Three national environmental groups have united to slam a decision from Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to progress the Toondah Harbour development proposal in Moreton Bay for further assessment despite the significant threat to protected wetlands.
Birdlife Australia, Humane Society International and the Australian Conservation Foundation have called on the Minister to use his powers under Australia’s environment legislation to reject the controversial proposal.
“The Minister had an opportunity to use Australia’s environment legislation to protect an internationally important wetland,” said Birdlife Australia spokesperson Connie Warren. “He failed to make that call”.
The decision relates to a development proposed by the Walker Corporation to destroy almost 50ha of wetlands in the Moreton Bay Marine Park to build a marina and housing as part of the project to refurbish Toondah Harbour.
However the area is one of the most important places in Australia for the critically endangered Eastern Curlew.
“Not only will this development destroy critical feeding sites for at least 30 bird species, including the Eastern Curlew, it will reclaim almost 50 hectares of wetland protected by five separate international treaties, including the Ramsar Convention,” continued Ms Warren.
“In designating a wetland as a Ramsar site, countries agree to conserve these internationally important wetlands and ensure their wise use. Ramsar sites are recognised as being of significant value not only for the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole,” said Evan Quartermain, Senior Program Manager at Humane Society International. “They should be completely off limits to destructive development”.
“Wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention should be protected as matters of National Environment Significance under the current Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
"The Minister has the power to reject the proposed development as clearly unacceptable for its impacts on a wetland of international importance. His failure to do so will show that Ministerial discretion is subject to capture by development interests,” said Quartermain.
“Let’s be clear – this was a proposal that had a decision by the federal government deferred six times before the developer withdrew and resubmitted a slightly altered development. This is unprecedented in the history of national environment law. At the same time the developer, Walker Corporation, has gifted hundreds of thousands of dollars to the federal liberal party in donations,” said Australian Conservation Foundation spokesperson James Trezise.
“We need to break this cycle of big money, vested interests of developers and our political system,” said Trezise.
“If Ramsar wetlands can’t be protected by the Act, no where is safe.”
“The Toondah Harbour development proceeding will be a clear indication that we need new national laws and institutions that will actually protect the environment.”
Through the Places You Love Alliance environment groups are campaigning for new laws to protect nature.