Policy #4

Toondah Harbour Proposal

Ferry Terminal Upgrade Needed Now – Not a $1.3 billion Residential Development

I have undertaken a great deal of research to identify existing ways for halting this huge residential development – and for urgently fast tracking the North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah ferry terminal upgrade in Cleveland.

Everyone agrees we need to fast track the Toondah Harbour ferry terminal to support local jobs and tourism on Straddie, rather than waiting many more years for assessment of the controversial $1.3 billion residential/marina development to be built on about 48 Ha of dredge spoil in the protected Moreton Bay Marine Park. The development plans to build 3,600 units to house about 8,000 people in up to 10 storey apartments buildings, a marina and other commercial facilities.

Official Ferry Terminal Upgrade Costs don’t Add Up

This development came about in 2013 at the request of Redland City Council to Campbell Newman’s LNP government – as an excuse for a commercially-funded upgraded ferry terminal. Redland City Council provided costings of $116 million for the channel works and ferry terminal upgrade and stated ratepayers could not afford this. With dredging of the marine channel in 2014 costing approximately $4.5 million, and with a total cost of $34.1 million for four new ferry pontoons and passenger terminals at Southern Moreton Bay Islands announced just a few months ago, the original $116 million price tag appears to significantly overstate the true cost of completing the badly needed ferry terminal upgrade.

Costly Marine Channel Upgrade Discredited

Perhaps the basis for Council’s inflated cost estimate was the same as the Walker Group’s claim the existing marine channel needs upgrading for safety reasons. This claim has already been discredited. Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the government agency responsible for waterways, has confirmed that the existing channel meets safety requirements and no upgrade is needed to meet present needs. MSQ advised an upgrade would only be necessary on maritime safety grounds if changes like those proposed in the Walker Group’s development go ahead.

Where Will Future Dredge Spoil Go?

Another question that needs to be asked about the proposed additional marina, canal areas and the larger channel, is how often will there be a need for dredging – and where will this much larger quantity of spoil go? Is this inappropriate development simply Phase 1 of a canal development that will ultimately stretch across the Bay to North Stradbroke Island / Minjerribah ?

Most Locals Oppose this Development

Community surveys, as well as my own discussions with residents’, confirm most locals are opposed to this project. I recently commissioned architectural drawings showing visual representations of the overall project and its impacts because Walker Group claimed they had not prepared drawings of the whole development.

Canal estates like those proposed for Toondah Harbour have been banned by responsible governments in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Queensland and Redland City Council are supporting a development that is so ‘last century’.

Mixing Residential and Industrial Developments can be Disastrous

I also know from my professional career as an environmental scientist and consultant on major infrastructure projects that combining residential estates with industrial applications, like ferry terminals, is also problematic. This development ignores painful lessons from similar communities with ferry terminals such as Port of Airlie. Operations at this ferry terminal servicing the Whitsunday Islands were curtailed because of noise and air pollution complaints from a small number of new residents’ who built houses next to the ferry terminal on land constructed from dredged marine spoil. Is there a long-term future for ferry operations at Toondah Harbour and the jobs they provide – or will they have to be moved to locations such as the recently announced service from Howard Smith Wharves or elsewhere when complaints from new residents occur?

Don’t Hide Development’s Full Impact From the Community.

The community deserves and wants to have complete information about this development and have robust cost benefit analyses of socio-economic impacts – not ‘back of the envelope’ planning. The short and long-term impacts stretch well beyond the environment. They include parking, transportation, visual amenity impacts, road infrastructure, noise, air pollution, schools, hospitals and so much more.

Legal Mechanisms Can Stop This Development.

Many locals ask whether this development can be stopped. The answer is yes – there just needs to be the political will to truly act on behalf of the people being represented. Both the Federal and State governments have the necessary legislation to end this development and there also appear to be rights under the Development Agreement for third parties to halt it. The threat of severe financial compensation also appears to be untrue.

The Federal government has already been advised by its own Environment Department scientists that the project should not proceed on environmental grounds. However, this was over-ruled by the then Environment Minister, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg who allowed the developer to proceed to an Environmental Impact Statement phase. The impacts of the proposal on “matters of National Interest” are still to be assessed by the Federal government under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Both the ALP and LNP continue to support this inappropriate project, despite scientific advice already stating it should not go ahead.

The State government has the right under Section 67 of the Economic Development Act to amend the Land Use Development plan for the Priority Development Area (PDA) which provides the planning framework for the proposed development.

The Economic Development Act indicates that the developer, Walker Corporation, would not be permitted to claim compensation from the State Government in the event that the Land Use Plan was amended in accordance with Section 67 of the Queensland Economic Development Act. This process to change the approved Land Use Plan could be commenced immediately by the State Government.

If the LNP-led Federal government and the Labor State government do not prohibit this development, then it is highly likely that a Native Title Claim could provide a further mechanism to halt the proposal.

The Office of the Information Commissioner, Queensland in the Decision and Reasons for Decision, Application 3133573, Decision date 21 November 2018, identifies that the Toondah Harbour Development Agreement relies upon reaching agreement with external parties. This decision relates to an application to make public the Development Agreement that provides specific contractual details about the Walker Corporation proposals for Toondah Harbour.

The report identifies that, without agreement from the External Parties, one of the parties to the Development Agreement could exercise the right to terminate. So, it can be concluded there is a termination clause in the agreement that could be triggered by a third party. This could be referring to the rights under Native Title, and the third party could be the Traditional Owners of the state land and the waters proposed to be developed at Toondah Harbour.

The Office of the Information Commissioner’s comments suggest, even if the Federal and State government refuse to halt this proposal, a third party (perhaps through a Native Title claim) could halt the project.

How would you halt this proposal if elected?

If elected to represent the community of Oodgeroo, I would explore every avenue for removing the proposed 3,600 apartment residential development from the current proposals for Toondah Harbour.

This will allow the upgrade to the terminal facilities on existing land to take place urgently, to support the local economy and the economy on North Stradbroke Island.

If I am elected to replace the incumbent LNP Member, this will send a clear message to the Federal government about the political risk of continuing to support the development. Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley recently refused a development at Hervey Bay on the grounds of potential impacts on the critically endangered Eastern Curlew – the same species that would be affected if the Toondah Harbour residential development were to proceed.

This may also set the scene for a refusal of the Toondah Harbour EIS being undertaken by Walker Group (due in November) by the Federal Government. I would strongly lobby the Federal government to refuse the Toondah Harbour EIS on environmental grounds alone.

Secondly, if I am successful in this election, polls show there is a good chance minor parties and independents will hold the balance of power. One of the conditions of my support for the party seeking to form government would be to amend the current Land Use Plan for the Toondah Harbour redevelopment.

As well, I would lobby strongly for the Development Plan for the Toondah PDA to be amended to remove construction of new land in the Moreton Bay marine park

Finally, if none of the above approaches are successful, I will work closely with local Traditional Owner groups and support any proposed Native Title Claim that would seek to prevent construction of new land in Moreton Bay at Toondah Harbour.

*  The images of the proposed Toondah Harbour residential development were commissioned independently by Claire Richardson and are based on publicly available plans and information.