Shoreline farm dams should be saved for bird habitat: by Kathy Clark

Shoreline farm dams provide important habitat for various threatened bird species and should be conserved says Kathy Clark, from Birdlife Southern Queensland.

Changes to the development approval for the Shoreline housing project are out for public consultation until 27 March 2024.

Here is Kathy Clark’s submission to save the Shoreline farm dams.

Proposed Change of Approval for the Shoreline Urban Village Development MCU18/0221

The proposed change of approval plan shows that:

  1. The large dam on the western side Orchard Rd (Dam 1 shown in Map 1 below) will be covered Residential Precinct (in pink)and part of a Wildlife Corridor (shown on Map 2) .
  2. The Scenic Rd dam ( Dam 2 in Map1 below) on the northern side of Scenic Road opposite Mudlo Street will also be impacted. Map 2 shows the western parts of the dam as Residential Precinct (in pink) and the eastern part as Foreshore Open Space Sub-precinct (green hatched). This dam is made up of interconnected lagoons.
Map 1: Redland Bay’s Shoreline area with Dam 1 (Orchard Rd) marked in red and Dam 2 (Scenic Rd) in green
Map 2: Map from Saunders Havill Group sign from Orchard Rd showing location of Dam 1 (mostly covered in pink Residential Precinct) and partly Open Space/Wildlife Corridor (green); and Dam 2 (partially covered in pink Residential Precinct and Foreshore Open Space).

There are a number of inadequacies in this Proposed Change of Approval.

  1. The loss of two important farm dams that support a number of threatened bird species and are habitat for hundreds of other birds. These dams were not protected in the original application due to an inadequate Ecological Report and should have been protected in this new application after Lend Lease was given information by Birdlife SEQ about the use of these dams by threatened species protected by legislation (MMNES – Matters of National Environmental Significance).
  2. The siting of the Town Centre between two wildlife corridors. While some larger birds can move between and over wildlife corridors, smaller birds and ground dwelling birds would not be able to move between these corridors especially if separated by a Town Centre. This would also be a problem for other fauna such as koalas, bandicoots and gliders.
  3. The wildlife corridors are not wide enough to ensure the safe movement of birds and other wildlife.

Loss of the Shoreline farm dams

The habitats of particular concern are 2 remnant farm dam locations inland of the protected coastal wetlands. The Orchard Road dam (Dam 1) is a very large farm dam surrounded by paddocks with only about three-quarters of it visible from the road. The dam has a fringing shoreline that is used by a large variety of wetland birds such as pelicans (see photo below), dotterel, stilts, spoonbills, egrets, ducks, cormorants, and terns. Hundreds of birds can be found here, depending on season and weather. A huge number of different species, 135 to date (as of February 2024), have been recorded there on eBird since 2014.
These records include relatively uncommon birds such as Latham’s Snipe, Black-necked Stork (pictured below), birds uncommon in the Redlands such as Pink-eared Ducks, Swamp Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites and Whiskered Tern, as well as migratory shorebirds, including recently listed threatened migratory species: Curlew Sandpiper, Common Greenshanks, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Latham’s Snipe (see the next section below).

The second important dam (Dam 2 in Map 1) also supports a large variety of birds, with observations of 119 different bird species including the Latham’s Snipe (listed species), Blackfronted Dotterel and various egrets, spoonbills, and ducks such as whistling ducks. Whistling kites have bred in the large trees next to the dams here.

Inaccuracy and Inadequacy of BAAM Ecological Reports

The EPBC Act referral required reporting of the possible impacts from this large development on threatened and listed species. The EPBC Listed Migratory Shorebird Survey – Shoreline 2016 report by BAAM details the possible impacts on feeding sites in the intertidal zone (particularly on Eastern Curlews). However this report and the more recent BAAM Report: The Eastern Curlew Impact Management Plan – Shoreline Urban Development prepared for Lend Lease (Shoreline) Pty Ltd (Jan 2020) both state that no shorebirds were found on the only likely high tide roosting site and only one roosting shorebird was found in the mangroves. On p2 it states that “The surveys also indicated the development area does not support roosting habitats. The closest known Eastern Curlew and other shorebird roosting area to the development is Point Halloran; approximately 9 km north of the development area.” This is clearly incorrect.

The high tide surveys were clearly inadequate, very brief and done by kayak and on foot along the shoreline. There were no surveys done of the Orchard Rd or the Scenic Rd dams which are further inland and part of the actual development site. Thus there are no records in the reports showing the use of these dams by migratory shorebirds for roosting at high tide and also for feeding at other times (see below and Table 1).

