Latest Walker Group Holdings News
Dec 7, 2018
In June, 12 months after the 2017 application, Walker Group lodged a third development application, despite the environment department's strong rejection of the previous attempt. It would provide 3600 homes, a 200-berth marina, retail sections and a convention centre. The Environment Department on Friday said the 2018 development application was substantially smaller in scale than the 2017 application. "The new referral ... proposes areas for conservation, including waterways, reduces the development footprint and reduces the proposed marina from 400 berths to 200 berths," a spokeswoman said. The Australian Conservation Foundation insists the 2018 plan still had a similar impact on the wetlands as previous incarnations. ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the development would destroy about 40 hectares of the Moreton Bay site, which was one of Australia’s most important migratory shorebird feeding and breeding wetland habitats. Walking trails and a conservation zone are included in the revised plan for Cleveland's Toondah Harbour. A Walker Group Holdings spokesman said the 2018 application took into account concerns by the conservationists and bird groups. “We are now very confident that the development will be approved,” he said. The June 2017 documents obtained by the ABC made clear federal Environment experts opposed the 2017 application because of potential damage to the wetlands. They recommended then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg reject the application. It also highlighted that of the project’s 73-hectare site, “approximately 50 hectares are within the Ramsar site”. “The department considers that tidal works, such as the excavation of quarry materials from land under tidal water, capital dredging of the navigation channel and land reclamation will result in a loss of seagrass meadow and inter-tidal mudflats that have aquatic ecological and fisheries value.” Department staff acknowledged projects had been approved in Ramsar areas but not of the scale proposed by the Walker Group for Toondah Harbour. While the environment minister can approve projects in a Ramsar-protected site, the minister cannot take actions which are “inconsistent with Australia’s Ramsar obligations". Mr Frydenberg asked the Walker Group to submit a new application. He told the ABC his decision to let the company prepare a new application was "not an approval". "Rather, this was an opportunity for a proper assessment," he said. "Under the EPBC Act the minister has the opportunity to enable his department to undertake a full assessment of a particular project and in doing so get more information which may lead to mitigation or offsets of any environmental impact that the project may have." Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the LNP supported the Toondah Harbour project but she was unaware of the issues involving the Ramsar protections. “I know [deputy premier] Jackie Trad approved the project in 2015,” Ms Frecklington said. “If a green-leaning Jackie Trad has approved, I am sure the project will be approved.” It was formally endorsed by the Palaszczuk Labor government in June 2015. The federal government must order an environmental impact study and research its ramifications before deciding whether or not to approve the project.