Consultation on proposed changes to the management of gastropod and bivalve molluscs in Moreton Bay

BIEPA considers this an important enough issue to send you the Survey sent by the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).

You will recall our October daytime meeting held at the Seaside Museum, where our Guest Speaker from DAF talked about the over-harvesting of gastropod and bivalve molluscs in Moreton Bay, some of it to supply restaurants illegally.  DAF has been investigating and gathering evidence over a number of years to ensure the over-harvesting can be addressed.  Many are asking for a total ban on harvesting these species to allow their numbers to return to normal and improve the health of the Moreton Bay Marine Park ecosystems.

The Survey can be found at this link:   https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/consultations-and-legislation/reviews-surveys-and-consultations.

Follow the prompts to take part.

 

Background

Consultation on proposed changes to the management of gastropod and bivalve molluscs in Moreton Bay.

Fishing pressure directed at gastropods and bivalve molluscs in Moreton Bay has increased significantly in recent years resulting in concern about the sustainability of key species (mud ark and mud whelks). A key issue is limited compliance with current in-possession limits (50 per person) with large organised groups of people targeting these species excessively.

Gastropods and bivalve mollusc species are highly susceptible to localised depletion because of their sedentary nature and the ease of access to fishing grounds adjacent to urban centres.

Fisheries Queensland anticipates that fishing pressure and demand for these fisheries resources will continue and management action is required to protect intertidal shellfish populations and support rebuilding of populations to sustainable levels.

Initial consultation with some local stakeholders, the Moreton Bay Working Group and the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel has been undertaken.  Communiques are available online athttps://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/sustainable-fisheries-strategy.  Fisheries Queensland is now seeking additional feedback through public consultation on the following management changes to the Fisheries Regulation 2008:

  • Prohibit the take of gastropods and bivalve mollusc, excluding pipis, in Moreton Bay;
  • Clarify the definition of mollusc to assist compliance activities:
  1.     Gastropod means any invertebrate species belonging to taxonomic Class Gastropoda
  2.     Bivalve Mollusc means any invertebrate species belonging to taxonomic Class Bivalvia

        iii.    Pipi means any invertebrate species belonging to taxonomic Family Donacidae.

  • Clarify that shell collecting (i.e. empty shells, no live organisms) is not a regulated activity.

It is proposed that the closure will apply to the waters of Moreton Bay following  the boundary coordinates of the northern, eastern and southern boundaries of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and all tidal waters of rivers flowing into this region and encompass the existing foreshore closures at Wynnum, Nudgee Beach, Bramble Bay and Deception Bay.

The closure would not apply to pipis or worms, and would only apply to bivalve molluscs and gastropods such as mud welks, cockles and mud arks.

There will be no changes to the harvesting of gastropods and bivalve mollusc outside the Moreton Bay area (i.e. outside Moreton Bay a person is allowed to be in possession of 50).

An online survey is regarding the proposed management action is available at https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/consultations-and-legislation/reviews-surveys-and-consultations and will be open for comment until 6 January 2019.

If you have any questions please contact John Kung, Senior Fisheries Manager, on 3087 8027 or by email at John.Kung@daf.qld.gov.au.

Claire Andersen
Executive Director (Fisheries and Forestry)
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

http://birdlife.org.au/media/disturbing-toondah-harbour-revelations-underscore-urgent-need-for-stronger/

Disturbing Toondah Harbour revelations
6 December 2018

Shocking revelations about the national assessment process for the proposed Toondah Harbour development in Queensland is further evidence Australia needs stronger national environment laws and an independent umpire for project approvals, leading conservation organisations have declared.

This morning the ABC revealed then-Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg was advised by his department on multiple occasions the Toondah Harbour apartment and marina proposal should be rejected outright because of the damage it would do to an internationally protected wetland.

Only a handful of developments have ever been rejected under current national environment laws.

