Toondah Harbour decision delayed for fifth time

Scale of the proposed development around Toondah Harbour from a Redlands 2030 flyover simulation

Still image from Redlands 2030’s 3D flyover simulation of Walker Corporation’s proposed Toondah Harbour development

Walker Corporation’s proposal to dredge and reclaim coastal wetlands at Cleveland is experiencing further delay in getting Federal Government environmental approval.

The project, which includes plans to dredge 1.85 million tonnes and reclaim 43.5 hectares of land for construction of 3,600 apartments around Toondah Harbour, was referred to the Federal Government for environmental assessment in late 2015.

Much of the area proposed for dredging and reclamation is in the internationally recognized Moreton Bay Ramsar site and contains feeding grounds for migratory shorebirds, some of which are now classified as critically endangered.

This week the Federal Government extended by 65 days the timeframe for deciding how the project’s environmental impacts should be assessed.The new deadline for a decision is 5 December 2016.

The Government’s decision making deadline has now been extended five times with total delay of nearly a year.

A gossip column in Brisbane’s Courier Mail recently said Walker Corporation’s boss Lang Walker is “fuming at the roadblocks the Federal Government has thrown up in the way of his $1.4 billion Toondah Harbour project”.

But the delays are occurring at Walker Corporation’s request and are likely due to inadequacies in the original project referral by Walker Corporation.

Federal Government environmental assessment process

The Federal Government assesses matters of national environmental significance in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, better known as the EPBC Act.

Project developers are required to refer proposed projects to the Federal Government if it’s possible that there may be impacts on matters of national environmental significance.

When it receives a project referral, the Federal Government has to decide if the project should be assessed and approved as a “controlled action” under the EPBC Act.

The only decisions which the Federal government can make at this initial stage is whether or not the project should be controlled by the Federal Government (or left to the State Government) and how environmental impacts should be assessed.

In its referral, Walker Corporation said the Toondah Harbour project should be a “controlled action” under the EPBC Act, saying:

Specifically, tidal works such as the excavation of quarry material from land under tidal water, capital dredging of the navigation channel and land reclamation will result in a loss of seagrass meadow and intertidal mudflats that have aquatic ecological and fisheries value and provide foraging habitat for EPBC listed migratory species, such as migratory shorebirds, dugong and marine turtles.

The Government is required by law to make a decision on a referral within 20 business days which includes 10 business days of public consultation.

Toondah Harbour assessment delay is unprecedented

Walker Corporation’s Toondah Harbour project referral 2015/7612 was publicly notified on 25 November 2015 and the closing dates for comments was 9 December 2015.

Many comments were submitted to the Federal Government about this project referral. Dozens of these submissions are now publicly available and some have been published by Redlands2030.

For reasons which have not been publicly explained, Walker Corporation has requested five extensions to the decision making deadline as detailed below:

Federal Government notice about referral Date of notice Extension duration Decision Deadline
Invitation for public comment 25 November 2015 24 December 2015
Suspension of Decision Timeframe Period 17 December 2015 27 business days 9 February 2016
Suspension of Decision Timeframe Period 1 February 2016 50 business days 20 April 2016
Suspension of  Decision Timeframe Period 18 April 2016 13 business days 6 May 2016
Suspension of Decision Timeframe Period 4 May 2016 85 business days 2 September 2016
Suspension of Decision Timeframe Period 25 August 2016 65 business days 5 December 2016

The Federal Government has assessed more than 5,000 referrals under the EPBC Act since it was passed in 1999. It appears, from a review of the EPBC Act Public Notices – referrals webpage, that the only referral ever to have its decision time frame suspended is referral number 2015/7612, Walker Corporation’s proposed Toondah Harbour project which has now had five suspensions.

Nothing to see here

Walker Corporation has not explained changes to its project timeline on its Toondah Harbour project webpage.

