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.
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
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:
Shorebird numbers declining
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%
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
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.
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 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