EPBC refusal protects migratory birds

28 August 2020

I have moved to protect one of Australia’s critically endangered migratory birds, the Eastern Curlew, by refusing a development proposal under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Anscape Pty Ltd had referred plans to construct and operate the Turtle Cove Haven Retirement Village, and related infrastructure, at River Heads near Queensland’s Hervey Bay.

After visiting the site and reviewing a thorough Departmental assessment, that included significant public consultation, I have  accepted the Department’s recommendation that the proposal be refused considering its likely adverse impact on the Eastern Curlew and the Great Sandy Straits Ramsar site.

It has been determined that the development would have presented an unacceptable risk to important roosting habitat for the critically endangered Eastern Curlew in an area which regularly supports ecologically significant proportions of its global population.

The Great Sandy Strait is a sand passage estuary between mainland Australia and Fraser Island, and one of only 66 internationally sanctioned Ramsar sites in Australia.

The Great Sandy Straits area is also important as a roosting and foraging ground for migratory shorebirds and hosts many species of fish, crustaceans, oysters, turtles, Dugongs, dolphins and whales.

The decision ends seven years of uncertainty in relation to the site and underlines our commitment to strong environmental protection.

It also reinforces our ongoing international commitment to the protection of migratory shore birds.

For more than 40 years, Australia has played an important role in international cooperation to conserve migratory birds in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway.

The government recognises that the conservation of important sites, both within Australia and along their migration routes, is essential to their survival.

Australia continues to work closely with regional neighbours and the state and territories to protect migratory birds and their habitats.

The refusal follows Australia’s contribution last year at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan, when Australia played a key role in securing the World-Heritage listing of two critical migratory bird sanctuaries in China’s territory in the Yellow Sea.