It’s time to be counted in la­goon de­bate

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD KOSER

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.

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