The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has strongly urged Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to reject Walker Group’s plans to build a high-rise apartment and retail complex on the internationally recognised Toondah Wetlands.

The Toondah Harbour mudflats in Queensland’s Moreton Bay, a vital habitat protected by the Ramsar Convention, face a threat from a proposed development by Walker Corporation for 3,600 apartments.

Yesterday Walker Corporation submitted its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Federal Government for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s decision, claiming that an overwhelming majority of the Redlands community has backed the $3 billion transformation of Cleveland’s Toondah Harbour.

“The Toondah Harbour project will deliver a vital billion-dollar boost to the local economy, creating hundreds of new jobs for locals. It will also deliver 200 new homes each year, with a huge potential to ease the housing squeeze in the region,” Walker Corporation said in a statement.

The development has sparked a David and Goliath-style battle against unchecked environmental impact, with the wetlands serving as a crucial feeding ground for the endangered Eastern Curlew and 36 other migratory shorebird species. Despite international significance and Ramsar protection of the site, the project has received support from both local and state governments.

State Member for Capalaba Don Brown MP said yesterday that Toondah Harbour has been backed by the Queensland State Government as a Priority Development Area for over 10 years and is the perfect region-building project.

“Our local community needs Toondah Harbour now – for the jobs, for the economy and for the housing crisis,” Brown said

Walker claims that the Redlands community overwhelmingly supports the $3 billion development, saying nearly 60 per cent of Cleveland residents and over half of all Redland residents who submitted individual responses expressed their approval. They raise concerns that of the 26,000 submissions received during the public consultation, a considerable number were “copy and paste” documents from individuals living outside the local area.

Proposed development by Walker Corporation at Toondah Habour
Proposed development by Walker Corporation at Toondah Habour

ACF media adviser, Josh Meadows said the organisation believes Walker is wrong to say local people overwhelmingly support the project.

“ACF’s Bayside community group, along with other local groups like Redlands 2030, have organised big, well-attended rallies, protesting against the proposal.”

“Last year more than 2,200 people rallied against Walker’s scheme and in May this year more than 3,000 people took to the streets, while hundreds rallied outside the Labor national conference in Brisbane in August, calling on the Albanese government to save Toondah.”

Meadows said the fact that people from outside the local area also care about Toondah and want the nationally and internationally recognised wetland protected, should not invalidate their opinions.

“Walker dismissed the views of any submission that was not local, ignoring that this is a wetland of national and international significance.”

Conservation groups argue that Toondah Harbour, is the most critical feeding site for eastern curlews, a critically endangered bird that flies as far as Russia and China every year. 

“Every summer eastern curlews and grey-tailed tattlers recuperate at the Toondah Harbour wetland following their incredible flight back from the northern hemisphere,” ACF’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“Eastern curlews are one of 110 priority species in the Albanese government’s Threatened Species Action Plan, released last year by Minister Plibersek.

“Walker Group’s marina and high-rise apartment and retail complex would destroy irreplaceable feeding ground for migratory birds, a big chunk of the Ramsar wetland and mature eucalypts home to koalas and other wildlife.

“Walker’s claims that its massive real estate project will boost local koala numbers would be laughable if we weren’t talking about Australia’s unique, much-loved animal, which is now listed as endangered in Queensland because of destruction of its habitat.

O’Shanassy said local, state and national environment groups all oppose the development.

Minister Plibersek has 40 business days or until 28 January 2024 to decide whether to approve or reject the proposal.

“We urge Environment Minister Plibersek to stand up for the wetlands, the wildlife and the community by rejecting Walker’s destructive real estate proposal at Toondah Harbour,” O’Shanassy said.

Rally at Labor Conference by conservation groups wanting to save Toondah Harbour.
Rally for Toondah Harbour at National Labor Party Conference in Brisbane, August 2023.

Cover image, Eastern Curlew iStock