Koalas threatened by massive Toondah project

Home ranges of eight tracked Toondah koalas (Koala Action Group)

Home ranges of eight Toondah koalas wearing tracking collars have been mapped by the Koala Action Group

Concerns about threats to Cleveland’s koalas were among 1,400 submissions to the Federal Government about Walker Group’s revised proposal for a massive residential development at Toondah Harbour.

Plans for development of 3,600 apartments on dredged and reclaimed wetlands in Moreton Bay were referred to the Federal Government because of likely impacts on matters of national environmental significance.

“180 public submissions were received on the referral during the public comment period and a further 1,238 campaign submissions were received during the consultation period…” said Minister for the Environment Josh Frydenberg in his statement of reasons for deciding that the project is a controlled action.

The Redland City based Koala Action Group was one of many organisations to comment on the proposed development. Their submission is published below.

If you are concerned about the impact of development on koalas living near Toondah Harbour please contact your local councillor and your state MP.

Send them a link to this post and ask them what they are going to do to protect koalas in this area.

Koala Action Group comments – EPBC referral 2017/7939

We write to comment on the updated proposal which has been posted for public comment on its EPBC referral on 11 May 2017. The changes made from the previously advertised proposal do very little, if anything to reduce the impacts of the development on matters of environmental significance. The grounds for this comment are set out below.

The suggestion made by the Walker Corporation that the assessment of federal environmental issues should be given to the Queensland State Government would be a total abrogation of natural justice as the state has proclaimed its support for the proposal and as such is likely to be biased. Additionally, the project has been established under the Economic Development Act 2012 which is not covered by the bilateral agreement with the Federal Government. The assessment of this project which has international considerations should be undertaken by the Federal Government as a controlled action.


Moreton Bay has international significance and is listed as an Australian RAMSAR site.

The impacts of building ten storey buildings in Marine Park and allowing a marina (even one cut back to 200 berths) in shorebird feeding grounds will be significant.

Moreton Bay is a Ramsar wetland and as thus is an important habitat for thousands of migratory shorebirds. Each year Moreton Bay is visited by 50,000 migratory shorebirds. During our warmer months – from October to April – more than 30 different shorebird species live in this area busy feeding to build up energy for their return trip along the East Asian – Australasian flyway. Australia has signed agreements with China, Japan and Korea to protect many species of migratory shorebirds and their habitats.

The Moreton Bay Ramsar site has been protected since 1993 because of its biodiversity including many vulnerable species. The bay’s seagrass beds support a significant dugong population and many species of turtles including Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead.

The proposed development will not only destroy habitat within the footprint but the dredging and disturbance will also significantly impact on the water quality of other parts of the bay, smothering seagrass and affecting the newly discovered coral species in the bay. A coral expert (Dr Veron) has warned that the silt plumes from this development will destroy corals of Moreton Bay before they are able to be studied.

The proposed buffer zones of 100-200 metres between roosting and feeding shorebird sites as depicted in the referral will do little to alleviate the impacts on shorebirds. The disturbance caused by increased boat traffic from the marina and the effect of the constant dredging will degrade the value of surrounding areas. Cassim Island will become more accessible degrading its value as a shorebird roost.

Toondah Harbour vicinity hosts important koala population

This population is significant because a current radio-tracking study (1) (with thorough veterinary checks) shows it to be a stable, healthy population within an urban area. With the decline of koalas and the urbanisation of South East Queensland, it could be scientifically important for the future of the whole species to study their success in an urban area.

The Toondah Harbour precinct contains some of the most valuable koala habitat. The fertile kraznozem soils allow the koalas’ most nutritious species in this region, Eucalyptus tereticornis to thrive. Radio-tracking has shown that these trees are able to support many koalas with no signs of stress to the trees. Unfortunately the EPBC legislation’s criteria ignore the significance of these trees, just because they are in an urban context.

The impacts of the proposed development on koalas will be profound. The numbers of koalas in the area by the proponent’s referral documents has been massively underestimated. In contrast to the two koalas sighted in the report by Saunders Havill Group (2) an informal survey by the Koala Action Group on 6th August 2016 found 19 koalas within or near the precinct. The tracking study has shown how difficult the koalas are to find so the estimated koala population of the area could be even higher.

