The Critically Endangered Eastern Curlew’s population has fallen by more than 80% in the last 30 years as its feeding and roosting habitat in coastal environments comes under increasing pressure from growing human populations
Moreton Bay in Queensland is acknowledged as one of the world’s most important sites for the Eastern Curlew and has been recognised as a Ramsar site under an international agreement that protects wetlands.
National legislation and international agreements protect Ramsar sites from negative environmental impacts, particularly against destructive developments within their boundaries. So, when a development was proposed within Toondah Harbour, which would have destroyed a substantial area of Eastern Curlew feeding habitat, it was expected that the Federal Minister would declare the proposal as clearly unacceptable under federal law and reject it outright.
However, a decision on this seemingly straightforward case was delayed an unprecedented number of times before eventually being allowed to progress to the next stage in the assessment process.
Despite significant domestic and international pressure, our national laws have failed to offer swift protection for Eastern Curlews at this important site. A final decision on this proposal has not yet been made, but the fact that a proposed development within a Ramsar site was not rejected from the outset calls into question the Government’s commitment to upholding its obligations under both domestic legislation and international agreements.
The proposed new independent National Environmental Protection Agency would be responsible for conducting transparent environmental assessments and would ensure that Australia meets its obligations to conserve important habitat protected under international agreements.
The independent National Sustainability Commission would ensure that Australia has a robust system of biodiversity monitoring, improving our understanding of migratory species’ use of key habitats and ensuring these are not subject to cumulative impacts from multiple projects across the species’ range.
Above: Eastern Curlew by Duade Paton
Below: Eastern Curlew by Andrew Silcocks