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, 18 March 2016

Yandina Creek Wetland Update

Yandina Creek Wetland this week looking towards Mt Coolum
This time last year, thousands of waterbirds of many species were frequenting the Yandina Creek Wetlands on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Among them were more than 120 Latham's Snipe: a sufficiently large number of this species to afford the 200ha site the status of internationally significant, according to federal Government guidelines. Also present was a Pectoral Sandpiper - one of the rarer shorebird species visiting Australia.

During an inspection yesterday, not a single waterbird was present. As has been documented, the wetland was drained last July so the area could be redeveloped as sugar cane plantation when broken floodgates were replaced, preventing the daily flow of tidal water to the wetland. Following national publicity surrounding the fate of the area, state authorities intervened. The wetland began refilling last September when the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries moved to protect mangroves and other protected plants, with the cane farmer lessees agreeing under pressure to open a floodgate.

Tall grass now covers shorebird habitat of mudflats and small pools
However, the floodgate was shut again in December after acid sulfate pollution was detected on the site; the leaching of toxic chemicals to the surface is a common problem when pollution-prone areas are drained. The landholders have failed to respond to repeated offers of professional assistance to assist in tackling sulfate pollution on the site. Meanwhile, the state Department of Agriculture and Fishers and Department of Environment and Heritage have both said they are powerless to order that the closed floodgates be reopened, highlighting deep flaws in state environment protection legislation.

Dead native vegetation on the site
The cane farmers leasing the land from its owners are unable to proceed with plans to grow cane because of the intervention by Queensland Fisheries, with possible prosecutions pending over the initial drainage. At the same time, the Queensland Government and the Sunshine Coast Council have thankfully backed down from their previous view that the site is not worth protecting because it had been modified by human activity.

The government and council have both indicated a preparedness to contribute funds for the acquisition of the two adjoining properties that comprise the wetland. Negotiations are presently underway with interested parties to facilitate an arrangement which hopefully will protect the main features of the wetland.

Yandina Creek Wetland looking towards Mt Ninderry this week
The sticking point, however, appears to be cost. The owners of one of the properties are keen to sell and are realistic enough to appreciate that this highly flood-prone land has limited value. The owners of the second property differ from their neighbours and among themselves about what should be an acceptable price. Hopefully this impasse will be resolved to facilitate the protection and restoration of the wetland. From an environmental perspective, the priority is to secure the protection of one of the two properties: Lot 4RP148079, which abuts Yandina Creek.

Latham's Snipe in Yandina Creek Wetland last year
During yesterday's inspection from the banks of Yandina Creek - the only point of public access to the wetland - it could be seen that extensive areas of shallow pools and mudflats that were utilized by large numbers of shorebirds this time last year are now covered in tall grass. Other areas of tall reed bed were dead, as were numerous native shrubs and trees. There were plenty of rain-filled depressions that looked like reasonable habitat but worryingly, these had not attracted any birds, possibly because of the above-mentioned acid sulfate pollution.

Map of Yandina Creek Wetlands




4 comments:

  1. Such a shame to see prime habitat go down the drain/floodgates like that. Hopefully the lost birds discovered here have found a little-known patch similar to these wetlands for them to live in.
    Ollie Scully.

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  2. Hi, I'd love to know the actual location of this? We live in Yandina Creek and haven't heard of it before.

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    Replies
    1. I've updated the post to include a map. The area is not publicly accessible (or viewable from the main roads).

      Delete

  3. Really Nice article, I appreciate your research and time for writing this.
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