Toondah Harbour forms an important part of the coastal corridor which stretches at least 5 kms down to the Pinklands and Point Halloran Conservation Areas at the mouth of Eprapah Creek. Eprapah Creek forms a vital link to habitat areas in Mt Cotton. The removal of any trees from the precinct will affect the koala population as virtually every tree is utilised. The movement of the projected 10,000 new residents will increase traffic astronomically, increasing the probability of koala traffic strikes markedly.

The survival of koalas in the future is also threatened by climate change. Large areas, in the inland and to the north, that presently host koalas will not provide for them in the future because of predicted temperature changes and less rainfall. The well-watered coastal areas will be the koalas’ best chance of survival.(3)

Declaration of the Koala as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act has failed to slow the rapid decline of koalas in South East Queensland and it is time that this is recognised. The only habitat that is protected by the legislation is large areas of bushland that was not cleared for the simple reason that they lie on infertile soils. The fertile soil areas have long been largely cleared for agricultural purposes and urban housing. Scientific research is pointing to the need to protect these remaining areas of valuable habitat:

The koala presents the problem of managing a species that now primarily occurs in human-modified landscapes, some of which are rapidly urbanising or subject to large-scale agricultural and industrial developments.

The existing set of protected areas, for historical reasons mostly situated on infertile soils and escarpments rather than fertile, well watered lands, cannot provide insurance for the long-term recovery of koala populations in human-modified landscapes. Expanding the protected area network is not enough to conserve the koala population; the koala has to co-exist with human development if it is to survive as a species. (4)

The Toondah Harbour proposal will irrevocably destroy an important part of Queensland’s heritage.

G.J. Walter Park is the scene of a historically significant event. In 1842 Governor George Gipps came ashore and became famously stuck in the waist-high mud. This part of Queensland’s history would be lost under a marina if the plan is enacted (even with only 200 berths, less than the original proposal). A marina would totally destroy the ambience of the park and turn it into a semi-industrial service area with the accompanying noise and pollution

G. J. Walter Park is an important backdrop to the historically significant “Fernleigh” precinct. Fernleigh is one of the first houses built in Cleveland and encompasses a slab-built construction originally used as the first school-house in Cleveland. Its aspect, looking on to high-rise buildings as proposed would replace the original views out to the bay seriously diminishing its heritage value.

Toondah Harbour is a Transit Centre – not a destination. There is an alternative.

Most people who come to Toondah Harbour are on their way to Stradbroke Island. There is neither the room nor the facilities for the over-the-top high rise accommodation that is envisaged in the developer plans. What is needed is for the area to be upgraded with more parking with a few cafes and boardwalks in Toondah Harbour (not in G. J. Walter Park!). Alternative plans have been developed:

In March, 2014 twenty-four eminent architects, environmental urban planners, engineers, academics, tourism operators, marine biologists and scientists gave two days of their time FREE to look at how to redevelop Toondah Harbour.

At this two-day workshop they developed three alternative plans, based on the ‘Redlands 2030 Community Plan’ to upgrade Toondah Harbour Ferry Terminal and facilities and revitalise Cleveland. These plans were presented to the Redland City Council – but were ignored. (5)

These alternatives clearly show that there is no need to destroy an important internationally significant shorebird site, a noteworthy koala population and a much loved park area with its historical values simply to upgrade a ferry terminal.

We sincerely hope that the EPBC legislation may be used for its stated purpose and “provide for the protection of the environment, especially matters of national environmental significance and to conserve Australian biodiversity.”

Yours sincerely,

Debbie Pointing
Koala Action Group Qld Inc.
25 May 2017

Footnote references

  1. Koala Action Group Qld Inc. In partnership with Endeavour Veterinary Ecology (EVE)
  2. “Assessment of Potential Impacts on EPBC Act Threatened and Migratory Species” by Saunders Havill Group – undated attachment to Referral.
  3. 2015 Clive McAlpine, Daniel Lunney, Alistair Melzer, Peter Menkhorst, Stephen Phillips, David Phalen, William Ellis, William Foley, Greg Baxter, Deidre de Villiers, Rodney Kavanagh, Christine Adams-Hosking, Charles Todd, Desley Whisson, Robyn Molsher, Michele Walter, Ivan Lawler, Robert Close.Conserving koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy challenges”  Biological Conservation 192; 226-236
  4. Ibid
  5. http://redlands2030.net/toondah-harbour-plans-questioned/#more-13941

Further action to save the Toondah koalas

If you are concerned about the impact of development on koalas living near Toondah Harbour please contact your local councillor and your state MP .

