Time is ticking: Toondah decision an indication of ambition for new laws

The Queensland Conservation Council is calling for Minister Plibersek to reject Walker Corp’s proposal at Toondah Harbour that will destroy internationally significant Ramsar listed habitat for migratory birds.

Ministers Plibersek’s upcoming decision on Toondah Harbour will give Queenslanders a clear indication of her determination to deliver stronger nature laws that work better for both the environment and business.

In Canberra environmental and industry groups are meeting this week for a consultation on the new nature positive laws that must improve our environmental regulation to protect Australia’s unique animals and plants. These proposed laws will create an independent Environmental Protection Agency with the power to make strong decisions to protect the places we love, like Toondah’s wetlands.

Queensland Conservation Council Nature Campaigner Natalie Frost said

Time is ticking to ensure the protection of this ecologically important wetland that is home to dugong, dolphins and threatened migratory shorebirds.

A project dredging up Toondah harbour destroys internationally protected wetlands and Queensland Marine Parks and should have been rejected years ago, without all of the cost to business and uncertainty and fear created in the community. Clearly our current laws are broken.

Threatened species like the bar-tailed godwit and eastern curlew will be impacted by this proposed development and with increasing pressures impacting their long term survival, Minister Plibersek needs to honour her commitment of no new extinctions.

The eastern curlew is listed as a priority species under the federal government’s threatened species action plan released in 2022, so approving this project that will destroy 40 hectares of known habitat is not in line with agreed conservation outcomes.

Under the version of the new proposed nature positive laws, development proposals like Walker Corp’s Toondah Harbor would be rejected outright by the CEO of the new EPA. Ramsar listed sites would have stronger protection measures in place because details on the significance of protected wetlands would be kept up to date, rather than relying on outdated or often non-existent plans to save these areas.

But these laws are still on the drawing board, and nature cannot be kept waiting.

Minister Plibersek’s decision to reject the Toondah Harbour development proposal has been delayed now for months. The community has been protesting this destructive project for years, and it’s critical that the minister listens to the community and rejects this proposed development now.