|Newly replenished wetland looking east to Mt Coolum|
|One of three newly installed floodgates has been opened|
|Signs of revival in the wetland looking west to Mt Ninderry|
|A floodgate is being installed at a new site some distance upstream from the main gates|
Now, however, the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has ordered that one of the three new floodgates be opened; the other two gates are expected to be opened in the near future. The department has signalled it is working towards the gradual restoration of water flow to the site. The landowners have been told to ensure that a monitoring system is in place to ensure that water quality is managed and that further impacts are reduced.
|Some of the extensive area of mangroves in the wetland|
Section 123 of the Fisheries Act makes it an offence to cause a marine plant to be removed, destroyed or damaged. In some circumstances, landholders can undertake "self-assessable" drainage and other development works which may have environmental impacts. However, anyone undertaking such work must comply with applicable codes for self-assessable development under Section 574 of the Sustainable Planning Act. Under Section 578 of the act, a person must not carry out an assessable development without a permit.
|Aquatic vegetation is looking stressed in much of the wetland, which remains high and dry|
Mr Trevor had signalled his family's intention to drain the wetland so sugar crops could be re-established. Mr Trevor has insisted that no state or federal government approvals were required for the drainage works.
State authorities envisage that the land will now be managed in similar fashion to the recently rehabilitated Trinity Inlet in Cairns - see here for more. The landholders will be required to monitor the wetland as the water returns because Fisheries is concerned that arsenic and other toxic metals may have leached to the surface from acid sulfate soils during the two months that the area has been dry.
|Evidence of the stress to mangroves through water deprivation|
|Google Earth map showing floodgates|
|Water replenishment in the eastern sector of the wetland|
The proactive stance of the state Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is in stark contrast to that of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, which has primary responsibility for protecting the state's environment. On the basis of a single, brief visit by officers with no experience with the site earlier this year, the department concluded that the wetland was of no significance as it had been "highly modified". Despite published evidence of rare and threatened species and many waterbirds nesting at the time the wetland was drained, the department determined (as it has done so often in relation to other environmental disputes) there were no breaches of the Nature Conservation Act.
Nonetheless, the new state Environment Minister, Steven Miles, has taken a personal interest in the wetland. The minister is believed to be considering options for its future.
Meanwhile, the federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, has finally revealed the outcome of two investigations he had ordered into whether the drainage works breached provisions of the Environment Protection and Diversity Act relating to protected species (the endangered Australian Painted-Snipe and critically endangered Curlew-Sandpiper occur at the wetland) and migratory shorebirds (Australia is a signatory to several international agreements requiring it to protect important shorebird habitat). In short, the minister concluded that the act had been complied with; no explanation was offered.
As for the future, offsets and partial rezoning - along with contributions from the state and federal governments - have been mentioned as potential sources of funding to acquire the properties so they can be protected and managed as a reserve. The Sunshine Coast Council, in co-operation with the Queensland Government and perhaps an agency such as the Queensland Trust for Nature or Bush Heritage Australia, is the obvious body to be overseeing any such plan. Significantly perhaps, the council has softened its previously declared stand of having no interest in the site.
|Further inundation in the wetland's eastern sector|