2023 to January 2024 observations at Orchard Rd dam update (see photos in addendum)

  • Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea: Critically Endangered (listed May 26, 2015 )
    observed in October and November 2023.
  • Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia: Endangered (listed Jan 5, 2024) – frequently
    observed here, including recently 17 recorded on 23 Dec 23 2023 by Queensland Wader Study Group on eBird.
  • Sharp-tail Sandpiper, Calidris acuminata : Vulnerable (listed Jan 5, 2024) – frequently
    observed here in groups, including 200 recorded on 4 Dec 2023 and 46 recorded on 23 Dec 23 2023 by Queensland Wader Study Group member on eBird.
  • Latham’s Snipe, Gallinago hardwickii: Vulnerable (listed Jan 5, 2024) – frequently observed at both Orchard Rd and Scenic Rd dams, eBird checklist 4 Feb 2023 and eBird checklist 9 Nov 2023.

Recommendations to preserve the Shoreline farm dams

The area of these 2 dam sites and proposed buffer zones is estimated at less than 1.5 hectares, out of a total development project area of 280 hectares. The commercial opportunity cost to the developer of excising this small area is considered negligible – especially taking avoided site costs (dewatering, levelling etc.) into account.

  1. The Orchard Road dam be retained as it is a very important site for hundreds of birds for feeding and roosting and used by a large variety of species (135 to date). It must not be drained and covered by houses, sporting fields nor even a wildlife corridor with tree plantings as it is already wildlife habitat. It is also a significant roosting and feeding site for EPBC Listed Migratory Bird Species. This dam should have been surveyed and included in the ecology reports required for the EPBC Act. Fortunately, there are frequent and thorough observations available on eBird.
  2. The Orchard Rd dam should be retained as a feature that would be very attractive to residents and tourists. This dam could become a feature of Shoreline with viewing platforms and parkland surrounding it. Mt Cotton Community Park is a good example where nearby residential areas are adjacent to two large lakes. These two lakes and associated large park are very popular with the community, especially families, but are also excellent bird habitat.
  3. The Town Centre should not be between two wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors need to be wide enough to ensure the safe movement of birds and other wildlife. Large trees including dead or dying trees with hollows should be retained as they provide hollows needed for nesting by many bird species as well as gliders, such as sugar gliders. The wildlife corridors need to be much wider than 100m.
  4. The whole of Scenic Road dam be kept as part of the Foreshore Open Space Sub-precinct. It would be a travesty to fill in this dam when most of it is already covered by this precinct. It is an important dam for many wetland birds and ducks, birds of prey and a threatened migratory bird, the Latham’s Snipe. It could include a boardwalk and viewing platforms.
  5. The Orchard and Scenic Rd dams be preserved as features of an environmental park for residents and tourists. Ecotourism and in particular bird tourism is big business. Already bird watchers and photographers from Brisbane City, Logan, Gold Coast, and other areas are visiting these dams even though there is no public access. An article in the Guardian in 2022 states that bird tourism adds an estimated $283m to the Australian economy annually. This could be another area for revenue and jobs in the Redlands.

Community Support for preserving the Shoreline farm dams

A petition of 61 pages and 538 signatures was presented to the Redland City Council by
Councillor Julie Talty at the General Meeting on March 6, 2024. The petition requests the
Council:

Preserve two vital bird habitats, Orchard and Scenic Road dams in the Shoreline estate, Redland Bay, to create an environmental park for the community and wildlife. These dams are host to more than 120 bird species, including migratory shorebirds and unique birds such as the Latham’s Snipe and Pink- eared Ducks. They are currently under threat of being filled in and covered with houses, a sporting field and a narrow wildlife corridor.

An on-line petition was launched late last year calling for these dams to be saved. There is considerable community support, with over 1000 signatures.

Migratory shorebirds Orchard Road Dam, Redland Bay – Photos: Frank Burch

Birds at Scenic Road Dam, Redland Bay – Photos: K. Clark and Frank Burch

Kathy Clark
Local Branch Convener – Redlands and Brisbane Bayside
Birdlife Southern Queensland

Make a submission to save the Shoreline farm dams

Proposed changes to the Shoreline development approval are set out in MCU18/0221.

The changes are discussed in a letter dated 10 August 2023.

A collection of documents relating to MCU18/0221 can be accessed here.

Properly made submissions including your name and address can be submitted until 27 March 2024.

Submissions can be sent to Redland City Council

by email to rcc@redland.qld.gov.au

or posted to Redland City Council, P.O. Box 21, Cleveland, QLD 4163.

Redlands2030 – 14 March 2024

Authorised by Steve MacDonald, 104 Channel Street, Cleveland, QLD 4163

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