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.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Yandina Creek Wetlands Update: Council Rejects Pleas for Protection

Royal Spoonbills at Yandina Creek Wetlands
The bad news at hand is that the Sunshine Coast Council has rejected numerous appeals to acquire the nationally significant 200ha Yandina Creek Wetlands for a reserve under its Environment Levy Plan. The council is not interested in purchasing even one of the three properties containing the wetlands and has declared that their protection is not a matter of “high priority”, although work began at the site recently to drain the area (see here). The Mayor of the Sunshine Coast, Mark Jamieson, has refused requests to meet a delegation of concerned citizens to discuss the proposal.

The good news is that both the Commonwealth and the Queensland governments are showing an active interest in the wetlands. Following intervention by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, a team from his department recently inspected the wetlands to determine if the drainage works presently underway breached Commonwealth laws that protect the endangered species and migratory shorebirds that frequent the area. The department continues to consider its position.

Yandina Creek Wetlands
Following a recent meeting with local state MP Peter Wellington - the Queensland parliamentary Speaker, who holds the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament - state Environment Minister Steven Miles has agreed to inspect the wetlands. Mr Miles has also requested a briefing from his department. The minister has been asked to ensure that state wildlife protection laws are complied with; to assist the council with funding to acquire the wetlands; and to have the wetlands formally assessed by his department. (The council has indicated it is open to offers of funding from other sources to acquire the wetlands.) 

The regional Sunshine Coast councillor, Stephen Robinson, has advised that the council believes that other areas have greater priority for the council. It is uncertain what the council needs precisely to determine what constitutes high priority. The Yandina Creek Wetlands as a site ticks all the boxes: extraordinary diversity; the most extensive and diverse wetland of its kind in the region; a host of rare and threatened species; enormous potential as an ecotourism attraction; and an obvious way of helping to mitigate against the widespread flooding that occurs with regular monotony in the area.

Work to Drain the Wetlands has Begun
The rejection came on the same day that the council approved funding of $7.7 million for the Environment Levy Plan in 2015-16.

As has been reported (see here), the wetlands were created because floodgates on canals on former sugarcane land have fallen into disrepair since the properties were sold by the cane farmers more than a decade ago. This has allowed the area to be inundated twice daily with tidal water from the Maroochy River. Although in a sense this means the wetlands are artificially created, the result has been the restoration of a habitat that occurred widely in the area before the development of the sugar industry, but which is today naturally almost non-existent in the Sunshine Coast region. Yet the council appears to have seized on the "artificial" source of the wetlands as a reason to dismiss their importance.

Organisations which have written to the council and state and federal governments in support of the campaign to protect the wetlands include BirdLife Australia, BirdLife Southern Queensland, Birds Queensland, Protect the Bushland Alliance, Noosa Parks Association, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, NSW Field Ornithologists, and National Parks Association of Queensland. Numerous individuals have also lent their support. That campaign continues and has recently been intensified.

Birdlife Southern Queensland convenor Judith Hoyle has pointed out to Councillor Robinson the council's own assertion that priorities for Environmental Levy funds are determined through a technical assessment process. However, there has been no effort on the part of the council to formally assess the value of the wetlands. The Protect the Bushland Alliance has offered the services of a qualified multidisciplinary scientific team to undertake a formal assessment of the flora and fauna of the wetlands - at no cost to the council – but the council has not had the courtesy even to respond.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Yandina Creek Wetlands
The properties containing the wetlands are presently zoned rural. They are zoned Regional Landscape and Rural Production under the South-East Queensland Regional Plan. It has emerged that the Sunshine Coast Council is now reviewing zoning in the canelands surrounding the Maroochy River - a region that includes these properties.

The landholders had indicated their intention to use the land for cattle grazing, but have leased it back to the original owners to re-establish sugar plantations. Their objective evidently is to establish an “existing use”, thereby circumventing Commonwealth environmental laws. The long-term intentions of the landowners are uncertain, but these people include well-known figures in the Sunshine Coast property development industry who have substantial holdings in the Maroochy River canelands.

The Queensland Deputy Premier and Planning Minister, Jackie Trad, has been asked to affirm that there will be no changes to the SEQ Regional Plan that might allow the destruction of the wetlands. Ms Trad has also been asked to ensure that any attempt by the council to rezone the properties in question to allow their development for real estate is prevented.

Those agreeing with this position may wish to write to Ms Trad:
Hon Jackie Trad,
Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning,
PO Box 15009,
City East. 4002.

Work on the drainage plan that began recently appears appears to have been stepped up, with the movement this week of large concrete pipes near one of the main broken floodgates. It would be timely to again write to the Queensland Environment Minister asking him to do all in his power to intervene to protect the wetlands:

Hon Steven Miles,
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection,
GPO Box 2454,

Finally, it is worth increasing the pressure on the Sunshine Coast Council by writing again to the mayor, urging him to do the right thing by his ratepayers and ensure that the properties are acquired for conservation purposes:

Councillor Mark Jamieson,
Sunshine Coast Council,
Locked Bag 72,
Sunshine Coast Mail Centre QLD 4560.


  1. Hello Greg
    I just wanted to thank you for your posts and ongoing effort to protect the reserve. My family live between Yandina and Eumundi and I grew up in the area. Though I haven't lived on the Sunshine Coast for over 20 years I maintain an active interest in what happens there, especially environmentally. I have done what I can to help by writing to the council and the Federal Enviroment minister. I wish you all the best in your continuing efforts.
    Jason Allen

    1. Thanks for your efforts Jason. We can only try.

  2. Hello Greg
    I am so angry and sad that this has happened. I want to help. I cant let this go..someone has to be accountable for this. I've written a letter the Australian which I doubt will get published but I am going to send it out to as many people as I can. During the past 2 days every time I've heard birds I've thought about all the birds who have lost their homes. I really do want to cry. The Mayor of the Sunshine Coast should be so utterly ashamed of himself. I hope 60 minutes, Four Corners or a Current affair show investigates this further. If property development goes ahead where this habitat once was it will only reveal how backward and selfish the decision makers in this country are. Its embarrassing. Mark Jamieson could only turn his back on such an important issue like this if money was being filtered his way. Its scandalous. The people must vote him out. Why was the drainage pushed forward all of a sudden? Greg Hunts a joke.

  3. I have just purchased a property in Yandina Creek and hope the wetlands are not destroyed - how about a petition?