“Respect Ramsar” – what does this mean?

“Respect Ramsar” – what does this mean?

One of the key messages of community actions opposing the State Government facilitated Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA) real estate scheme is to call on State and Federal politicians to ‘RESPECT RAMSAR’.

The world’s Ramsar Convention for the protection of listed wetlands has been signed by Australia and 170 other nations. It is a straightforward agreement. In addition to general obligations of ‘conservation’ and ‘wise use’ of wetlands, Article 2.5 contains a key obligation:-

“Any contracting party shall have the right to add to the list further wetlands situated within its territory, to extend the boundaries of those wetlands already included by it in the list, or, because of its urgent national interests, to delete or restrict the boundaries of wetlands already included by it in the list”.

This obligation obviously requires all levels of government in Australia to protect and maintain the boundaries of all listed wetlands unless there are “urgent national interests”. Nothing else justifies the deletion or restriction of any part of a Ramsar boundary.

Hundreds of people attended the World Migratory Bird Day community action on 8 May, 2021 at GJ Walter Park, within the Toondah PDA.
The event was organised by Birdlife Southern Qld, Redlands 2030 and Bayside ACF, and promoted by Save Straddie and other groups.

Quite clearly, the State Government’s Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA) plan to allow Walker Corporation to destroy over 40 hectares of the Moreton Bay Ramsar site to build 3,600 units and yacht marinas for private profit, cannot qualify as an “urgent national interest”. A comparison of Figures 2 and 3 in our Summary and Timeline illustrates the plan could not proceed without deleting or restricting Ramsar site boundaries, in breach of Article 2.5 of the Ramsar Convention.

The PDA should be revoked by the Palaszczuk Government. That would immediately end the real estate scheme and it would not be necessary for the Federal Government to be involved any further.

Because the Toondah PDA plan would impact “matters of national environmental significance”, including Ramsar wetlands, it cannot proceed without Federal approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Importantly, Australia’s international Ramsar obligations are reinforced by the EPBC Act. Section 138 stipulates that when deciding whether or not to approve a proposal which would impact a Ramsar site, the Federal Minister “must not act inconsistently with Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention”. This requirement is clear.

So if politicians, either at the State or Federal level, decide to act honourably in accordance with the ‘rule of law’ and respect the Ramsar Convention and our own laws, the Toondah real estate scheme will not proceed. It is as simple as that. The community’s role is to keep up the pressure on the politicians to act honourably.