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.
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.
THE PROPOSAL IS LIKELY TO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THESE MATTERS PROTECTED BY THE EPBC ACT:
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.”
Koala Action Group Qld Inc.
25 May 2017
- Koala Action Group Qld Inc. In partnership with Endeavour Veterinary Ecology (EVE)
- “Assessment of Potential Impacts on EPBC Act Threatened and Migratory Species” by Saunders Havill Group – undated attachment to Referral.
- 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
Further action to save the Toondah koalas
Send them a link to this post and ask them what they are going to do to protect koalas in this area.