Consultants AECOM were appointed by Walker Corporation as the lead specialist consultant to prepare the project’s environmental impact statement. AECOM’s project webpage has not been updated since the EPBC referral was submitted to the Federal Government in November 2015.

Walker Corporation should keep the community up to date with the status of its proposed Toondah Harbour project and explain why these extraordinary delays have occurred.

Redlands2030 – 27 August 2016

Walker corporation's master plan for its proposed Toondah harbour development

Walker Corporation’s master plan for its proposed Toondah Harbour development

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

16 thoughts on “Toondah Harbour decision delayed for fifth time

  1. I’ve notice that the Mayor puts this delay down to a new Minister getting up to speed http://www.redlandcitybulletin.com.au/story/4131147/toondah-harbour-decision-delayed-again/?cs=212.

    I am yet to see a Minister sit down and go through each application with a fine tooth comb. That is why they have experts employed as public servants – they do the hard graft and present their views and recommendations to the Minister. Just like the Mayor doesn’t go through the details of all matters that crosses her desk.

    Sure the Minister will consider the technical aspects as presented, but they are often more concerned with the politics. As such the new Xmas deadline looks ominous. They will be banking on people being distracted to know or care of their decision at Xmas time.

  2. After waiting for months to hear from Minister Jackie Trad how the Walker Group acquired the 43.5 ha of “land”, presently tidal mudflats, I received today a 3 page letter. Apart from all the stuff about 1000 jobs it creates, the infrastructure, dredging of Fison Channel, improvements to GJ Walter Park…… all provided at no cost to the community by the Walker Group and what they will do to ensure the koalas “were safe” the answer to how did the Walker Group acquire the mudflats is very interesting.
    “I can confirm that the Walker Group has not purchased any land or sea area in the PDA and that the council and the state own the land planned for development”
    ” The area to be reclaimed within the PDA boundary, including mudflats was valued by registered Valuers at State Valuation Services, and this has been considered in the commercial agreement”
    Guess what, the Walker Group is not providing all those ” improvements”, dredging and infrastructure at no cost to the community. The community is loosing what they enjoyed up till now and the Walker Group is getting all the land and sea area ……..they are not paying a single razoo it is included in the “commercial agreement”

    • A commercial in confidence agreement no doubt. Nothing to see here – look away.

  3. I do hope the federal government rejects this plan. Transport and social facilities cannot support such a large population increase. It is completely out of character for the area. It would mean the end for the koala population here. There would jobs created during the construction phase but what prospects are there afterwards. New cafes and restaurants will prosper at the cost of established businesses in Cleveland central. Jackie Trad wishes to forbid tree clearing throughout Queensland to help the environment yet is prepared to allow this damage to the Moreton Bay area.

  4. I would like to suggest to Walkers. If you are prepared to gamble on development, why not develop on Nth Stradbrokd Isl Help the island to develope into a Tourist destination. I think there would be more support than criticism. The. challenge is there, if you are “fare dinkum”. The island needs forward thinking, it needs help. It is practically virgin for development. Do it once and do it well

  5. Unless I am mistaken, AECOM is the international consulting firm that faced allegations of misleading traffic numbers for the Clem Jones Tunnel. Do this company’s loyalties lie with the public interest or its client?

  6. Looks as though Toondah is really stuck in the mud! As you say, no further updates on that website.
    When the experience of locals such as “Betty” comes through, one would thing Walker Corp’s financial advisers would be saying “Whoa, watch this. No guarantees on this one.”
    Did any one else notice ANZ attached to the email contact address ? (Toondah.HarbourEIS.anz@aecom.com )
    Take your money and run now Mr Walker if you have any sense.

    • I think you would find that ANZ in this instance refers to the area of operation for this firm i.e. Australia and New Zealand and not the bank. It is an international firm and this may be one way in which it manages its email correspondence.

      In regards to the wider issue about delays, it was often my experience that developers/consultants often submitted the bear bones of information required. This helped reduced costs, but also forced the hand of the regulator as to what it considered most important. Once they got this requirement they would focus further work on this area. However this does not appear to be the case here as there does not appear to be an information request issued.

