Draft Submission, June 2018
DRAFT SUBMISSION OPPOSING THE DESTRUCTION OF RAMSAR PROTECTED TIDAL WETLANDS AT TOONDAH HARBOUR – THE GATEWAY TO STRADDIE
Below is a Draft submission in response to the Federal Environment Department’s 5 June, 2018 public Invitation to comment on a THIRD attempt to obtain approval of the Toondah Harbour proposal to dredge and “reclaim” Ramsar protected wetlands in Moreton Bay.
Submissions must be received by the Federal Government no later than 20 June 2018. Email details below.
You will find all the relevant information relating to the latest referral of the proposal by the Walker Group to the Federal Environment Department linked to this post from Community Group Redlands 2030 – https://redlands2030.net/toondah-harbour-20180608/
Please feel free to copy and paste all or some of the below draft and re-word as you like and add your own personal touch so that your submission carries more weight. If you wish to write your own submission from scratch, please read the Federal Environment Department’s advice on making a submission – scroll down this link to ‘Invitations for public comments’ – http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/public-notices/assessment-help#referrals
Email your submission to the following email address and make sure you include the Re: section as this information is essential.
(Cc email to yourself for your records)
Re: Walker Group Holdings – proposed Toondah Harbour development
Reference Number: 2018/8225 – submission
I submit that Walker’s third Referral attempt to obtain federal approval for its proposal should be rejected as clearly unacceptable, for the following reasons:-
- The proposal would breach the world’s wetlands protection agreement, the Ramsar Convention. This binding agreement has been signed by Australia and 169 other nations.
In Clause 2.5 of the Ramsar Convention, Australia promised not to reclaim any part of a Ramsar listed wetland (as is proposed at Toondah Harbour) unless for “urgent national interests”. The proposal by Walker to dredge and reclaim Ramsar wetlands to build high-rise units and private marinas for profit, obviously is not for Australia’s “urgent national interests”. Also see the Ramsar Secretariat’s submission on Walker’s second Referral. It was obtained under Freedom of Information laws by community group Redlands 2030.
The EPBC Act further binds Australia to the promise not to reclaim Ramsar protected wetlands unless it is for “urgent national interests”. It states:-
Section 138 – Requirements for decisions about Ramsar wetlands
In deciding whether or not to approve…..the Minister must not act inconsistently with Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention.
In my submission it is clear that Australia is bound by the Ramsar Convention and the proposal should therefore be rejected immediately. There is no need for an expensive, time consuming environmental assessment process when the proposal must be rejected because of its inconsistency with Australia’s international contractual obligations.
- There are many additional reasons why the proposal should be rejected as clearly unacceptable. These include the following:-
- The proposal would have a significant impact on at least three matters of national environmental significance protected by the EPBC Act- Ramsar wetlands, threatened species and communities, and migratory species.
- The referred proposal is very similar to the previous proposals referred under the EPBC Act by the Walker Group in November, 2015 (EPBC referral Ref: 2015/7612), and May, 2017 (EPBC referral Ref: 2017/7939). The first Referral was withdrawn after an unprecedented six suspensions of decision making by the Federal Government and the second Referral has been superseded by the latest. It is obvious the Federal Government had very serious concerns about the proposal’s impact on the above matters protected by the EPBC Act and there is little reason for this view to change.
- The latest proposal still involves dredging, reclamation, and privatisation of about 40 hectares/100 acres of Ramsar protected wetlands within the State Government declared Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area. Walker’s Referral at 1.2 states “The PDA has a total area of 67.4 hectares, encompassing 17.9 hectares of existing land and 49.5 hectares of marine and tidal environments of which 42 ha overlaps with the Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland.”
- There are a number of migratory bird species which inhabit the area in and/or around the proposed reclamation and privatisation area, most of which is Ramsar protected. They feed and/or roost in these areas. These birds are protected under the EPBC Act. They include the critically endangered Eastern Curlew and the critically endangered Great Knot, and the vulnerable Bar tailed godwit. Australia is also a party to other international agreements designed to protect migratory birds and their habitats.
- Other areas of Moreton Bay, its Ramsar areas, its coral reefs, seagrass beds and marine and bird species are at risk of being affected by dredge spoil and other pollution carried by currents, not to mention construction noise over 15 to 20 years, plus on-going noise etc from up to 10,000 people who would inhabit the proposed 3,600 dwellings to be constructed, including over the top of currently protected tidal wetlands.
- A significant koala population inhabits the foreshore area of the PDA. This has been documented by koala groups and is well known. How could the koalas survive the proposed many years of construction, the increase in traffic during and after construction, the likely increase in the number of dogs in the area and other related threats?
- The North Stradbroke Island ferry departure point has been misused by the proponent and some of its supporters in an attempt to justify the destruction of Ramsar wetlands for the massive real estate development proposed. The ferry/ water taxi terminal is not in need of anything other than a modest upgrade which could be undertaken by the ferry company, Sealink, or the State Government, as normally occurs.
- Previously, the Walker Group wanted to dredge and reclaim important (but not Ramsar protected) wetlands, near Hobart. On that occasion, the Federal Government refused approval partly because of likely impact to Ramsar wetlands, due to dredge spoil and pollution being carried by currents – http://savestraddie.com/wp-content/woo_uploads/2009/12/approval-decision-refused.pdf Walker’s Referral revealed that the Ramsar protected wetlands were 12 kilometres from the proposed development site (EPBC Ref: 2006/3193 – Lauderdale).
- Developers, including those who make large donations to political parties such as the Walker group, should not be able to profit from real estate developments constructed on publicly owned property and areas protected under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. On 31 May, 2016, just prior to the last Federal election, Walker donated $200,000 to the Federal Liberal Party in the same year it paid zero income tax – see below – https://periodicdisclosures.aec.gov.au/Donor.aspx?SubmissionId=60&ClientId=21316
- The Walker group of companies have a number of convictions for environmental offences, disclosed in the Referral, including for unlawful tree clearing.
- It is also noteworthy that in each of the past three corporate tax years, Walker paid nil income tax on earnings of over $319 Million (2013/14), over $363 Million (2014/15) and over $477 Million (2015/16) – https://data.gov.au/dataset/corporate-transparency
The reasons for rejecting this proposal are overwhelming.