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Developers walk away from Toondah Harbour wetlands project

The proposal for wetlands at Toondah Harbour included a marina and a 3600-unit complex.

The proposal for wetlands at Toondah Harbour included a marina and a 3600-unit complex.

Developers for a project worth more than $1 billion on Queensland wetlands have withdrawn their application.

Walker Corporation told Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek it will shelve plans for development of Toondah Harbour, east of Brisbane, after she found removing 58.7 hectares from the internationally protected wetland was an unacceptable risk.

Plibersek on April 9 gave Walker Corporation 10 days to respond to her draft decision.

“Walker Corporation (Walker) has today withdrawn its application for the Toondah Harbour Development,” the company said.

“It is a project that set out to deliver housing, state infrastructure and public domain areas but we acknowledge and respect the minister’s proposed decision, that she does not believe the project in its current form, provides the necessary protections for the environment.

“We need an appropriate amount of time to understand and address those concerns, to satisfy the government’s environmental requirements and to determine whether an alternative scheme would be viable for the project partners.”

Plibersek said the project should never have got this far.

The wetlands are home to at-risk loggerhead turtles and eastern curlews with 26,000 comments made on the development when its draft environmental impact statement was released.

“The project would also have had significant impacts on a range of other species including iconic Australian animals like dugongs and dolphins,” Plibersek said.

“The proposed dredging and land reclamation would have also destroyed and disturbed 58.7 hectares of the internationally protected wetland of Moreton Bay – that’s around 24 times the size of the Gabba.”

Australia is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands along with 172 other countries, to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands.

Section 138 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act requires the minister to not act inconsistently with Australia’s obligations under that convention.

Proposed development of Toondah Harbour included a marina and 3600-unit complex that was to occur through dredging of the wetland, with the sediment used for land reclamation over a 15- to 20-year period.

At an initial cost of $1.4 billion in 2014, the development was framed as a harbourside precinct with parklands, a lagoon and cycling and heritage trails that would include upgrades to the ferry facilities.

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman said the development was a terrible idea from the outset and pointed the finger at both major state parties for their involvement.

“It’s a testament to the community campaign that Walker’s plans are now dead,” he said.

“But the staggering lengths to which both Labor and the LNP have gone, to gift this land and water to a private developer and political donor, to trash critical habitat and trample community concerns, cannot be forgotten.”

-AAP
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