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Toondah poll details kept secret as State ALP opposes town in marine park

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Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (image via YouTube)

survey touted by Walker Corporation as showing “overwhelming support” for a controversial $1.4 billion development in Queensland’s Moreton Bay has compounded the project’s secrecy.

A spokesman for the corporation has refused to say if respondents were told that benefits, such as a giant lagoon at Toondah Harbour, were dependent on a town of 3,600 homes being built in a marine park.

Earlier this year, the corporation won a court battle to stop the publication of details of how and when it might deliver public benefits said to be worth $60 million, which are believed to be in a development agreement with the Redland City Council and the Queensland Government.

The corporation features an article on its website in “latest news” headed 'Community asks Walker to fix rusty Redlands' under an artist’s impression of a giant swimming and paddling lagoon, with "Cleveland mum" Alyce Johnson, saying:

'… the lagoon pool is one of the star attractions for locals wanting more to do in the Redlands.'

But Ms Johnson says she did not take part in an opinion poll and was not told that the lagoon was dependent on a town being built in the bay.

She said:

"I was approached in Bunnings’ car park at Capalaba and asked for my opinion of the lagoon. I hadn’t read anything about it."

The corporation promises that Toondah Harbour is:

'... a soon to be recreational destination [with] its very own South Bank-style lagoon pool and water play area.'

But it could be 2040 before the lagoon is built, because the corporation says the project will be developed in stages and take 15 to 20 years to complete.

When the Council was asked if the development agreement contained details of when a lagoon should be delivered, a spokesperson replied:

'The details and inclusions within the development agreement are confidential.'

A lagoon does not appear among the promised public benefits of the project in a published infrastructure agreement with the Council and State Government because it was not announced until after its publication.

Independent Australia asked the corporation if respondents to the corporation survey were told that the proposed town would be situated mostly on Ramsar-protected wetlands.

Questions were also asked about how the respondents were selected.

For instance, were the respondents picked at random? Was a wide age range included in the criteria? Were respondents selected to ensure a wide geographic distribution?

The corporation spokesperson said:

'… the sample is a random sample from the local area and spread across demographics. We stand by the integrity of the research.'

But he refused to answer whether respondents were told the plan to revamp the harbour entailed a town being built in Moreton Bay Marine Park and mostly on internationally recognised and protected Ramsar wetlands.

He said:

'I … don't have time to deal with these questions.'

A lagoon and other promised benefits, to be paid for from the proceeds of the project, are believed to be contained in a development agreement, which is being kept secret.

The corporation’s survey is at odds with the results of opinion polls run by community group Redlands2030, which found 85 per cent of people opposed the building of a town in the bay.

In another development, Queensland Labor members have placed further pressure on the State Government to ditch its support for the new town, which is also supported by the Federal Government and Redland City Council.

Labor members at the Party’s recent state conference agreed without dissent that:

'… a Labor Government is committed to protecting ecologically important marine areas and Ramsar sites by ensuring that nearby development does not cause adverse impacts to wetlands’ ecological and hydrological values.'

They noted:

'Toondah Harbour is within the State Moreton Bay Marine Park and the Moreton Bay Ramsar site and thus is listed as a Ramsar area – a wetland of international significance.'

The decision consolidates the decision of Labor members at the national conference, which specifically advocated a policy of protecting Ramsar-listed wetlands and noting that Toondah Harbour, the site of the proposed town, is in such a wetland.

The decisions isolate local ALP MP Don Brown who previously had told Independent Australia:

"Since my election in 2015, I have been a supporter of the Toondah Harbour project on the provision that it passes the environmental impact study.”

He failed to say whether he had changed his stance following the state conference.

Donisha Duff, the ALP candidate for the local federal seat of Bowman, failed to respond to the question of whether she would campaign against the town.

On December 24 2015, Redland Mayor Karen Williams announced that community benefits  “all $116 million of it”  would be provided under an agreement with the corporation which would be made public in 2016.

But a Council announcement in 2016 said only that:

'Of the $116 million in infrastructure to be delivered to the Redlands community, more than $56 million is through the infrastructure agreement and the remainder to be delivered through the development agreement.'

Steve Bishop is a journalist and author. You can read more from Steve at stevebishop.net

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