Council seeks clarity on state plans to protect turtles


Bundaberg Regional Council wants the State Government to clarify its intentions around planning scheme changes to protect endangered turtles.

Council has expressed support for the Government’s proposed Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) and wants to ensure it’s “as robust and clear as possible”.

A TLPI seeks to protect part or all of a planning scheme area from adverse impacts in exceptional circumstances.

Planning Minister Cameron Dick indicated last month he wants to protect nesting turtles along the Bundaberg Region coastline and he invited Council's feedback.

Council’s response points out a joint research project is currently under way, aimed at reducing urban glow impacts on sea turtle nesting and to improve hatchling survival rates.

Council has received Federal Government funding for the project and has committed funds and staff resources. There are multiple stakeholders including the state Department of Environment and Science.

“This project will help us better understand how urban areas and artificial lighting affect marine turtles,” the submission says.

“As such, it is expected that Council will revisit and review development controls in its Planning Scheme following the completion of this project.

“Council seeks confirmation that the State is similarly prepared to review the TLPI, or consider any planning scheme amendments proposed by Council, arising from this urban glow reduction project.”

The submission asks the Government to clarify its intentions in relation to the State Development Area (SDA) at Burnett Heads.

“Council questions whether provisions in the Bundaberg SDA Development Scheme addressing artificial light impacts on sea turtles are sufficiently robust given the state’s view that the nuisance code in Council's Planning Scheme is deficient in this regard.

“Council is concerned that such controls, if applied to development in the Bundaberg SDA, could compromise achievement of the vision for the Bundaberg SDA.

“Council would appreciate clarification as to what flow-on implications the Minister’s proposed action may have for the Bundaberg SDA.”

The submission also seeks advice on how the Government proposes to protect nesting turtles and hatchlings in other parts of Queensland.

“Council appreciates that the Woongarra Coast is home to some of the more significant nesting beaches for endangered sea turtles in Queensland.

“However, Council questions whether aspects of the proposed TLPI would be better implemented through state planning instruments to ensure sea turtles and nesting beaches in other parts of the state are similarly protected from the adverse impacts of development.

“Council seeks advice as to how the state expects the outcomes sought in the proposed TLPI will be applied to other parts of the state.”

Bundaberg Regional Council supports the State Government's intention to protect turtles but wants a statewide approach.
Turtle hatchlings at Mon Repos Beach. The State Government wants planning scheme changes in the Bundaberg Region to protect turtles.

Minister proposes TLPI to protect turtles

In his media statement on 17 April, Planning Minister Cameron Dick said Mon Repos is the largest rookery for endangered loggerhead turtles on the east coast of mainland Australia and a key tourist attraction.

“We need to ensure the right protections are in place to conserve endangered loggerhead turtles in this area which is the largest nesting population in the South Pacific,” he said.

“That’s why I have … advised Bundaberg Regional Council of my intention to use my statutory powers under the Planning Act 2016 to make a temporary local planning instrument (TLPI).

“This TLPI is intended to achieve two things – to clarify building heights at Bargara and strengthen the existing provisions to further limit the impacts of artificial light on the endangered turtle population.

“Both of these will help to limit development impacts on sea turtles.

“The TLPI will also introduce a new Sea Turtle Sensitive Area code that will apply to all new development in the Sea Turtle Sensitive area already defined in Bundaberg Regional Council’s planning scheme.”

The Jewel Esplanade development has been designed to protect turtles.
An artist's impression of the approved design for the Jewel Esplanade development at Bargara.

Sunshine Coast turtles ‘at risk'

Meanwhile, Coolum and Northshore Coastcare has called for changes to State Government laws to protect significant genetic populations of endangered and threatened turtle species.

The Sunshine Coast Daily reports nesting turtles and hatchlings could be locally at risk after Sunshine Coast Council approved a high-rise development at Buddina.

The Council's development approval includes measures to protect turtles such as the number and wattage of lights must be minimised.

All windows facing the beach must be fitted with opaque blinds, to be drawn from 8pm during turtle nesting and hatching season (October to May).

Any lighting in recreation areas within the development must be switched off and operate on proximity sensors after 8pm during nesting and hatching season.

According to Coolum and Northshore Coastcare, volunteers monitored 51 nests in the 2017-18 turtle season and 5450 hatchlings made it to the ocean.