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Meetings over Toondah Harbour to be kept secret

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has rejected a request to reveal documents relating to meetings between a federal government department and a property developer who was trying to build a marina and high-rise apartment complex on wetlands at Toondah Harbour, near Brisbane.

Toondah Harbour south of Brisbane

Toondah Harbour south of Brisbane

The controversial $1.4 billion development by Walker Corporation has been held up in approvals since 2014 because of potential impacts on Ramsar wetlands.

Walker Corporation had plans to build up to 3600 apartments over protected wetlands in Moreton Bay, alongside redeveloped parkland, a ferry terminal and a 200-berth marina.

The Australian Conservation Foundation brought this case to the AAT because it said the Federal Government refused to release the records of meetings between the Department of Environment & Energy (now Agriculture, Water & Environment) and Walker Corporation under the Freedom of Information Act.

“When Josh Frydenberg was Environment Minister, his own department advised him the Toondah Harbour apartment and marina proposal was ‘clearly unacceptable’ because of the damage it would do to the wetlands,” said ACF’s biodiversity policy adviser Brendan Sydes.

“Minister Frydenberg rejected his department’s advice and sent the proposal to the next stage of assessment.

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“There have been at least 19 meetings – in fact, probably many more – between Walker and the department that is responsible for advising the Environment Minister.

“It makes sense for the commercial proponents to meet with government, but it does not make sense to keep the contents of those meetings secret from the public, especially given the same department is responsible for assessing the environmental impacts of the project.

“ACF will closely consider the Tribunal’s decision before deciding whether to appeal it.

“We made our initial Freedom of Information request almost three years ago. This is another example of the culture of secrecy and delay in Commonwealth FOI process.”

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