UPDATE: Toondah Harbour saved! After a five-year battle by ACF Bayside and the Toondah Alliance, Walker Corporation officially withdrew their application for development on Toondah Harbour in April 2024.

The decade-long fight to protect Toondah Harbour is almost coming to an end, with a result – good or bad – just around the corner.

Toondah Harbour is a pristine wetland, home to countless threatened species, migratory birds and majestic marine life. Over a decade ago, it caught the eye of developers, Walker Corporation, who want to destroy the 42 hectares of critical habitat to build luxury high-rise apartments.

Toondah Harbour aerial shot

Toondah Harbour is an internationally recognised wetland. Photo: Nikki Michail

Walker Corp’s plans for Toondah, however, was met by a groundswell movement that has continued to grow with each passing year, fighting to stop this nature wrecking project. ACF Bayside and the Toondah Alliance have led a dynamic, people power led opposition against this $3 billion proposed development.

For Quandamooka man and Toondah Alliance member, Uncle Norm, the development is completely destructive.

“This land here is sacred to us, like all land. We call land mother earth, and if you don’t manage the earth properly, you’re going to lose it,” he said.

“It’s destruction. Of nature, of our cultural heritage. Everything. It’s just one big mess. They haven’t really thought it out and we don’t want it. It’s just a money grab.”

Uncle Norm

Quandamooka man Uncle Norm says the area should be protected for its cultural significance.

Vicki Salisbury, one of ACF Bayside’s co-convenor's, is one of many ACF and Toondah Alliance volunteers, who have spent every spare moment over the past four years fighting to protect Toondah.

“We are justifiably concerned about the potentially devastating consequences of Walker’s plan and the impact to the land, the wildlife, and the future of the Redlands,” she said.

“Many of us spend nearly every free moment engaged in planning events for education, advocacy and building community awareness.”

“I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and put my hand up, like so many people because saving Toondah wetlands is important.”

Over the past decade, local community members, supported by everyday people from across the wider Brisbane region, have created and run hundreds of events and actions. Their goal was to help create awareness about the catastrophic impacts of this proposed development, and to amplify Toondah is an issue of critical concern at a national level.

ACF Brisbane South and Logan member Dave Tucker is a Brisbane local who has stood in solidarity with the Toondah Alliance. Dave was a key organiser of the now celebrated Mother’s Day Rally for Toondah, which attracted national attention.

“We did a march through the streets with thousands of people. That was just the trigger we needed to take this issue more widely,” he said.

“It was in the newspapers, it made it into The Guardian and other national newspapers because this isn’t just about Toondah. It’s about weak nature laws and honouring the Ramsar agreement.”

“If this particular place goes, that gives a precedent for more and more of the same thing to occur.”

Walk for Toondah event

Walk for Toondah is one of mnay events that have been organised by the local community. Photo: Greg Sullavan

For ACF Bayside’s creative advocacy lead Una Sandeman, it’s critical the government understands when making its decision, just how significant the harbour is to both people and it’s threatened wildlife.

“Toondah Harbour serves as a sanctuary for numerous species, including the critically endangered eastern Curlew and the endangered koala, reflecting its intrinsic value to me due to my Samoan and Tongan heritage, where connecting with the land and sea is not just a pastime but a way of life,” she said.

“As a former recreation/leisure therapist, I understand the importance of nature in people's lives to improve their health and well-being, with Toondah Harbour playing a vital role in mental health and community wellbeing for many of my past clients.” 

Uncle Norm agrees, highlighting that were the development to go ahead, it would only benefit certain people, and the public would lose access to this beautiful place.

“What the Aboriginal people are afraid of is once that [development] happens, they’re going to have 30 high-rise buildings, ten storeys high right across. You won’t be able to see any of the islands. It’ll only be the few that can afford a unit there, so it’ll only benefit certain people,” he said.

“Let’s keep it like it is and share it amongst each other, so we all can be happy.”

Vicki and Una

ACF Bayside members Vicki Salisbury and Una Sandeman.

ACF Bayside member Chris reiterated that Toondah Harbour is just the tip of the iceberg, and major change is needed on a national level to protect nature.

“We need absolutely bulletproof nature laws so that nothing like this can ever get off the ground again. The developers need to know right from scratch that certain areas of the country are no-go zones for development,” she said.

With Australia’s nature laws currently being reviewed, a win for Toondah Harbour would come at a critical time. A win for this people power led, grassroots fight for Toondah would also be one the most significant victories for nature conservation in Australia, and positively impact international conservation efforts.

Save Toondah! Send an email to MP Plibersek

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]