Send them a link to this post and ask them what they are going to do to protect koalas in this area.


Published by Redlands2030 – 10 July 2017

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

8 thoughts on “Koalas threatened by massive Toondah project

  1. The Brisbane Times article 21st July 2017 has outlined a Queensland Species Technical Committee Report into the impact of land clearing on Queensland’s Threatened Species . This may not be available yet? Did not WWF and the Conversation do similar reports in the last year ?
    So future data koala vocalisation and heat seeking koala drones(Ministers Media Release) and koala dogs (where the scats are) have to be integrated with 4 or 5 other data bases and mapping (not modelling) and High Value Regrowth(most of mainland Redland City) . This is all too late for SEQ, Qld and NSW .
    At least the National Parks Association of NSW has undertaken 2 large Koala Metadata Mapping projects north of Sydney to Grafton and proposed a 140,000ha Great Koala National Park

    Without an SEQ Koala Habitat Map (not modelling) and realtime Koala Habitat Protection legislation across Rural , Peri urban and Urban Footprint (retrospective and buyback ) and other Premier Bligh Koala Recommendations 2008 , both sides of politics, 2 successive Governments and industry stand responsible for the pending extinction of most of the 6 genomes of SEQ Koalas.

  2. Let’s talk facts. It is a fact that some council staff and some councillors are concerned with maintaining the unique nature of the Redlands and in conserving our wildlife. We want growth but we want sustainable growth and some recent decisions are not in line with sustainable growth. Therefore concerned residents and councillors need to stand up and be counted. I am pleased to see that there will be a meeting of residents at G.J.Walter Park on Saturday 29th July because we need to prevent poor decisions that would have adverse impacts on the Redlands and on our wildlife for many years to come.

  3. The scope of the Koala Industries is changing as the koala disappears
    The academics, modellers and grant recipients are still going , now doing Local Authority and Govt stuff but with a trend towards doing climate change,and retrospective studies on; mortality, and senate inquiry, and potted case studies, and koala chlamydia culling papers in obscure journals. The NSW Government is to do separate modelling studies on habitat characteristics and koala metadata and combine the two . Some modellers create uncertainty and elicit committee processors are doing away with public consultation and koala rights/protection .
    The Habitat Mappers seem to be AKF , Governments, SEQ Catchments ,a few consultants ,koala tracker , etc ,but the koala dogs and drones outcomes require public scrutiny. Thekoala mapping is not there for Sunshine Coast, Border Ranges ,the western half of SEQ and tipping point field surveys in coastal SEQ
    The Botanists have provided useful Essential Koala Habitat Mapping in the past but this is now missing? SEQ Catchments have provided a list of other Koala Regional Ecosystems to those of
    The Offsetters with many subconsultants have been employed ,but it is difficult to see Koala Habitat offset outcomes in registers or the SOIC maps or enough protected reserves or in like ecosystem koala habitat or planted bioregional corridors. (See EHP buyback program positives) The lack of protection of a Million hectares of High Value Regrowth sees this coastal and hinterland koala habitat cleared without offset.
    The value of the koala to the Tourist Industry . appears to be over a $ Billion . The Euthanasia rate seems to have climbed from say 60% to recently published
    The $4m going into Qld koala labs should be compared to the number of koalas going into koala hospitals and those going out. So various rubbery figures can be generated to see what a koala is worth
    1. Say koala admittance number into $4m say under $4,000
    2. Notional figure to Euthanase a Koala ? $10,000???
    3 Success story discharge number(if the figures were available) into $4M say $20,000-
    4 AZOO figure? to rehabilitate a koala $20,000 for 3 months
    A comparison for Squirrel Gliders $2M offset at Minnippi for 13 ha lost . About 173 tagged 2002,
    about 30 tagged in recent times – $70,000 ea less boxes & replanting or the habitat is worth $150,000 per hectare
    The other parts of the Industry include Consultants, Koala Hospitals, Zoos, Bureaucrats&Legislators &Planners, Committees, Rescuers, Spotter Catchers ,Koala Groups/carers, New Koala Peak Groups with $70 stuffed koalas,Land clearers, Fund Collectors (93% $$avoids koala outcomes),Wildlife Groups ,Koala Action group,Vets, and few Green Fauna Infrastructure providers. There are probably other experts omitted.
    So most of these areas of the industry will contract unless 1. there is a new wave of status quo facilitating legislation after the Ministers Koala panel lands reports and maps or 2 There is a concerted program to drag the Koala back from Extinction in new directions
    The geneticists appear to be trending with; Zoos , 85% + Euthanasia Rates, and loss of breeding pairs and local extinctions . Read Koalaland. The inability to get Great Koala National Parks like those proposed in NSW and Victoria, and Sanctuaries indicates that the millions of dollars of grants’ reports recommendations are useless.
    The State Govt still have not got it. Have EHP have given up? It is landclearing/urban development , roading , fire, dogs/wild dogs triggering stress, disease and roadkill.

