Development continues vicious cycle
TAKING a longer view than your editorial ( Gazette, February 24), it appears we have just completed a cycle of events for the second time.
First time around the cycle started with a developer (Skase) and his projects (Mirage and Marina Mirage) requiring an influx of 2000 people - construction workers and their families.
The population of Port Douglas at the time, if you searched around the valleys, was about 400. This triggered what passed for a boom in those days and a nascent tourist industry, but it all crashed in 1989 courtesy of the pilot strike.
Skase was bankrupt, fortunately, because he was becoming ever more arrogant, most of the tradies took off and the diehards were left with a whole lot of empty accommodation, a few shops without customers and a growing band of anxious out-of-town landlords who had taken advantage of the newly-created strata title laws.
As the strike was resolved these diehards with a morbid sense of humour gathered themselves into a tourism association to encourage everyone and anybody to come to town, especially those with money to invest.
This is where the cycle began its second round - a more gradual expansion but longer and much bigger by millions of dollars but still vunerable to the multiple disasters we have just experienced.
I think we should try something new rather than take the advice in your editorial which looks like a trip around the cycle for the third time.
I do not see the advantage of growing bigger when one of our enduring assets is being small, relaxed and friendly.
You refer to our natural assets attracting visitors down the years to come, but we are already threatening those assets with overuse and abuse. We have enough beds, sub-divisions, seats on boats and tour buses to take us into the 2020s.
Port will have made it as a sought-after prosperous destination when the word goes out through travel agents that if you wish to stay in Port Douglas you had better book a year ahead and even try the fun of the wet season.
To stay compact we need to tightly control our land use and aim to be described as “boutique”.
This would require a constant standard of excellence and repolishing our image and assets, but it also means we would be continuously re-investing back into the town, creating security and employment instead of spending on stop-go expansion.
Lastly, regarding the Meridien leases, the original Waterfront Master Plan assumes all leases would terminate at the end of their current term with the land becoming part of the redevelopment of the park.
There were, of course, some exceptions, which included some of the marina leases which were renewed. The possibility of freeholding some of the marina leases was a recent State Government decision.
It would be wonderful if, as you suggest, any money earned by these leases could be used for the benefit of the town.
Do you think it might be more useful in the long term to have a constant income from the rental for possible maintenance of the Waterfront rather than the one-off payment from the sale and subsequent loss of any control over successive freeholders?