Lagoon falling off election campaign radar
Under council’s proposed funding structure for Stage 1, estimated to cost $35.3 million, the Federal Government would contribute $10 million and the State Government would chip in $20 million.
But both Labor’s Member for Cook Jason O’brien and LNP candidate David Kempton have hosed down any chance of funding for the lagoon becoming an election issue, citing community divisions over the need and location of any proposed lagoon pool as the major reason.
“Clearly the project is going to be done in stages over a number of years,” Mr O’brien said. “There is not enough money for the lagoon - it is causing division in the community.”
Labor has committed to providing money raised from the free-holding of the Meridien leases to the Waterfront but this is well short of the $20 million contribution council was looking for.
“The other components of the project should get precedence over the lagoon,” Mr O’brien said.
“This is because there is no money for the lagoon and it’s unlikely the free-holding of the Meridian leases will raise enough to build it so why get so worked up about it?
“It’s better to do the landscaping, improvements to the playgrounds and fix the sugar wharf which everyone agrees is necessary. When that is done, and other funding opportunities arise for the lagoon, revisit it then.
Do what people agree should be done with the money from the Meridian free-holding and revisit the lagoon when the money comes available.
“There is division in the community about whether it should be there at all and division on the location.”
LNP candidate for Cook David Kempton said the revitalisation of the Waterfront and location and design of the lagoon are issues “that have not been correctly addressed by the State Labor Government and Cairns Regional Council and the town itself”.
“Before anything can be done, the town needs to work out what it wants and expects from the lagoon project,” he said.
Cairns Regional Council’s Master Plan has upset a number of people in the community and it must be resolved before any funding can be made available.
“Even after the years of consultation there now appears to be more confusion than ever.
So it might be wise to get funding that is immediately available to do other works and look at building the lagoon at a later stage perhaps but the town must sort out first what it wants.”
Contrary to claims by both election candidates and sectors of the community raising concerns about the location of the lagoon, an independent survey commissioned by council as part of the Waterfront Masterplan last year of 200 people by telephone and 80 people in intercept surveys found the majority supported the proposed location of the lagoon.
The majority of Macrossan St retailers surveyed by the Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce last year also supported the lagoon location.
Chamber of Commerce president Ken Dobbs said he was frustrated by the whole process and is fearful no government will be forthcoming with the funding because of the lack of consensus that now permeates the community.
“There are people in the community now saying we need more consultation over the placement of the lagoon and those that say we don’t need it at all,” he said.
“We have been through the consultation process, it took four years and we as a community signed off on it.
“Maybe not all of us got 100 percent of what we wanted but it’s rare that anyone gets 100 percent of what they want. With the lack of consensus I fear no government will give any funding because they will see the in-fighting and lack of consensus and so we risk blowing it and get nothing.
“This is the perfect time to be getting the funding during an election campaign but no one from either side has come forward because they see our lack of consensus.
“With people continually undermining the project we will be seen by governments as ’shooting ourselves in the foot’ and so get nothing.”
On the backburner: an artist’s impression of the proposed lagoon