Toondah Harbour development threatens critically endangered shorebirds

BirdLife Southern Queensland will be asking the Queensland State Government to review the Master Plan of the Toondah Harbour Development in Cleveland as, in its current iteration, it will involve the destruction of critical shorebird feeding grounds and high tide roosts.

East Asian Australasian Flyway sourced from

East Asian Australasian Flyway – Image from the Fuller Lab (click to enlarge)

Australia is a destination for many non-breeding migratory shorebird species. On the East Coast of Australia, Moreton Bay has been identified as one of the internationally significant areas in the world for migratory shorebirds. It is part of the East Asian-Australasian (EAA) Flyway, which incorporates an area between the Russian Far East and Alaska in the north to Australia and New Zealand in the south, and eastern Asia and parts of south Asia.

Much of Moreton Bay has also been recognised as a Ramsar wetland area. Ramsar wetlands are areas that have been identified as representative, rare or unique wetlands, or are important for conserving biological diversity and are of international importance.

Migratory shorebirds at Toondah Harbour

Migratory shorebird foraging habitat from report by BAAM (consultants to Walker Corporation and Redland City Council)

Migratory shorebird foraging habitat from report by BAAM (consultants to Walker Corporation and Redland City Council) (click to enlarge)

Environmental consultants BAAM have identified 10 species of migratory shorebird that feed or roost in and around the area proposed for development at Toondah Harbour.The areas where shorebirds feed is shown in purple on this map prepared by BAAM.

In a report prepared for Walker Corporation, BAAM says:

The proposed development of the Toondah Harbour PDA is likely to have both direct and indirect impacts on important intertidal foraging habitat and important roost sites for migratory shorebirds within the Moreton Bay Ramsar site.

Shorebird numbers declining

Bar-tailed godwits leaving the roost at Oyster Point near Toondah Harbour

Bar-tailed godwits leaving the roost at Oyster Point near Toondah Harbour (click to enlarge)

Significant declines in the number of migratory shorebirds have been recorded in recent years. This rapid decline is associated with loss of feeding grounds all along the Eastern Flyway. Birds which feed and roost in the Toondah Harbour area have experienced some of the largest population declines recorded over the past 30 years:

  • Eastern Curlews have declined by 80.5%
  • Bar-tailed Godwits have declined by 79.1%
  • Great knots have declined by 77.8%
Eastern curlew

Eastern curlew (click to enlarge)

BirdLife Australia has recommended that these shorebird species  have their conservation status increased to ‘endangered’ and, in the case of the Eastern Curlew, ‘critically endangered’.

The Federal Government increased the conservation status of the Eastern Curlew to critically endangered in May 2015, discussed in this Sydney Morning Herald report.

The conservation status of the Bar-tailed Godwit and Great Knot under the EPBC Act is under Federal Government review with a target completion time of September 2017.

The brink of extinction

Great knots

Great knots (click to enlarge)

Commenting on plans for development at Toondah Harbour, Convenor of BirdLife Southern Queensland, Judith Hoyle says:

These migratory shorebirds are on the brink of extinction. Their survival depends on conservation of their feeding grounds along the entire Eastern Flyway, and what we are seeing is the effect of thousands of developments that are destroying their feeding grounds overseas and in Australia.

The Toondah Harbour developers believe that they will be able to create an offset that will mitigate the loss of over 43 hectares of shorebird habitat. Artificial roosts can be made but we know, definitively, that artificial feeding grounds cannot be created.

Migratory shorebird feeding on proposed marina site near Toondah Harbour

Bar-tailed godwit feeding on proposed Toondah Harbour development site

43 hectares sounds like such a small amount (0.13% of the Ramsar site) but this represents more than 1.6% of the entire feeding grounds of Moreton Bay and these birds need every bit of this habitat to gain the critical amount of weight required for them to make the return migration to the breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere. It is quite simple – without adequate energy stores the birds cannot survive the journey.

We will be urging the State Government to ensure that the Master Plan is revised to prevent the destruction of the feeding grounds; and we are urging local residents to get behind these remarkable birds and lobby the local council and State Government to preserve this vital habitat.

