Three land portions made up the 108 hectares of the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary, including approx. 7 hectares in the eastern conservation park section managed by the state.
The area was originally used by aboriginals, and the first history of European use was as part of a lease for cattle grazing in 1862. By 1902, a lease was granted for agricultural use – mostly fruit and coffee trees, and at times, dairy cattle. Under various owners, agriculture (including cane) and grazing continued until 1951 when a high flood brought salt-water and precluded further agriculture.
In 1974, a canal development, “Marina Gardens”, was proposed. Maroochy Shire Council approved the development, but the State Government rejected it. One month later, in 1976, the decision was reversed and provisional approval was granted. Community reaction recognized the value of wetlands to the environment and fishing industry, as well as for flood mitigation. Council withdrew approval so the developer went to the Local Government Court and the Council was forced to give provisional approval subject to several conditions. In 1978, the zoning was changed from “Problem Drainage Area” to “Residential A”. In 1979, The Littoral Society launched a petition against the development and proposing purchase of the land by the Maroochy Shire Council and State Government. Core samples eventually proved that the land was not suitable for building, but the developer endeavoured to proceed.
The Littoral Society continued the fight and in November 1982, the MSC purchased the land to end the wrangling and expensive litigation.
In 1989, Derek Foster of the Sunshine Coast Marine Education Group approached Councillor Robin Dunn proposing that the site be reserved for education and passive recreation. Owing to the persistence of these two people, the sanctuary proceeded as a venture between three groups – the Maroochy Shire Council, Queensland Education, and the community (later to become The Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary Support Group Inc). The original loop track was constructed by the community group and the sanctuary was opened in September, 1990.
In 2013, the sanctuary was extended by a further 11.67 hectares bordering the Halcyon Landing development.
The triangular partnership continues to this time with the Sunshine Coast Council replacing Maroochy Shire as owner of the site.