Waterfront relocation plan
ASK Laurie Moull what he does for a living and he’ll tell you straight.
“One day I’m a fisherman,” he says with a laconic smile. “The next I’m a salesman.”
The owner and skipper of the wooden prawn trawler, FV Santigo, Laurie realises his viability is inextricably linked to his ability to sell his product direct to the public.
It also relies on him being able to operate and maintain his vessel as efficiently as possible, something he’s been able to achieve in his home port of Port Douglas for the past 12 years.
All that could change under a new vision being unfurled for the Waterfront. The revised draft masterplan revealed last month involves moving slippage and other light marine and industrial activities from their existing location to further up Dickson’s Inlet.
Dry berths, boat ramp and recreational boating facilities also would be relocated to make way for “high-end” resort development and a waterfront plaza.
Port Douglas Slipways owner Steve Stonier says the multi-million price tag of reestablishing slippage facilities would never “stack up” given the constrained nature of the proposed new site.
“It’s so limited up there, you would only ever be able to work on six boats whereas currently we fit 15 boats and can work on up to 10 of them at a time,” Mr Stonier said. “We have one of the best slipways along the east coast servicing vessels from Port to PNG.”
If the forced relocation went ahead, it would signal a death knell for the slipway and severely impact the viability of a host of ancillary services such as engineering works, painting and blasting. Commercial fishing boats, white boats, yachts, reef charter and other craft would be forced to go to Cairns for refit and general maintenance.
Mr Stonier said uncertainty about the Waterfront’s future made it increasingly difficult to justify the expenditure required to maintain the slip to safety standards.
“Upgrading the three cradles alone you wouldn’t get much change from $100,000, there are massive capital outlays involved,” Mr Stonier said.
“As it is, we’re just hanging in there on a month by month rental arrangement. I’ve had no lease for the past three years, there’s no security at all - I don’t know where it’s going to end up.”
Ironically, he said the development of the masterplan had missed an opportunity to “make a showpiece of our working port”.
A 104-year-old pearl lugger, boats and shipwrights were a major drawcard for visitors, he said.
“You only have to see them lining up to watch the boys here working on the boats using all the old tools,” he said.
“It’s a tourist attraction in itself - you’ll have none of that at the new location.”
Another commercial fisher, Sue Davenport, agreed any additional costs incurred as a result of the waterfront redevelopment could be the final straw for an industry already crippled by red tape and restrictions.
“The reason Meridien made a berth available for commercial fishing boats in the first place was they saw the potential to attract people to the marina and when they are look- ing, they’re also spending money. It doesn’t take someone with a degree to work that one out.”
Meanwhile, Laurie Moull is getting on with refitting his vessel ahead of the March 1 season opening.
He may be one of only two local vessels left in the prawn fishery but he knows when he returns to port, locals and visitors alike will be “queuing up” at the marina for his freshly caught product.
“I can’t see that changing,” he said. “Port has always been a fishing village.”
“Obviously there’s tourism but it goes up and down but fishing will always be an important part of the town.”
Working away: Laurie Moull makes repairs to his boat at the slipway