Documents show Minister Frydenberg in at least one instance rejected this advice and instead sent the development to the next stage of assessment. Other documents obtained by the ABC reveal the Queensland Government was also willing to remove areas from the internationally protected wetland to facilitate the development.

Donor Annual Returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission show the Toondah Harbour proponent, Walker Corporation, gave $225,000 to the Federal Liberal Party and $23,000 to the Queensland ALP in 2015-16 – the year the initial development proposal was submitted for national assessment. Documents obtained by the ABC suggest Walker Corporation also engaged in a campaign of legal challenges and lobbying to keep the project alive.

The Toondah Harbour development would destroy approximately 40 hectares of the internationally protected Moreton Bay Ramsar site – one of Australia’s most important migratory shorebird feeding and breeding wetland habitats. A third version of the development is currently at the second-stage of assessment under national environment law.

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, said Australians should question whether state and federal elected representatives have been acting in the best interests of nature or those of a significant donor, in not striking out the Toondah Harbour development.

“There needs to be an independent probe into this matter. Australians have the right to be confident the natural world is being protected from irresponsible development, especially places as important as the Moreton Bay Ramsar site,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

BirdLife Australia Chief Executive Officer, Paul Sullivan, said the project should never have proceeded to this stage.

“The proposal to build 3,600 waterside apartments and a marina on a Ramsar site flies in the face of Australia’s international obligations. The Minister should have followed the advice of his own department and rejected this project outright,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Critically endangered migratory shorebirds like the Eastern Curlew rely on this important wetland for their survival. If approved, Toondah will set a dangerous precedent for 2,331 Ramsar sites around the world. The international community is watching what happens next.”

Humane Society International Australia Chief Executive Officer, Erica Martin, said the revelations highlight the urgent need for new environment laws in Australia.

“It is unacceptable that matters of national environmental significance are being ignored in the decision making process for major developments like Toondah Harbour. Australia needs stronger nature laws and a national Environment Protection Authority to take the politics out of these decisions and to ensure native wildlife and their habitats are given the protection they truly deserve,” Ms Martin said.

“The Department was right on the money in saying this proposal should be rejected outright, and it’s disturbing that Minister Frydenberg ignored this advice and opened the door to removing international protections for the sake of development. The Moreton Bay Ramsar site is priceless, and Australia must respect the conventions we’ve committed to.”

Liberal Party donor issues legal threat to minister over development on sensitive bird habitat

Updated

Aerial shot of Toondah Harbour showing the carpark, homes, and the sweep of the coastline.
Photo: Toondah Harbour is part of a network of wetlands protected under an international treaty. (ABC News: David Sciasci)

The former federal environment minister rejected advice from his own department that a $1.4 billion development on protected wetlands being proposed by a major Liberal Party donor was “clearly unacceptable”, documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) show.

Key points:

  • The proposed development overlaps with wetlands that are home to endangered migratory birds
  • Experts within the federal Department of Environment have consistently said the project is clearly unacceptable
  • Minister referred proposal for formal environmental assessment, which peak environment group says increases chances of it going ahead

Walker Corporation, which describes itself as Australia’s largest private diversified development company, wants to build a precinct that includes 3,600 apartments, a hotel, convention centre and marina on a stretch of coastline south-east of Brisbane.

Toondah Harbour is on a wetland listed under the RAMSAR convention, which protects important habitats for migratory birds. Australia was one of the first signatories to the convention.

FOI documents obtained by Australian Conservation Foundation show former environment minister and current Treasurer Josh Frydenberg rejected advice from his own department to strike out the proposed development at the first hurdle.

Today, Mr Frydenberg said his decision was not an approval of the development, but an opportunity for proper assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The department had consistently argued the proposal was “clearly unacceptable” because of the permanent impact it would have on the ecological character of the wetlands.

Further documents obtained by the ABC show his department was subject to sustained pressure to approve the development including a legal threat against the minister and environment department by Walker Corporation.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au.

