A large development proposed for Toondah Harbour in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay – a Ramsar-protected wetland – would have significant impacts on many vulnerable species, including the harbour’s globally migratory birds, its turtles, dugongs and koalas.
EDO has been working with local community and environment groups since the waterfront development – for residential, retail, marina, hotel, port facilities and tourism infrastructure – was first proposed in 2015.
In 2020, EDO is acting for Redlands 2030 in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal regarding Right to Information access to a key agreement between the state government and the developer and Redland Council. This agreement is crucial for understanding the claimed community benefit as the basis for public money expenditure on the damaging project.
EDO is also advising clients about the ongoing Federal assessment of the project, various other approval processes and potential law reform to improve protection of the Ramsar site.
The Toondah development was proposed as part of a Priority Development Area (PDA) declaration made in 2013 under the Economic Development Act 2012 (Qld). The PDA includes part of the internationally-listed wetlands.
Following a competitive tender process, Walker Group Holdings was selected as the developer (see the development proposal). For a more detailed history of the project, see Redlands2030’s account on its website.
Approvals needed for Toondah Harbour Development
A number of key approvals are likely to be required for the development. These include:
- Federal environmental approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act);
- Priority Development Area development approval under the Economic Development Act 2012 (ED Act);
- Marine Parks Permits under the Marine Parks (Moreton Bay) Zoning Plan 2008 (Qld) and the Marine Parks Act 2004 (Qld) framework which include:
- Amendment of the Moreton Bay Zoning Plan to declare a designated works area;
- Revocation of part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park; and
- Permission for reclamation;
- Environmental authority for dredging under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld);
- Allocation of resource under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Qld); and
- Approvals outside the Priority Development Area.
Federal Government EPBC referral
The proponent has referred three variations of the project to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment under the EPBC Act. The first was withdrawn in May 2017. The other two proposals are:
- EPBC reference 2017/7939: In June 2017, the Minister decided that the proposed action was a ‘controlled action’ that needed assessment under the EPBC Act, due to the potential significant impact on the Ramsar wetland and protected species and communities. This was despite the Department recommending that the proposal was ‘clearly unacceptable’ and should not proceed. However, the Minister does not appear to have made the related ‘assessment approach’ decision within the required timeframe. The proponent has not withdrawn the referral.
- EPBC reference 2018/8225: In June 2018, Walker Group submitted a further revised proposal. In July 2018, the Minister’s delegate decided it was a controlled action to be assessed by environmental impact statement. After public consultation, the guidelines for preparing the EIS were finalised. The proponent is now likely to be preparing a draft EIS, which, once approved by the Minister will be released for public comment of at least 20 business days – expected to be late 2020/early 2021. The Minister may also seek public comment on a proposed final decision on whether or not to approve the development.
Queensland Priority Development Area planning process
The declaration of a PDA is a method for fast tracking and concentrating development where this is seen as necessary by state and local government.
PDAs are subject to their own development schemes made especially for these areas. Where a PDA applies, existing local planning instruments typically no longer apply to development proposed in the PDA area.
The Queensland Government has the power to revoke or reduce a PDA. This could be an option to exclude those parts of the PDA on, and reduce the impacts to, the Ramsar wetland.
You can check the status of the Toondah Harbour PDA and any development applications which may be lodged in the future online on the Redland City Council PD Online website here.
You can find more general information here: