Toondah Harbor: Should the wetlands home to endangered birds turn into $1.3 billion stores, skyscrapers and marinas? | Queensland


The rushing water covers the muddy ground and sandbars of Toondah Harbor and creeps along the boughs of the mangrove forest.

Osprey and sea eagle fishing and cloudless skies over Cassim Island, a mangrove-covered sandy beach. In a serene scene where watercolor painters must die

But the battle to halt a $1.3 billion plan to develop the area. It is part of a protected wetland area of ​​international importance. It is reaching its peak that it has been built for eight years. The conflict erupted in the stillness of a sunny morning in Cleveland. 25km east of Brisbane.

If approved by Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, this watercolor will be changed forever, with shops, restaurants, a boardwalk, high-rise homes and a 200-foot marina to be built over the mud and cut. 50 hectares of wetlands It is under the international Ramsar Convention. by stopping 200 meters from the city of Cassim

Thousands of people attend the annual gathering. When software developer Walker Corp published a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) late last year, BirdLife Australia said it had 27,000 filings against the plan.

The only evidence of conflict this morning is a sign on a chain-link fence overlooking the bay, which reads Save Our Wetlands, Save Our Bay and Take Back Toondah and Concerned Robert Bush.

A park on the shores of Toondah Harbor Photo: Dan Peled/The Guardian
A protest sign that reads 'save our wets' on the front fence.
Many Cleveland residents strongly disagree with the proposed development. Photo: Dan Peled/The Guardian

‘Especially important for the next generation’

Bush is a recently retired academic and epidemiologist. And come here once a month for 15 years to count shorebirds with the Queensland Wader Study Group.

Construction would go on for more than a decade if Walker Corp’s plan is approved by the federal government, Bush said.

“That was my biggest concern. You are disturbing and extinguishing – all the time – part of the internationally recognized Ramsar Wetlands.”

Bush said developers had been considering the area since the 1930s, but the current controversy sparked in 2013 when the state government declared the area a priority for development.

Four endangered migratory birds use the harbor. This includes the endangered eastern curlew, which migrates 10,000km to Moreton Bay every winter, tuning in to the Earth’s magnetic field. which is one of the greatest works of the animal kingdom. This species is one of only 22 birds on the federal priority list for protection.

Caspian gulls fly above a flock of black-winged swallows on the muddy ground.
Caspian gulls fly above a flock of black-winged swallows on the muddy ground. Photo: Dan Peled/The Guardian

While Walker Corp says development covers only 0.02% of the total Ramsar area, Bush and others argue that the statistics are misleading. Part of the harbor to be recaptured was used by young Curlyw birds with limited options elsewhere. inside the marine park

This percentage is irrelevant if the habitat to be destroyed is an important part of the bird’s life cycle, Bush said.

“It is very important for the next generation.”

When the adult birds fly north to Russia and Alaska in March. Abandoned young birds use the muddy ground to dig up insects and lay soldiers.

Walker Corp said the Ramsar Convention allows development to continue under certain circumstances. But campaigners and scientists have rejected the claim.

high hopes for rejection

BirdLife Australia is one of several groups that have campaigned to protect the area for more than eight years. which is also part of the East Asia-Australian route This is a route that crosses the equator and bypasses 22 countries along the way.

Birdlife Australia campaign manager Andrew Hunter said: “You can reduce the impact. But you can’t find new food sources. It took thousands of years to develop the micro-ecology that birds needed.”

Cassim Island
Eastern Curlews migrated 10,000 km to Cassim Island. Photo: Dan Peled/The Guardian

Hunter said the loss of habitat along flyways is a major reason for the disappearance of many coastal migratory birds. It’s not just the Eastern Curlew. The number of these birds has declined by two-thirds in the past 20 years.

“They flew more than 10,000 kilometers and expected a buffet meal. [when they arrive] to get fatter,” says Walker.

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