Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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

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