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Toondah Harbour development heads back to court on appeal

Business

Environmentalists will head to the Federal Court in a bid to unlock the secret discussions between the Federal Government and the developers of the controversial Toondah Harbour development at Cleveland.

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The Australian Conservation Foundation has appealed an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision last month that kept secret details of meetings between a government department and Walker Corp over the development.

The $1.3 billion development of Toondah Harbour was supposed to start in 2017. It was planned to include a $1.3 billion residential, commercial, retail and eateries and a marina for up to 400 berths.

The Government previously rejected freedom of information applications for details of the meetings.

ACF will argue the Administrative Appeals Tribunal incorrectly applied the exemption on confidential information and the public interest test in the FOI Act.

ACF said when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was environment minister, his department advised him the Toondah Harbour apartment and marina proposal was “clearly unacceptable” because of the damage it would cause to the globally significant wetlands.

The advice was rejected and the project was sent to the next stage of assessment.

ACF said documents previously released showed Walker Corp tried to convince Frydenberg to remove part of the Ramsar wetland as a matter of ”urgent national interest’’.

ACF said the proposal for a marina and high-rise apartments would destroy about 40 hectares of the Moreton Bay wetland, which is listed under the international Ramsar Convention and is supposed to be protected by Australia’s national environment law, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

ACF will be represented in this appeal by Geoffrey Watson SC and lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia.

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