Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Parklakes: Another Wetland Down the Drain

Newly "renovated" Parklakes wetland
Updated February 9, 2016
The Parklakes Wetland near Bli Bli on Queensland's Sunshine Coast had rightly been hailed as a model for private sector environmental responsibility and good corporate citizenship. Two years ago I congratulated the developers of the large Parklakes residential housing estate for establishing in its midst a vibrant habitat for waterbirds of numerous species. Parklakes adopted an illustration of a waterbird as its promotional emblem. The company reprinted some of my congratulatory blog post in its promotional material, with my approval.

Australian Little Bittern at Parklakes
Among the excellent birds that were found here was a pair of rare Australian Little Bitterns which nested at Parklakes for two seasons in succession. The cryptic Baillon's Crake was unusually easy to see and several pairs of Spotless Crakes were nesting. Other birds frequenting the wetland included the endangered Australian Painted Snipe, while small numbers of migratory Latham's Snipe were regular. Parklakes had nowhere near the wealth of birdlife found at the nearby Yandina Creek Wetlands, but it was a significant refuge nonetheless, and potentially provided habitat for some of the Yandina Creek birds displaced by that wetland's draining.

Main lagoon before development
The Parklakes Wetland was comprised of a series of lagoons, with the central lagoon providing the most significant habitat. This lagoon had a large reed bed in the centre, flanked to the east by an extensive lily pond, and to the west by a mosaic of small ponds, muddy margins and patches of aquatic vegetation: in sum, ideal habitat

Main lagoon during development
How things change. In recent weeks, this wetland has been seriously and irreparably degraded. What was recently a diverse and waterbird-rich wetland is today an aquatic wasteland. The reed bed that harboured the Australian Little Bittern pair and other rare birds has been destroyed. The mosaic of small ponds, muddy margins and other special habitats so favoured by birds has been flooded.

The Parklakes developers insist they were told by the Sunshine Coast Council that the wetland had to be "renovated". My council sources say the initiative for the changes came from the developers. Queensland Globe maps indicate that the wetland is the property of the council. Asked to clarify the situation, the developers initially said: "Does it matter? It needed fixing." Later, Parklakes said that the works were being done to comply with conditions of council approval.

The council says, effectively, that the wetland was never intended to be a wetland. Says the council: "The wetlands at Parklakes were constructed several years ago for the purpose of providing water quality treatment. It is important to recognise that the habitat resulting from the construction of the wetland, including for water birds is a valuable but secondary outcome. The ongoing management and maintenance of the wetland, while being mindful of habitat values, needs to focus on its effective functioning for the treatment of water quality."

In a 2014 article in its newsletter, Parklakes boasted: "There are other subdivisions that boast parkland, but in reality it's just a mowed bit of flat grass with a park bench plonked on it. We went the opposite way and created a haven where you live within nature itself." Really?  

Parklakes even launched a dedicated bird book, Birds of Parklakes Bli Bli, announcing the move under a blog headline: Amazing Parklakes Birdlife Inspires New Book. The author, Mary Hines, belongs to a group called the University of the Third Age Sunshine Coast Birdwatching Group. Some of the birds featured in the book no longer visit or reside in the wetland. 

In view of the above-mentioned advice from the Sunshine Coast Council, Parklakes should stop calling these artificial ponds "wetlands".

Another motivation for the development might be explained by the first image in this blog post. The reed bed was removed along with a strip of native vegetation which had been planted around the lagoon to provide waterbirds with privacy. As can be seen in the image, these changes allow potential buyers of newly developed residential plots to have open water views, doubtlessly boosting the value of those plots. It appears that maximising profits has overridden ecological sensibilities.

Australian Painted Snipe at Parklakes
The developers insist that the result of these changes will be a "permanent improvement" and that the former wetland "needed fixing". However, what they have created is another open, dime-a-dozen duck pond, similar to hundreds of others in residential estates, with zero ecological value.  During recent visits, no birds of interest have been present at the wetland. Large numbers of Plumed Whistling-Ducks moved in for a while but even they are gone. What's left is an ecologically useless ornament.

Anyone wishing to express their views to the Parklakes developers can email them here:


  1. Hi greg, its such a shame that those wetlands are destroyed. there is, however a very promising wetland, not far from the coolum industrial estate with those wetlands that you blogged about earlier. its wedged in forest between Emu Mountain road and doonan bridge E road I haven't been there as of yet but its certainly worth investigating.

    1. That's interesting. I'd like to know exactly where that is.

    2. it turns out its in an eco reserve, which seems to be inaccessible due to lack of tracks, but I will attach a link to the location in google maps:,153.0556114,2998m/data=!3m1!1e3 Another Highly notable location looks quite similar to the yandina creek wetlands, and is close to a highway. link here:,153.0740437,1498m/data=!3m1!1e3 your work in helping the yandina creek wetland was increadible, and you should feel proud to have made such a big impact on the bird community there.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thanks Ollie. The first spot looks difficult to access but probably Melaleuca wetland, not so good for birds. The second spot has potential but I've been in there;the habitat looks good but strangely there are hardly any birds in there.

  2. Greg
    The Sunshine Coast U3A currently has 2 birdwatching courses with ~70 participants. Perhaps enlist them to join your campaign? Members are generally retired and well educated so could be of great help.


  3. How terribly disappointing. It's such a shame that they couldn't see the environmental value and asset to the community, rather than the narrow vision looking only at $$ . Thank yo for sharing this article, I feel really sad that this has been the outcome... For a moment we almost thought developers cared about the environment!!!

  4. I'm very dissapointed about the lack of understanding by the developer as to what a great asset their wetland was for birds and the community. I also wrote a blog about Parklakes and after a couple of visits I saw my first Spotted Crake there. It seems they were aware how much praise they were getting and despite this they choose to destroy the wetlands. Thank you for alerting the community to these latest developments. I will update my blog post to reflect this sorry state of affairs.

    1. When was your Spotted Crake? That's a very good record. Don't forget to write to Parklakes!