Media release

Walker walks away, Toondah Harbour is saved!

Thursday, 18 April 2024

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Walker walks away, Toondah harbour is saved!

BRISBANE, Queensland:BirdLife Australia are celebrating the news that an immensely irresponsible real-estate proposal which threatened critical habitat for migratory birds has been officially withdrawn after a decade of resistance from the Australian community and environmental organisations. The site of the proposal was Toondah Harbour near Brisbane, part of the internationally significant Moreton Bay wetland Ramsar area, a critical habitat for wildlife, including the Eastern Curlew.

The formal withdrawal follows last week’s announcement from Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek that she intended to reject the proposal made by Walker Corporation, one of Australia’s wealthiest real estate developers, citing unacceptable impacts to wildlife like the Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew and the internationally significant of the wetlands.

“This is a win for nature and a win for the community”, said BirdLife Australia CEO, Kate Millar. “We are celebrating, but we are not resting. We’ve won this battle because of the sustained pressure and opposition from everyday Australians, led by a dedicated group of local nature lovers. This is a battle that should never have needed to be fought.”

The impacts of the proposal were known in 2017 when former Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg rejected the advice from his own department that the proposal was “clearly unacceptable” and allowed it to proceed to the next stage of approval. Ms Millar said this kind of ministerial power is why our nature laws are broken. “It’s currently far too easy for ministers to override Australia’s nature laws, and that is simply seen as an invitation for some big businesses to undermine them.”

The Albanese Government is currently reviewing Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Earlier this week, Minister Plibersek announced the establishment of an independent Environment Protection Agency (EPA), claiming the new body will have strong new powers to better protect nature. But environmental organisations, including BirdLife Australia are yet to be convinced.

“Australia’s broken nature laws still need to be fixed, then properly enforced. Otherwise, the new EPA is being set up to fail,” said Millar. “10 years of fighting for Toondah Harbour has shown us that the current Ministerial powers enable a way around the law. Allowing exemptions will not stop extinctions.”

For now, members of the local community and environmental organisations, including BirdLife Australia, who’ve campaigned against Walker Corporation’s proposal for a decade are breathing a sigh of relief. “We’re thrilled,” said Ms Millar. “We want to thank everyone who’s worked so hard to get to this outcome. It’s because of them that Toondah’s wetlands and the birds they sustain will now remain protected.”

Woman with arms reaching to the sky at Toondah Harbour

BirdLife Australia CEO Kate Millar is available for comment.

BirdLife Australia Media Enquiries: Please contact James Johnson on 0423 659 324 or at media@birdlife.org.au