  4. As a biologist I can tell you that when some councillors employed by Redland City Council (RCC) tell us that it doesn’t matter if they cut down mature gum trees they don’t know what they are talking about. It takes years after replanting before you have more mature gum trees capable of providing refuge for koalas. What happens in the meantime?? Four years ago the Water and Sewerage Section of RCC had a section of trees cleared around Sewage Pumping Station No.67 in Victoria Point. After neighbours complained they decided to plant 4 Lemon Ironwood Trees (Backhousia citriodora). Three years later and 2 of those trees have died while the remaining 2 are less than 1.6m in height, not strong enough to support the weight of a noisy minor, little lone a koala. Some of the Council Staff are very nice people on a personal level but on a professional level we are seeing ignorance and some very poor decision making. I have met the senior technical advisor in the Arboriculture Section of RCC and he is a very knowledgeable fellow. Staff obviously didn’t consult him before planting Lemon Ironwood bushes, less than 1.5m in height, after cutting down trees. It’s time for some accountability within the RCC.

  5. Need any more be said about saving our remaining mainland koalas? All supposedly ‘preserved’ koala corridors in Redlands cannot be built on….well they have, over & over again sending some residents looking for greener areas in which to live. Recall one irate resident saying she was going to deface campaign signs of ex-Mayor Don Seccombe as some had already appeared on local fences, but he pulled out one minute to mid-night after planning on one more term…to take care of, as he had stated, unfinished business.
    So clearing habitat in Redlands has been relentless, ongoing, seemingly complying with…is it Federal, State, since they tell councils, to, by whatever means, bring about demise of the Redland koalas? Lobbyist and past Capalaba Member for Capalaba, Jim Elder (ousted for vote rorting but Ray Hadley on radio announced it still goes on) informed my former neighbour many moons ago, that the only koala we will see in future, is in the ZOO. Local developers/pollies will be happy not having to use poison sprays, surround base of koala food trees with wide metal bands, so they can’t climb, or dispose of trees dead of night so locals won’t notice, some even during the day while residents are at work, shocked to see trees behind their homes having vanished. A man who owned and sold land between Finucane/Moreton Bay Rd Capalaba and Coolnwynpin Ck informed me, so proud, he had shot 13 koalas out of trees along the creek bank. We were standing under a tree with a koala in it, so asked, ‘will you leave anything for the people’? Reply…you can have the creek…as it happened, we don’t, today contaminated and trashed as our pollies don’t care. Martin..only name I recall…(referred to me as the ‘koala lady’) said: ‘when we fill up the Redlands, we will move on’ and if you want to see koalas, you can see lots of them outside Brisbane. In other words, ‘you will not see them here’! Mr Elder’s prediction is being realized here in Redland City.

  6. The State Infrastructure Plan 2016 lists in cross government tables
    a listing of $70 Million dollars from 2017 on for Toondah Harbour Mixed Use Revitalisation.

    How much of that is Subsidized by Redland City Council ?
    What is the future of Toondah Koalas – Zoo Koalas, Trade Koalas, Export Koalas or Koalas in replanted reserves and corridors?

  7. This is terrible for wild life they are losing out big time every where, I hope this does not take place

  8. It is now time for Redland City Council to get its act together. Without naming and shaming any staff member of Council I will just write one sentence that came in a letter from a senior member of the Legal Section after a neighbour wanted a large Scribbly Gum tree on our quarter acre property to be heavily pruned. Two years earlier senior technical staff in the Arboriculture Section of RCC and at Indigiscapes had informed us that heavy fines would result if we caused the death of a large koala gum in a koala area. Here was the reply in December 2016 – “As the tree is not on Council land it has no jurisdiction in relation to the issue.” This has come from the Legal Section and is in stark contrast to the earlier information.

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