      So you may well be right and money is the central issue here. From an outsider perspective it does seem like a very expensive construction proposition for what is still a moderate price point. In other words we are not talking Gold Coast real estate prices and profits here, where I would expect such a venture would be more a goer. So the developer is likely to be quietly doing their sums and trying to drum up foreign investment to finance the project.

  7. After may months I am still waiting to hear from Minister Jackie Trad how the Walker Group acquired the 43.5 ha of “land”, presently tidal mudflats, they want to “re-claim it! I am amazed that tidal mud flats are for sale or where they gifted to the Walker Group for their profit making project?

    • Perhaps member for Cleveland could ask on your behalf?
      He has brought the Cleveland Rlwy Station parking up in Parliament so why not ownership or otherwise of the mudflats?

      • I had a direct reply from Minister Trad after sending my request for answers a second time
        ” I can confirm that your correspondence has been received and is receiving attention. A response will be sent to you in due course.”
        The due time appears to be after the Walker Groups has had their decision, I suspect…

  8. Let’s hope the RAMSAR Convention on Migratory Birds can put a stop to this proposal. Australia has signed this convention and you can look it up on the Internet.

  9. The proposed Walker Corp Toondah Harbour development utilises marine park to create high value real estate for the benefit of the Walker Corp alone. Ostensibly, the harbour development is to offset the Walker Corporation’s costs associated with the public facility construction cost of a launching point for leisure and transport craft into Moreton Bay. Walker Corporation have staged the public facility so far into the future that it is likely never to occur as over supply of apartments prevents future stages. There are plenty of land sites available and it has not been proven that a marine park needs to be degraded to achieve the a new marine launching point. Indeed, it has not even been proven that this is the best site for such a facility. Should the Walker Corporation development proceed, what though has been given to that community’s needs such as schools, (it would support 2), a rail head (or has no one considered the traffic bottlenceck? Commercial and retail workplace opportunities that such a large community would require to minimise transportation issues are remarkably low in the Walker scheme. Creating a viable community is however clearly not on the Walker Corporation’s mind as it looks to optimise gross revenue by maximising apartment numbers with no regard for the future function of the site as it knows that community, through local government will have to clean up the social mess it leaves behind at no cost to Walker Corporation. A review of this project development needs to include social impact and community needs.. if it allowed to proceed at all. Such a review is most likely to reveal that the development is unfeasible if planned properly. The only market still buying Australian real estate is Chinese. It is most likely that the owners will be absentee landlords who are unable to tennant their properties given the current real estate market.

  10. The Federal Government would be doing right by rejecting outright Walker Corporation’s plan for Toondah Harbour to dredge 1.85 million tonnes and reclaim 43.5 hectares of land for construction, as stated here, 3,600+ apartments and destroying forever the internationally recognized Moreton Bay Ramsar Site, with Australia being signatory to protection of this location for endangered shorebirds that fly non-stop from Siberia. Walker Corporation’s highly destructive plan on and around the harbour must not meet with the Australian government’s approval to destroy sea grasses dugong depend on as a food source, that in turn decimates the fishing industry, migratory shorebird species, thus causing ecological harm to the marine environment and therefore of national environmental importance to halt the project as it stands.

  11. So last week Walker’s a re reported as complaining about delays…..this week THEY ask for an extension…a record time and a record for the number of extensions. How enbarrassing for Redland Council, Jackie Trad and Walkers.

    To date it proves only one thing….all the rhetoric about how blessed Redlands was to have an investor like Walkers …was all …rhetoric.

    Looks more and more like Toondah is a lemon.

  12. I believe that like Raby Bay, if Walkers build on the low costal strip, there will be disarter,same as Raby Bay 1st stage, The water table down there would be very high ,that is the reason we could not put our fuel bunker underground

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