Bligh promises to give Rooms hit rock bottom back marina millions
QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh promised to return any funds from the sale of the Port Douglas marina back to the community in a lightning visit to the region last week.
Acknowledging the desperate state of tourism in the Douglas region, Ms Bligh said the State Government would be willing to contribute the proceeds of the sale of the two Meridien leases to the redevelopment of the Waterfront.
The value of the two leases has been estimated at up to $40 million, however the state environmental agency, the Department of the Environment and Resource Management, is currently carrying out a full evaluation of the site to determine its true value.
Meridien has indicated it still plans to redevelop the marina site, but has not yet submitted a development application to council.
The Premier also gave the proposed Port Douglas lagoon pool a big “thumbs up” last Thursday as she swept through town, announcing an immediate State Government contribution of $30,000 for the project.
“This grant will help take the lagoon to the next stage,” premier Bligh said.
“It will help get the approvals, get it the point where we can pull together a funding package.
“In my backyard, in the electorate of South Brisbane, I know how transformational the lagoon on Southbank has been, also in Airlie Beach and on the Cairns esplanade.
“I expect it will do exactly the same thing in Port Douglas.”
Local political, business and tourism leaders say the Premier’s seal of approval is more important than the $30,000 funding.
“It’s unexpected, and a welcome gesture,” Division 10 councillor Julia Leu said.
“More significant, I think, is that the Premier made a commitment to return any funds from the sale of the marina leases to the community for the development of the Waterfront.
Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce president Ken Dobbs said the $30,000 commitment from the State Government was “a drop in the bucket” but welcomed the announcement on the Waterfront leases.
“The Premier supported the concept of reinjecting the money from the waterfront leases back into the community,” Mr Dobbs said. “That’s the guarantee the chamber wanted.”
Doug Ryan, the executive officer of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, said the $30,000 grant would help fast-track the project.
“If we can fast-track the planning process and come up with some costings, we can go back to the Government for some serious funding.” ONE of the most alarming numbers to emerge during Premier Anna Bligh’s visit to Port Douglas last week was the astonishing occupancy rate at local resorts.
Despite rock-bottom room rates and $1 airfares from southern capital cities, Port resorts reported a horrendous 6.25 per cent occupancy rate last week.
The numbers resonated with the Premier, who mentioned during her lunchtime address the fact that “500 of 8000 rooms were occupied”.
“Of the properties I spoke to (last week), the top 13 were running at 10 per cent and many of the smaller resorts were empty or well below 10 per cent,” executive officer for Tourism Port Douglas Daintree Doug Ryan said.
“I’ve been here 21 years. I remember the pilots’ strike (in 1989).
“We’ve probably got the same number of visitors now as we had then, but we’ve got twice as many rooms.
“Looking forward, economic projections are looking stronger for the domestic economy. There are more flights and they’re cheap, accommodation rates are down, so we should get the visitors.”