Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Dain­tree is set to be­come a world cen­tre for rain­for­est re­search - as long as the La­bor Party wins the fed­eral elec­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard promised $9.4 mil­lion for the pro­posed Dain­tree Rain­for­est Ob­ser­va­tory dur­ing a cam­paign stopover in Cairns yes­ter­day.

“It’s great news for the Dain­tree re­gion,” JCU pro vice-chan­cel­lor for sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing Jef­frey Loughran said.

“This money will al­low us to think pretty deeply about what we need to do.

“We’re try­ing to build a cen­tre that would be unique in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

“A cen­tre (like we’ve pro­posed) would al­low re­searchers to carry out cut­ting-edge and fun­da­men­tal re­search.

“It will al­low us to keep the canopy crane and put in ac­com­mo­da­tion for 40 re­searchers.

“The cur­rent op­er­a­tion sim­ply isn’t big enough to bring in large groups of re­searchers for long pe­ri­ods. This will al­low that vi­sion to be re­alised.”

JCU’s plan for the ob­ser­va­tory, un­veiled pub­licly on Mon­day, also in­cludes a 100-seat con­fer­ence venue, lab­o­ra­to­ries, class­rooms, a pub­lic in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre, an el­e­vated board­walk and a trail net­work so sci­en­tists can do field­work with­out get­ting lost.

The fund­ing would al­low JCU, which cur­rently leases 1ha of the 40ha block where the crane is lo­cated, to buy the en­tire block.

“We took out an op­tion to pur­chase the block last Fri­day,” Prof Loughran said.

As well as cater­ing to sci­en­tists, the fa­cil­ity is ex­pected to draw in tourists and lo­cals to learn from the en­vi­ron­men­tally-aware cen­tre, which will run on al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources.

“The in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre is re­ally im­por­tant. Lots of tourists travel on that road,” Prof Loughran said. “We’re talk­ing to var­i­ous peo­ple about that as­pect.

Owner of the Dain­tree Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre Ron Bir­kett said he wel­comed the prosed cen­tre.

“It’s a fan­tas­tic idea,” he said.

con­tin­ued page 2

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