Moreton Bay became a RAMSAR-listed site in 1993. Toondah Harbour sits inside it, across the bay from the popular tourism destination of Stradbroke Island.

It is home to critically endangered shorebirds, such as the eastern curlew, which rely on these mudflats to fatten up before their journey back to breeding grounds in Russia and China.

The eastern curlew is brown and white with a long hooked beak. Close up of single bird standing in water.Photo: The endangered eastern curlew relies on Australian wetlands to survive. (Supplied: Chris Walker)

Walker Corporation a generous donor in politics

In the same financial year the development was sent to the Federal Government for approval, Walker Corporation donated $225,000 to the federal Liberal Party and $23,000 to Queensland Labor.

The previous year, Walker Corporation did not donate to either political party, but the company has been a relatively regular donor to both sides of politics over the past 10 years.

Mr Frydenberg said political donations had nothing to do with the decision-making process.

“It’s got nothing to do with the donor,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

From early on in the approval process Walker Corporation was warned the project was problematic.

Artist's impression of the Toondah Harbour development which will include 3,600 apartments.Photo: An artist’s impression of the Toondah Harbour development which will include 3,600 apartments. (Supplied: Walker Group)

In April 2016 the federal Department of the Environment wrote to the developer saying it intended to advise the minister the development was “clearly unacceptable”.

Over a year the developer was able to negotiate with the department to get the decision delayed six times.

In February 2017 Walker Corporation’s advisers threatened to take the minister to court, arguing it disagreed with the department’s view that the project was “clearly unacceptable” and making the case that any such decision would entail an error in law.

The ABC has obtained a copy of that confidential letter, which said given the “stalemate of legal views on the ‘clearly unacceptable’ issue, … the best path forward may be to have the Federal Court decide the ‘clearly unacceptable’ point”.

“We have instructions from Lang Walker to file and serve this Originating Application no later than 9 March 2017 if agreement on another process has not been reached prior,” the letter said.

No legal action ensued but the message was clear.

Project referred to next stage

In May last year Walker Corporation withdrew its initial proposal and submitted a smaller one that still encroached on around 50 hectares of the RAMSAR site.

A month later, the department gave the minister formal advice the project remained “clearly unacceptable”.

Mr Frydenberg rejected that advice.

He did not approve the proposal but instead sent it to an assessment process known as an Environmental Impact Statement.

Mr Frydenberg said his decision was not an approval of the development, but an opportunity for proper assessment.

“Under the EPBC Act, the minister has the opportunity to enable his department to undertake a full assessment of the project, and in doing so, get more information, which may lead to mitigation or offsets of any significant environmental impact that the project would have,” Mr Frydenberg said.

When asked why he had rejected advice from his department that the project was “clearly unacceptable”, he said his department had also pointed out there was an opportunity to gather more information under this assessment process.

Mr Frydenberg also pointed out the Queensland Labor Government had been strong proponents of the project, and again stressed the donation record of the Walker Corporation was not relevant to his decision.

“The Walker Corporation are a very well known Australian company with interests right across the country,” he said.

“But the biggest proponents of this or advocates of this was the state Labor Government, the Palaszczuk Government as well as the local council because of the jobs it would create, the marina it would establish, the ferry system and the tourism jobs that it would create for the local area.”

Queensland government letter backs development bid

The ABC has obtained a copy of a letter sent by then Queensland environment minister Steven Miles and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad on August 12, 2016, advocating for the project.

“We acknowledge that the Toondah Harbour Priority Development area (PDA) declared by the then-Queensland government in June 2013 overlaps with part of the Moreton Bay’s listed Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) site,” the letter states.

“Nonetheless, the Queensland Government supports the project now being declared a ‘controlled action’ under the Commonwealth legislation, so as to ensure that its potential impact on matters of national environmental significance can be assessed in detail based on sound evidence.”

