One of very few submissions to the Federal Government which supported Walker Group’s revised Toondah Project plan was made by the Straddie Chamber of Commerce.
The Government says it received 1,419 public submissions about Walker Group’s project referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, with 1,411 submissions opposing the project and just eight submissions supporting the project.
In its Toondah submission the Straddie Chamber of Commerce made some interesting claims.
Based on the advice of an unnamed “expert” the Chamber says that it “generally finds” Walker Group’s “potential impacts and mitigation measures” to be “consistent with a high standard of environmental stewardship”.
The Chamber says it does not believe that the proposed project would significantly impact on matters of national significance through the EPBC Act and does not feel the potential impacts are any greater than any other existing activity within the RAMSAR area or Moreton Bay Marine Park.
The Chamber’s environmental assessment is surprising given that Walker Group conceded its proposed project would impact on matters of national environmental significance and the Federal Government subsequently decided that the proposed project needed to be controlled under the EPBC Act because of likely impacts on matters of national environmental significance.
The Chamber’s submission includes various estimates of job numbers which are not substantiated and differ from job numbers provided by other sources.
The Chamber claimed in its submission (dated 25 May 2017) that the ending of sand mining in 2019 will result in loss of 110 full time equivalent sand mining jobs. But Sibelco stated publicly in November 2016 that it employed just 41 island residents at its operations on the island.
Concerns about the project expressed by the Chamber in its submission are:
- transitional arrangements during construction
- potential loss of parking capacity
- possible introduction of paid car parking.
Presented below is the full text of the Straddie Chamber of Commerce submission.
Straddie Chamber of Commerce submission on Toondah Harbour Development
Thank you for opportunity to provide comment on the EPBC referral for the Toondah Harbour Development.
The Straddie Chamber of Commerce (SCoC) was established in 2011 as a direct result of the Bligh government’s original decision to end sand mining on North Stradbroke Island in 2011. The business community quickly determined that the consultation process established during that period, and the transition plan developed to accompany the legislation was not representative of business needs and interests.
The Chamber is a diverse and resilient organisation which:
- Represents 85 of the 120 potential members
- We estimate that there are 158 FTE and 487 PT employees within Chamber businesses (excluding the mining company)
- SCoC businesses (excluding the mining company) have an estimated turnover of $64.5 million
- 60% of our members are from Point Lookout, 29% from Dunwich and 11% Amity
- 49% of businesses are in Accommodation, Food & Beverage industries, with 21% listed as service industries
- 50% of our businesses have a turnover of less than $300K, with 33% over $900K
The Toondah Harbour Development has long been touted as a potential replacement for business revenue and economic activity lost to the North Stradbroke Island community as part of the Palaszcuk’s governments early closure to the Sand Mining industry on the island.
The SCoC surveyed our membership in 2016 on the estimated impact of an immediate closure of mining in 2019 without a significant new enterprise in place. The results are from our 85 members so are conservative as they only speak for 2/3 of the business community.
However, the results speak for themselves with a closure in 2019 resulting in:
- The immediate loss of 22 full time position and 66 part time positions, resulting in a loss of 197 positions (including the mining company’s 110 FTE)
- An estimated removal of $4.2Million dollars in wages from the North Stradbroke Island economy (based on average NSI wage data), and
- An estimated realistic replacement number of hospitality jobs would be 307 FTE positions to return to current status quo
Therefore the prospect of projects such as the Toondah Harbour Development that may generate income and visitors to NSI, replacing that lost economic activity is one that the chamber supports.
The SCoC is conscious however on the very real potential of the project to disrupt travel and access to the island and therefore wishes to register its concerns regarding;
- So far unknown, transitional island access arrangements whilst construction is underway,
- Future parking issues and travel restrictions resulting from a potential loss of parking capacity or access, and
- The possibility of increase costs to the tourist and local community through paid parking which may put further stress on our business community
Not withstanding these concerns, and we realise that parking and access issues are outside of the EPBC process, The Straddie Chamber of Commerce supports a redevelopment of the Toondah Harbour Precinct and the development of a world class stepping off point for North Stradbroke Island that is keeping in line with the areas environmental principles, generates real community infrastructure needed for travel to NSI and increases community access to the bay and the islands.
Comment on potential impacts on matters protected by the EPBC Act:
Regarding the potential for the development to impact on matters protected by the EPBC Act, the chamber has engaged an expert to review the potential impacts and mitigation measures and generally finds them to be consistent with a high standard of environmental stewardship.
Chamber members note the area is already significantly impacted and an environmentally sensitive development, done correctly, may actually improve water quality for the area and not compromise the small amount of intact habitat that is in the area.
Providing the controls proposed are implemented, the SCoC feel that the impact of the development could be adequately managed and offset and would not increase impacts on adjacent sensitive areas such as wading bird habitat or seagrass beds.
From a business perspective, the SCoC feel the potential impacts don’t outweigh the potential gains from the project and as such, do not feel the potential impacts are any greater than any other existing activity within the RAMSAR area or Moreton Bay Marine Park.
In conclusion, the Straddie Chamber of Commerce believe the project meets its objectives and doesn’t significantly impact on matters of national significance through the EPBC Act.
Our members look forward to ongoing involvement in the planning process for the development and working with the proponent to mitigate potential impacts on our businesses, visitors and community during both the construction and operational phases.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this submission and we look forward to seeing the progress of this project in to the next stage.
Straddie Chamber Of Commerce
For and on behalf of the SCoC Executive Committee
25 May 2017
Other submissions about Toondah Harbour
Submissions about Walker Group’s proposed Toondah Harbour project were obtained recently by Redlands2030 through a crowd funded Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
We reported on two other submissions about the Toondah referral in these posts: