Appendix 3

Summary of committee site visits

This appendix contains summaries of the committee's site visits undertaken during the inquiry. These visits were to:

Site visit: Toolangi State Forest and Healesville Sanctuary

On 21 November 2018, Senators Rice, Duniam and Urquhart visited sites in the Yarra Valley in Victoria: the Toolangi State Forest; and the Healesville Sanctuary.

Toolangi State Forest

The visit to Toolangi State Forest was hosted by Professor David Lindenmayer, Professor of Ecology and Conservation Science at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, at the Australian National University (ANU), and two ANU research officers based in the Victorian central highlands, Mr Lachlan McBurney and Mr David Blair.

The committee visited a number of sites in Toolangi State Forest, and received in situ briefings, as follows:

The committee looked at sites of old growth mountain ash, which provide critical habitat for populations of animal species, including the critically endangered Leadbeater's Possum. These possums nest in hollows of mountain ash, which almost always require trees to be around 150–years old before they develop. The committee looked at conservation strategies that have been explored with limited success, including artificial hollows and nesting boxes. Professor Lindenmayer noted that populations had declined, with site occupancy for Leadbeater's Possum around half of rates two decades ago.

Professor Lindenmayer gives an in situ briefing at a coupe in Toolangi State Forest to Senators Rice, Urquhart and Duniam

The committee considered the different burning patterns of old growth and younger regrowth forests. Professor Lindenmayer explained that younger forests burned with greater severity, as they are more prone to crown-scorching fire patterns. This has effects not only on the amount of forest destroyed, but also more devastating effects on animal populations due to the speed and heat of burning in younger forest areas.

As well as noting the effects of regrowth forest on the severity of fires, Professor Lindenmayer commented that research pointed to more frequent occurrence of re-burning bushfires in these areas, due to the younger tree populations.

The committee was advised of the importance of old growth forest to the health of water catchments. Professor Lindenmayer stated that some old growth Victorian water catchments are 'closed' for logging, whereas others are 'open'. He commented that, whereas younger forests draw on water and take it out of the catchment system, older forests increase the intake of water into catchments.

Mr Blair and Mr McBurney give an in situ briefing at a bird monitoring site in Toolangi to Senators Urquhart, Rice and Duniam

Healesville Sanctuary

Following the visit to Toolangi, the committee visited the Healesville Sanctuary. The committee was given a briefing and tour of the Sanctuary by its General Manager of Life Sciences, Dr Rupert Baker.

Healesville Sanctuary is a zoo-based conservation organisation, which is one of three zoos that operate under Zoos Victoria (along with Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo).

The Healesville Sanctuary states that its mission is to 'fight wildlife extinction' through:

  1. Innovative, scientifically sound breeding and recovery programs to support critically endangered Victorian, terrestrial, vertebrate species;
  2. Partnering with the Victorian community to create the world's most wildlife friendly society;
  3. Providing profound zoo-based animal encounters to connect people with wildlife; and
  4. Strong commercial approaches to secure financial sustainability.[1]

The Healesville Sanctuary supports the recovery programs for 21 species that are at risk of extinction. It does this through a range of activities, including captive breeding and reintroduction programs, research, and raising community awareness. The Sanctuary also assists species recovery in other ways, including raising money for recovery programs, and through its collaborations with recovery teams and experts around Australia.

The committee had the opportunity to view the Sanctuary's programs for some of these threatened animals, including species of:

Evidence taken at the committee hearing on 22 November 2018

The day after the site visit, the committee held a public hearing in Melbourne to take evidence. Professor Lindenmayer appeared at this hearing in a private capacity. At this hearing, the committee also took evidence from Ms Rachel Lowry, the Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science for Zoos Victoria.

Site visit: Toondah Harbour

On 31 January 2019, a subcommittee consisting of Senators Rice, Watt and Waters visited the site of proposed developments at Toondah Harbour, in Redland City, about 25 km south-east of Brisbane.

The committee received a briefing and a guided tour of the site from representatives of several organisations at Toondah Harbour, namely:


Toondah Harbour is the location of the Stradbroke Island Ferry Terminal, which is used by ferries and water taxis servicing North Stradbroke Island. It sits on the western shore of Moreton Bay, in the suburb of Cleveland, which has a population of around 15 000 people.[2]

The Queensland Government declared Toondah Harbour to be a Priority Development Area (PDA) on 21 June 2013. The Queensland Government and Redlands City Council chose Walker Group Holdings (Walker) as the preferred development partner.[3] Walker is proposing the redevelopment of the existing marine facility at Cleveland and a new residential development of 3600 units.

Toondah Harbour is in the Moreton Bay wetlands, one of five areas in Queensland that are protected under the Ramsar Convention, an international agreement that protects representative, rare or unique wetlands that are important for preserving biodiversity. The site was first protected under the Ramsar Convention in 1993.

The committee briefly discusses the proposed development at Toondah Harbour in the main body of this report. The committee notes that future reports for this inquiry may discuss the matter further.

Site visit

The committee received a briefing on the proposed development and related issues from representatives of Redlands 2030, BirdLife Southern Queensland, and the Queensland Wader Study Group. This was held at the Grand View Hotel overlooking Toondah Harbour, following which Senators had the opportunity to ask questions.

Senators Watt, Rice and Waters with representatives of Redlands 2030, BirdLife Southern Queensland and the Queensland Waders Study Group

The committee then walked to several sites with the hosts, including:

Evidence taken at the committee hearing on 22 November 2018

Representatives of Redlands 2030 and BirdLife Southern Queensland appeared at the committee's hearing the following day to give evidence.

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