THE Port Douglas Waterfront has been dealt a severe blow with the Regional Development Australia Fund’s Far North Committee rejecting an application for funding.
Cairns Regional Council last month submitted the Waterfront to the RDAF committee seeking a Federal Government contribution of $10 million to kickstart the $35 million stage one of the development.
Stage 1 of the Waterfront Master Plan included the construction of a lagoon pool, relocation of the boat ramp and the Waterfront park and would create more than 300 jobs over three years during construction.
But the Far North committee yesterday formally rejected the application.
Instead it chose applications from the Etheridge Shire Council which will use their grant to upgrade the Hann Highway, the Mareeba Shire Job Training Association Incorporated to rebuilt a tourism information centre which was burnt down last year and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to allow them to start the Torres Strait Coastal Protection Works project to proceed to the next stage for Round 2 RDAF funding.
While the CRC remains committed to the Waterfront, the project is now in financial limbo with no money committed to the project and council forced back to the drawing board to attract federal funding.
RDAF Far North chairman Alan Dale said the reason Port Douglas missed out was simply because there were many other competing projects that “ticked more of the boxes” to get the funding needed.
But he said Port’s application was still on the table and encouraged the council to apply for the next round of funding which should be made available in the next six months.
“People have to understand that from the whole State only 10 or 11 projects can be chosen as the RDA only has a small bucket of money and because competition is so fierce for this money other regions and their projects needed the funding much more,” Mr Dale said.
“Quite simply Port Douglas was not at the top of the list because it did not tick all the boxes needed to secure the funding.”
Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce president Ken Dobbs said he was shocked by the decision.
“Even without knowing the reasons why, I really am very shocked because I thought we had a 90 per cent chance of getting the RDAF funding to build the lagoon,” he said.
Mayor Val Schier told the Gazette on learning of the announcement said that the process was by no means over.
“While this is a setback in the short-term, it is by no means the end of this project,” Mayor Schier said.
“Council has committed to the implementation of the Port Douglas Waterfront Master Plan and that commitment remains.
“We now need to seek out other opportunities for funding and stay focused on the wide-ranging benefits the project will provide for locals and visitors to Port Douglas.
“I have always supported this project as a priority for the region and I’m confident that we will see it happen.”
Council’s chief executive officer Lyn Russell said she was disappointed on hearing the news.
“While this news is disappointing, it by no means diminishes the worth of the Port Douglas Master Plan Project,” Ms Russell said.
“Port Douglas is of significant importance not only to locals but to the Far North Queensland region.
“Council is committed to ensuring the hard work and strong community support that has gone into getting the Plan to where it is today continues with its implementation.
“The Waterfront Park area is certainly a priority focus of the plan. We need to remember that this is just one round of the RDF which is just one source of potential funding.
“Council will continue to work proactively with the State and Federal Governments in exploring other funding opportunities for implementation of elements of the Master Plan.”
Setback: the Port Douglas Waterfront