The Queensland Conversation Society is urging the Queensland Government to re-think its refusal of their Save Moreton Bay campaign, after altering the proposal to require no further funding.
The Council is calling for a redistribution of existing funds in its revised proposal to reduce pollution in Moreton Bay, claiming the Government is spending money in the wrong places.
The health of Moreton Bay and surrounding waterways continues to decline due to urban development, stormwater run-off and rural land use, Healthy Waterways studies show.
The Queensland Conservation Council believes the plan will protect southeast Queensland’s “greatest asset”, and is awaiting Environment Minister Andrew Powell’s approval of the plan.
The Future of Moreton Bay
The Council’s Rivers Project Manager Nigel Parratt is urging the Government to protect the Bay, or risk losing the $5 billion a year the area generates through tourism, recreation and primary industries.
“One of the main reasons people are attracted to southeast Queensland is because we have this fantastic ecological asset, the Bay, on our doorstep.
“All of the waterways and beaches surrounding it add to the livability of the region, so if Moreton Bay was to become even more polluted then people wouldn’t want to come to southeast Queensland,” Parratt says.
Glyn Hughes, who has been a resident of Moreton Bay for the past 34 years, questions why the Government hasn’t acted yet.
“If they don’t do something, it will become a cesspit – and who wants to live somewhere like that?” he says.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell prefers not to comment until after meeting with the Council, however Parratt remains positive he will support their plan.
“Given his background as the Member for Glass House, I think he’ll see the sense in our plan.
“Politically, it’s a no brainer,” says Parratt.
Queensland’s “greatest asset”
The Bay is made up of a collection of islands, coral and rocky reefs, seagrass beds and beaches, stretching 125 kilometres from Caloundra to the Gold Coast.
Described as a “sanctuary for endangered animal populations” by residents, the Bay is home to a severely dwindling dugong population, and boasts the highest recorded diversity and abundance of whales and dolphins in Australia.
It is also one of the few areas along southeast Queensland where grey nurse sharks are found.
“Moreton Bay is an environmental jewel, and arguable Queensland’s greatest economical asset,” says Parratt.
Queensland Conservation Council’s proposal
Prior to the State election in March the Queensland Conservation Council, a non-government organisation representing all major conservation organisations of Queensland, lodged the Save Moreton Bay campaign.
The Council proposed an investment package of $80 million a year for three years, and delivered a petition urging action from the incoming government with nearly 4000 signatures.
Although the campaign was in the media spotlight earlier this year, little ground has been made since.
In a bid to keep the ball rolling, the Council has altered its proposal.
“The message we’ve got from the new government is that there is no more money available.
“So, instead of asking for a commitment of further funds to fix up issues affecting Moreton Bay, we need to do better with the existing money,” says Parratt.
The Queensland Conversation Council is calling for a series of complementary policies, investments, regulations and market mechanisms to restore and monitor Moreton Bay and its surrounding waterways.
The Bay’s declining health
Local government currently spends in excess of $90 million a year fixing waterways.
However, despite extensive work by South East Queensland Healthy Waterways and community groups, annual ecosystem health cards continue to show a decline.
The Bay’s Central Bay was graded D+ on Healthy Waterway’s scale in the most recent assessment.
The area has been steadily decreasing since 2004.
The Council estimates it will cost Queensland $32 million a year in water treatment costs by 2031 if no action is taken.
Looking to the future
In the past decade, the Queensland Conservation Council has opposed fish farms in Moreton Bay, helped to phase out broad scale land clearing and fought against sand mining on the Bay.
The organisation remains positive about its chances for saving Moreton Bay.
The Conversation Council’s next hurdle is banning the single use of plastic bags.
You can read more about the campaign on the Queensland Conservation Council’s site, http://www.savemoretonbay.com.au/.
You can also friend them on the Save Moreton Bay Facebook.