DEVELOPMENT, such as that proposed at Toondah Harbour, that encroaches on a Ramsar site should be opposed, according to BirdLife Southern Queensland convenor Judith Hoyle.
Speaking at the Brisbane hearing of a senate committee inquiry into the decline in population and conservation status of threatened fauna species, Ms Hoyle said the science showed it would be impossible to mitigate the impacts of the Toondah Harbour development.
Committee chairwoman Senator Janet Rice said at the hearing that the MPs had visited Toondah Harbour the previous day with representatives from BirdLife Australia, Queensland Wader Study Group and advocacy group Redlands2030.
Senator Rice said it was a big disappointment that the Queensland government, Redland City Council and the Walker Corporation had declined the committee’s offer to attend the hearing.
The inquiry’s terms of reference includes consideration of whether federal environment laws provide sufficient protection for threatened fauna.
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- Walker Corp says it can meet environmental concerns on birds and marine life Toondah Harbour rebuild but residents not convinced
- Walker releases revamped Toondah Harbour development plans
BirdLife Australia chief executive Paul Sullivan said former environment minister Josh Frydenberg had been strongly lobbied by the Queensland government and visited by Walker Corporation.
“So he was under enormous pressure, I believe, to make it happen, and he ignored the advice of his department to proceed to a full environmental impact statement.”
Redlands2030 representative Chris Walker said at the hearing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act allowed developers too much latitude to get favourable outcomes and put too much onus on the community to ensure public interest was served.
Ms Hoyle said that no one was against development of the port but BirdLife was opposed to development encroaching on a Ramsar site.
“...You’ve got something that ticks every single environmental box that you could possibly imagine – it’s a Ramsar site, it’s a key biodiversity area, it abuts onto marine national parks, it’s got more than one species of critically endangered shorebird…,” Ms Hoyle said.
She said Ramsar sites were globally significant for bird diversity and conservation.
“The site contains more than one per cent of the eastern curlew global population and sometimes up to as much as 10 per cent.”
Ms Hoyle said the development would completely remove feeding grounds used by the birds.
“The Walker Group’s proposal says that it’s only going to take a minute portion but they fail to take into account the amount of dredging, the impact of acid sulphate soils during the build period and dewatering period, and ongoing dredging to maintain the marina areas and the port,” Ms Hoyle said.
Ms Hoyle said Raby Bay was built a few years before the area was declared as a Ramsar site. The impact of that development was that a roost site of about 5000 birds was extinguished.
The committee will report on its findings by May 29.