This designation, making the project a “controlled action”, was the decision Mr Frydenberg eventually made.

A plant pushes up through the mud.Photo: The wetlands at Toondah Harbour. (ABC News: David Lewis)

ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said she was shocked by the decision by then-minister Frydenberg to refer the project for assessment.

“[Of the more than] 1,700 assessments that have been done under the EPBC act, only 11 have been rejected over that time,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“It’s very unlikely that it’s going to be rejected given the history of the act.”

Bar-tailed Godwits fly low to the water, some standing on a sand bar in the harbour.Photo: Bar-tailed Godwits in flight over Toondah Harbour. (Supplied: Chris Walker)

Lang Walker, the founder and driving force behind Walker Corporation, was unavailable for interview.

Walker Corporation’s Craig Addley, the project designer for Toondah Harbour, told the ABC he was unaware of the legal threat, and conversations around donations were “above my paygrade”.

Craig Addley leans on a railing in front of the proposed development site.Photo: Urban design and development manager Walker Corporation Craig Addley. (ABC News: David Lewis)

“I think we’ve always wanted to get to the point where we could start this EIS process,” Mr Addley said.

“That’s a really important part of the project in communicating and illustrating all the issues to it.

“Regardless of some of those issues, all the decisions on this project need to be based on the science and the facts.”

Mr Addley said he hopes the port will be rehabilitated and other infrastructure developed off the back of the project.

Hear the full investigation on Radio National’s Background Briefing program on Sunday, at 8am, or in your podcast feed later today.

You can contact Steve Cannane securely using the Signal app on 0417493087, if you know more about this story.

Topics: environmentenvironmental-policyurban-development-and-planningcleveland-4163qldaustralia

Native plants of the Moreton Bay Region
South East Queensland is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Australia. With a wide variety of landforms and vegetation types, this region contains an abundance of unique plants, from tall gum trees to small flowering herbs.
Council encourages residents to keep native vegetation on their property. In addition, why not use native plants that occur naturally in Moreton Bay (local native plants) in your garden and other plantings?
Advantages of local native plants
The advantages of using local native plants include:
·         These plants are adapted to local conditions (hardy);
·         They will not become weeds;
·         They provide local landscape character; and
·         They provide appropriate food for local fauna and can encourage fauna into your garden.
By using local native plants you are helping to preserve the genetics of the plants and helping to ensure the plants survival into the future.
Regional ecosystems
Regional Ecosystems (REs) are vegetation communities that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, land form and soil. The RE classification system was developed by the Queensland Herbarium and is used by Council as a standard for describing vegetation communities found in the region.
Each RE is classified by a three number code (e.g. 12.3.11). The first number of the code is the bioregion. Queensland is divided into 13 different bioregions, which are based on broad landscape patterns and reflect the major differences in geology, climate, plants and animals found across the state.
South East Queensland is bioregion 12; therefore all REs in the Moreton Bay Region begin with 12. The second number is the landform, denoting the type of geology. The third number represents the particular vegetation community.
Paperbark open forest
Figure 1: RE 12.3.11 Floodplain Blue Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) open forest
Learning about the REs on your property can help you identify plants and plan revegetation projects using appropriate local native plants. RE classifications are used to provide a consistent approach to planning, vegetation management and legislation across Queensland.
Plant lists for 23 common Regional Ecosystems found in Moreton Bay assists residents in planning revegetation or restoration works. Each list contains the common species found in that RE. A map showing local parks where each RE can be found is also included in each list.
Further information on REs can be obtained from the Department of Environment and Science. The Department also provides free property reports and mapping, including Regional Ecosystem mapping.
Sourcing native plants
Local native plants are available for sale from community nurseries for gardens, landscaping and revegetation projects.
There are four Council supported community nurseries that supply local native plants to the public, see community plant nurseriesfor more information.
If you are planning a revegetation project or would like to know more about REs on your property please contact Council.