repeated over and over to government bodies; i.e. “fix the port, stop the rort”.
    In effectively silencing most Redland councillors fearing legal action against them should they express an opinion not in keeping with Mayor, mates & developer, plans for the harbour surrounds can proceed without interference effectively carrying out whatever plans they collectively decide is best for the people of Redland City but which I see as a deterrent for tourists if ferry terminal remains as is in its present state. No time like the present to begin fixing it along with car parking issue in order to do just that…encourage tourism to nearby islands through Redland City by replacing existing terminal with a new attractive one…sooner rather than later. My view.

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