The Labor Government has announced its support for a $1.39 billion redevelopment of the sensitive coastal area around Toondah Harbour.
While the ferry terminal will get a face lift, most of the investment action will be construction of a massive commercial and residential precinct together with dredging to create a marina and “on water” developments. Thousands of apartments will be built in the Toondah Harbour area.
The Government’s announcement was full of predictable spin about the large round numbers of jobs that could result from this development.
“The Toondah Harbour revitalisation project will create more than 1,000 jobs during construction and an estimated 500 jobs a year post construction,” Ms Trad said.
But there was no mention of the expected economic,social and environmental impacts like:
- taking business from the Cleveland CBD
- capturing the tourist spend that might otherwise end up on Straddie
- destruction of internationally significant Ramsar wetlands
There was no recognition of the costs and disruption to be inflicted on the nearby residents. Should we be surprised? Well, it was a political announcement, conveniently timed to follow the Government’s recent confirmation that sand mining on Straddie will stop in 2019.
All we heard from Deputy Premier Trad was: “The next step will be community engagement and critical environmental impact and development assessment processes and steps”. The Government says that the environmental impact assessment will inform the detailed design of the project, which could be available as early as mid-2016.
The worrying implication is that these “next steps” are just formalities that need to be worked through so the designated developer, Walker Corporation, can get on with the business of making heaps of money and the Government will be able to say it has created jobs.
When the announcement was made, at Toondah Harbour, Mayor Karen Williams claimed that “The Redlands community has been waiting for this project for half a century”. Not true. In the 1980s the Cleveland community resoundingly opposed a large coastal real estate project in the very same area – more than 12,000 people signed a petition which reached a government prepared to listen to the community. That time, the project was binned. So the Redlands community has not been waiting for this project.
Going forward with Walker Corporation
With the new Government signaling that, in this instance, it’s more concerned about jobs than community and environmental issues, its time to get on with the business of examining Walker Corporation’s detailed proposal.
Available information (and there is not much) suggests that Walker Corporation is an intensely private company which prefers doing quiet deals with governments rather than engaging actively with a noisy community and responding constructively to its feedback. So this could be an interesting journey.
A few years ago, Walker Corporation pursued a coastal development project at Ralphs Bay in Tasmania. The development plans were ultimately scrapped by the Tasmanian Government because of environmental concerns, strong community opposition, and a rigorous independent assessment process. The details are discussed in this report.
Now, Walker Corporation has an opportunity to gain community support for the Toondah Harbour project but this will only happen if there is genuine community engagement based upon timely provision of detailed information. We need a major step up from the inadequate consultation, by the Redland City Council and State Government, which has blighted this project so far.
No more spin, no more unavailable technical reports, no more excuses about “commercial in confidence”. Just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Redlands2030 has always supported appropriate development of Toondah Harbour but with a more realistic and reasonable scope suited to a site with many constraints.
Going forward Redlands2030 will keep an open mind and:
- evaluate the information that is made available
- point out if information is not being made publicly available
- encourage community engagement about any issues of reasonable concern
We hope that Walker Corporation will be soon able to put forward for public review on its website detailed information about all the costs and benefits of the project. If the project proves to be clearly in the public interest then community support and trust will have been well earned.