Uncovering secret documents to protect the Toondah Harbour wetlands
EJA is representing Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in their appeal of a federal department’s decision to refuse access to documents relating to Walker Corporation’s plans for a Marina and high-rise apartment complex, estimated to cost $1.4 billion, on sensitive wetlands at Toondah Harbour, near Brisbane.
Toondah Harbour wetlands are located in Moreton Bay on the Queensland coast near Brisbane. These sensitive wetlands are globally protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and are home to threatened wildlife including dugongs, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and the critically endangered eastern curlews. The area is also known as a top migratory bird site in Australia. The proposed development by Walker Corporation would involve dredging and drying out about 40 hectares of Ramsar-listed wetlands.
“Every summer 32 species of migratory shorebirds, comprising 40,000 individual birds, visit Moreton Bay. Around 20 percent of the world’s eastern curlews and 50 percent of all grey-tailed tattlers feed, breed and rest at the wetland following their amazing migration from Russia.”
– Kelly O’Shannassy, CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation
Plans for a marina and high-rise apartment complex on this site have been in the works since 2013, but have faced vigorous opposition from locals and environment groups.
The Toondah wetlands are supposed to be protected under our national nature laws, but continued failures in our laws mean a proposal for the development of this land was able to progress in 2018, under former Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg who rejected his own department’s advice that the development would damage the wetland.
If ACF is successful in this legal challenge they get access to the documents relating to Walker Cooperation’s secret meetings with the department and their plans for the development. This is an important case because it’s being run to test exemptions consistently relied upon by the Commonwealth to avoid public scrutiny in the environmental decision-making process. The public has the right to know what is in these documents that have so far been kept a secret. We’ll keep you updated on the outcome of this legal challenge.
Images: Nikki Michail