De­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues vi­cious cy­cle

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FEEDBACK -

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?

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