Shorebird Management Strategy – Moreton Bay

The Queensland Government's Shorebird Management Strategy Moreton Bay

The Queensland Government’s Shorebird Management Strategy for Moreton Bay

The Queensland Government’s Shorebird Management Strategy for Moreton Bay includes sensible guidelines which should have been followed by the Government and Redland City Council in developing plans for the improvement of Toondah Harbour’s ferry terminal. Section 7.1 Protect Shorebird Habitat includes the following prescriptions:

  • maintain and enhance shorebird habitats (e.g. the significance of an area to shorebirds to be recognised in planning schemes for the area)
  • map and recognise all shorebird sites, particularly roosting and breeding sites, including artificial and supra-tidal roost sites
  • avoid further loss or degradation of critical shorebird roost sites (e.g. managing negative impacts)
  • restrict coastal development to areas where its impact on shorebird habitat is minimal
  • encourage local governments and other land managers to recognise and protect shorebird habitat

Focus on improving the ferry terminal

Walker Corporation’s Toondah Harbour ‘Master Plan’ would require dredging and placement of 1.8 million cubic metres of spoil resulting in destruction of 32 hectares of sea grass. It seems clear that little thought has been given to avoiding environmental impacts.  A more sensibly planned development would focus on the much needed harbour renovations rather than multi-storey residential development in the tidal flats where migratory shorebirds ‘live work and play’.

Further information about migratory shorebirds

Curlew sandpipers Photo: Birdlife

Curlew sandpipers Photo: Birdlife Australia

Meet our shorebirds on the slippery slope to extinction, Birdlife Australia, 2015

Shorebird Conservation in Australia: Jo Oldland et al, 2009

Migratory Shorebirds of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway: Population Estimates and Internationally Important Sites; Bamford et al, 2008


Redlands2030 – 9 January 2016

with the assistance of Birdlife Southern Queensland

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

5 thoughts on “Toondah Harbour development threatens critically endangered shorebirds

  1. Birdlife Southern Qld plan on talks with government bodies seeking preservation of our dwindling shore bird migratory species in Toondah Harbour area and do wish them every success in being heard before, like many other species in Redlands, they vanish.
    In 1987 all hell broke loose in Capalaba when housing boom began. Women tied themselves to trees trying to save koalas from Cnr Finucane/Old Cleveland Rds East all the way to Bowen St haven for koalas, today a housing estate…no trees spared. Wildlife corridors never to be built on, have been to developers with deep pockets. Redlands has been ruled by a powerful ruthless State government for the 30 years I’ve lived here and can’t see change. Coolnwynpin Ck waterway was beautiful with flowing water where we saw water birds, platypus, fish, koalas along corridor but… when Capalaba Central was built, tonnes of earth was bulldozed into waterway making way for tavern & bottle shop (locals didn’t want) on the bank, then across at Crotona Rd bank, towering commercial bldgs swallowed the riparian zone on creek bank a specially protected wetland site under Koala Coast Policy. Sadly, we lost all species on land and waterway, left with a degraded, crime ridden environment.
    Troy Robbins says and I quote: “The Mantra for every individual in Redland City should reverberate with the slogan…”Voting for Karen Williams will see the last tree fall..” But with a poweful ruthless government body deciding for we, the people, will it be any different under a new local council mgt authority when what we have witnessed to date, has been a slash and burn policy? We keep hearing it don’t we?…the more things change, the more they stay the same….?

  2. Great work highlighting the plight of these species. I note regularly when walking my dog at GJ Walter park, sea eagles hunting up and down the shoreline and Pied Oyster Catchers feeding opposite those majestic pines and numbers of other small birds using the mangroves for habitat. The scope of this development is unsustainable!

  3. If BAMM have any semblance of professional credibility and independence from vested interest outcomes for Karen Williams/Walker Corporation,State and Federal Goverments then their report should vehemently oppose a single Mangrove being razed or dredging spoil inundating critical sea grass/marine habitat for this insane,apocalyptic and economically flawed development proposal! If you are motivated by ethics, principles and understand Mother Nature’s Silver Seed sustains our very existence on Earth then you will implore family and friends to vote the Current Council out of Office in March! The Mantra for every individual in Redland City should reverberate with the slogan….”Voting for Karen Williams will see the last tree fall…Can you live with this on your conscience??!! ” We can no longer be adumbrative regarding the looming ecological catastrophe facing Moreton Bay and Redland City!!

  4. It would be a great error of judgement if the Council makes decisions about this development without regard to BAAM’s Environmental Impact Report commissioned by the Walker Corporation. The whole PDA needs a comprehensive review to reduce to an absolute minimum any harm to this ecologically significant environment.

  5. Well done and thanks for a substaintive narrative about the birds of the Bay.

    I fear that what we see, almost daily, in the Bay is not truely valued. So it is too easy to have it trashed…because it is not truely valued.

    Surely some rational thinking will be applied by both the State and Federal governments. We all know Seeney didn’t care but the community saw him off. I have some faith that his successors will tread more carefully, although it is a worry at the moment.

    Good to see Birdlife Southern Queensland jining the fray, This is too important an issue to leave to the locals, especially given the “open for business” (any business) mantra of the ruling regime.

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