Respect Ramsar – Birdlife Australia
Despite over 1500 submissions calling for the Ramsar wetlands at Toondah Harbour to be protected, the Australian Government has failed to reject the latest Toondah Harbour development proposal.

A proposal that will see high-rises and a marina built on Ramsar wetlands and will significantly endanger Eastern Curlew feeding habitat.

The proposal now moves to the next stage of the approval process and is one step away from setting a dangerous precedent for future developments within Australia’s 66 other Ramsar sites.

Join our campaign calling on the Australian Government to #RespectRamsar and uphold our international commitments.

Over the next few weeks, we will be profiling some of Australia’s Ramsar listed sites to highlight what is at stake if the development at Toondah Harbour progresses.

Every state and territory has at least one Ramsar site, with many only a short drive from major city centres. You may have visited one of these sites and not even have known that it was internationally recognised as one of the world’s most important sites.

What happens at Toondah Harbour could open the rest of these sites up to future developments and will send a clear message to Australia and the international community that developing within Ramsar wetlands is justifiable and achievable.

Too much is at stake.

Please, join us in letting the Minister of Environment know that Australian’s want Ramsar sites respected.

Thank you for raising your voice,

Andrew Hunter

Conservation Campaigner

Birdlife Australia
Norfolk Lagoon

The story of the Bribie Borefields goes back almost two decades…….
For ten years before the State Government put out an urgent request for water (2007) at what was to become the break in a ten year drought in South East Queensland, some water engineers in the Caboolture Shire Council (CSC) had been proposing that the Bribie Island aquifers were a source of water that could supply the mainland. However, in their wisdom, the State Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had recognized that this proposal was not viable, (environmentally and economically), understanding the unique and fragile ecosystems that maintain Bribie Island’s vegetation and wildlife. For ten years the EPA said “no” to the idea.
Then came the call for anyone who might be able to supply water to top up for dangerously low dams. This was the opportunity for the CSC to jump in the deep end unprepared, touting that they could build the Bribie Borefields for $10 million and supply 10ML/day from Bribie’s aquifers.
The Green Tape was untied and the project was fast tracked without the normal pre-requisites of an Environmental Impact Assessment; baseline studies of surrounding ecosystems; appropriate monitoring sites identified; the economics of the project and without a myriad of other assessments that would normally precede such a project.
BIEPA’s then President, Ian Bell, with his professional expertise in water management and the natural environment, recognized the folly of this proposal, especially the potential for negative impacts on Ramsar protected wetlands. In December 2007, Ian made a presentation to the CSC’s Mayor, Acting CEO, two councillors, engineers and private consultants hired for the project. Ian pointed out the deficiencies in the consultants’ and engineers’ hasty assessments of the location for the borefields, especially the consultants’ inaccurate report that the adjacent lagoons were saline. Ian showed proof that these lagoons were freshwater and the surrounding vegetation and wildlife depended on them. He warned that if the bores were to draw down too far and allow seawater intrusion, all these ecosystems on Bribie Island would be lost as well as compromise the supply of fresh water to the Project.
The CSC persisted with the Bribie Borefields Project and within six months the cost estimates blew out to more than $50 million. Ian took the issue to the Commonwealth, who limited the extraction to 4.3 ML/day & added mandatory monitoring sites to be in place. A Community Reference Group (CRG) was also established as part of the Commonwealth’s conditions for approval, because of the potential impact on adjacent Ramsar protected wetlands. www.ramsar.org/ The CRG monitors and provides regular community input on the Bribie Borefields.
BIEPA and the CRG remained resolute in their demand for transparency and accountability. Eventually the State Govt took over the Bribie Borefields Project as part of their responsibility for the supply of all bulk water. The Project came under the management of Seqwater who were able to ease the community’s concerns with the management of the Project.
The Bribie Borefields have experienced many design defects and have never reached capacity production and have never exported water to the mainland.
Even at the reduced production level, many of the producing bores hit their trigger levels during the dry period at the end of 2013 and had to be shut down. It has been estimated that the Bribie Borefields cost ratepayers in the order of $70 million – some of the most expensive water produced in Australia (more expensive than the Tugun desalination plant).
A recent review of the Bribie Borefields determined that they should be shut down indefinitely.
Sadly, Ian Bell and BIEPA were vilified by some council staff and members of the community for their stance on the long-term viability of the Bribie Borefields Project. Their stance, tenacity, expertise and wisdom has proven to be correct. And, those decision makers in council responsible for this white elephant have moved on and can not be held accountable.
As part of the Project, a pipeline, costing approximately $1 million, was constructed from the Woorim Sewage Treatment Plant to Pacific Harbour in order to supply grey water. This pipeline has never been used.