Toondah Harbor Project to De-List Australian Wetlands, Endangering Habitats and Indigenous Sites

by Vins
Published: Updated:

The Walker Corporation’s Toondah Harbor development would de-list over 67 hectares of land and water around Moreton Bay in Australia, threatening endangered species and indigenous sites, according to reports by the Earth Island Journal and the Guardian.

The Toondah Harbor project would result in 3,600 apartments, hotels, shopping areas, and a 400-berth marina taking up forty percent of Moreton Bay. The wetlands there are home to a variety of endangered animals, including koalas, and it is an important migratory site for 32 species of sea birds. Furthermore, three Quandmooka Aboriginal groups—the Nuigi, the Nunuckle and Greonpal, and the Minjerribah—have claims to the land. As Norman Enoch, one of the traditional leaders, told the Earth Island Journal, analyses of shell middens indicate Aboriginal presence in the area dating back 26,000 years.

The former Queensland State government led by Campbell Newman declared that Moreton Bay was a Priority Development Area. That action drew the attention of private developers including the Walker Corporation. It lobbied the former federal environment minister, John Frydenberg, to de-list areas of the wetlands as a matter of “urgent national interest.” Moreover, Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act is not strong enough or structured to provide and enforce the protections that Moreton Bay needs.

Walker argues that the development would increase tourism and thus revenues for the region. Locals, however, do not believe that the Walker Corporation will offer them anything beneficial and that the development will only harm the wetlands. Maree Kleem, whose family has lived on the bay for years, does not trust that the Walker Corporation has considered the threats that rising sea levels will pose to the developments. Norman Enoch, a traditionalist leader of one of the Indigenous groups, does not want large-scale tourism because the bay island of Stradbroke, home of the Nunuckle and Greonpal people, is “already at capacity.”

James Trezise, a policy analyst at the Australian Conservation Foundation, told the Guardian, “De-listing part of an internationally protected wetland should not be an option, but we know the Queensland and federal governments have actively contemplated it to facilitate this irresponsible project.” The Guardian reported that the ACF had launched a legal bid to review documents kept secret by the federal government related to its meetings with Walker Corporation. “Dealings between property developers and regulators should be open and transparent, but this has not been the case when it comes to Toondah Harbor,” Trezise said.


Melody Kemp, “Backers of Massive Development Project Seek to De-List Part of Protected Wetland in Queensland,” Earth Island Journal, October 13, 2020

Lisa Cox, “Developer Lobbied Frydenberg to De-List Area of Wetland for Queensland’s Toondah Harbour Complex,” The Guardian, August 11, 2020,

Student Researcher: Micalah Medeiros (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)