It’s time to be counted in lagoon debate
NOW is the time to stand up and be counted and have your say on the future of the Port Douglas Waterfront with the community consultation phase finishing next week.
Cairns Regional Council will finalise its preliminary plans for the Waterfront in the coming weeks before approaching state and federal governments for tens of millions of dollars to invest in the project.
With the government funding dependant on community support, council claims a “vocal minority” is behind a campaign to turn the community against the proposed site for the Waterfront lagoon pool which could jeopardise the $40 million deal.
The council is facing a revolt over the proposed location of the lagoon pool from the very people they relied on as community advisors.
Two of the eight members of the Port Douglas Master Plan Advisory Committee resigned last week, claiming council was ignoring the views of residents.
Both men, local architect Gary Hunt and Waterfront Protection Association president Tony Purves, have been involved in the waterfront rejuvenation for at least five years.
But council’s manager for Douglas Liz Collyer said there had been “overwhelming public support” for the proposed location between the Tin Shed, the Sugar Wharf and St Mary’s.
“We’ve been going flat out holding meetings and public consultations,” Ms Collyer said. “There does appear to be a vocal minority, with a range of differing agendas, objecting to our proposal, but most people say they can’t wait to see work begin.”
In a seven-page letter to council CEO Lyn Russell, Mr Hunt outlined his concerns, saying he was “highly critical of the process and outcomes”.
He said the proposed site by St Mary’s by the Sea would be too small and close to a main road as well as interfering with the church.
He rejected many of the technical arguments against placing the pool in the tidal zone between the Sugar Wharf and Anzac Park, where it was envisaged in the 2009 master plan. He said the Airlie Beach pool, more than twice the size of the proposed 1750sq m Port Douglas lagoon, was a fair comparison. He said the proposed lagoon could result in “a crowded pool and lack of space around it”.
Ms Collyer said the tidal location would be impractical and far more expensive.
“Our estimated cost for the proposed dry- land lagoon is $15-20 million, whereas one in the tidal zone is $20-25 million,” she said.
“If we use the Airlie Beach lagoon for comparison, a 4300sq m lagoon, we would need to reclaim close to 10,000sq m of land, and the costs would be in the order of $40-60 million. Even if we could get approval from council, state and federal governments, which is unlikely, it would cause significant environmental impact and affect the scenic amenity of St Mary’s and the Sugar Wharf.”
Division 10 councillor Julia Leu said she hoped the community took the opportunity now to comment on the proposed site.
“It’s important that local people are fully involved in the most significant project in the history of Port Douglas,” Cr Leu said.
Cairns Regional Council CEO Lyn Russell said preferred options for key concepts were based on a feasibility study combined with public input.
“This is the largest project in Port Douglas for decades and a great deal of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure its success in terms of preserving the character of the township while adding to its attraction for tourists and residents alike,” Ms Russell said.
“Unfortunately, there is some misinformation out there, and we would invite anyone interested to see the design for themselves and to talk to councillors or council officers so they can gain a complete picture of the project.”
Members of the advisory committee have reacted with surprise since council announced St Mary’s site was the preferred location for the lagoon.
“This site was never part of the original discussion,” Mr Purves said. “I feel the council is not listening to people. “Gary’s a respected architect, the only expert on the committee, and they’ve dismissed his advice.”
Tourism Port Douglas Daintree executive officer Doug Ryan said he believed the original tidal location was the only suitable spot for a lagoon.
“It would be cheaper and easier to build it next to St Mary’s, but I don’t think it will be large enough,” he said.