Time to rein­vig­o­rate ‘80s ide­olo­gies

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FEEDBACK -

TOTOWARDS the endd off 1983, I was sum­moned to the Bris­bane of­fice of Sir Frank Moore, CEO of the Queens­land Tourist and Travel Cor­po­ra­tion (QTTC).

“We in­tend to es­tab­lish a su­perb des­ti­na­tion re­sort on 350 acres in a de­light­ful vil­lage in the north­ern trop­ics of this state, Port Dou­glas,” he de­clared.

“You have been in­volved in this sort of thing else­where and we wish to adopt a phi­los­o­phy first evoked by noted US land­scape ar­chi­tect and plan­ner Wal­ter Collins in that ’no build­ing shall be any higher than three-quar­ters the height of the tallest co­conut trees’.”

It was a great idea and it worked - I had been with Wal­ter’s group in Fiji.

I was in­vited to join his plan­ning team and would be work­ing un­der the lead­er­ship of famed US plan­ner Larry Helber and a Queens­land Gov­ern­ment team of ar­chi­tects and engineers.

Dur­ing most of 1984 we con­spired to pro­duce a mas­ter plan on a splen­did site be­tween a fa­mous beach and the Coral Sea on one side and un­spoiled moun­tain views on the other. The main road to Port Dou­glas ran through the cen­tre - we would tun­nel be­neath the road and cre­ate a round­about from which to en­ter the re­sort.

Fi­nally the plan was com­pleted and adopted by the QTTC. The project was let for “Ex­pres­sions of In­ter­est”.

Christopher Skase was the “can-do” man of the time.

And he had just bought Chan­nel 0 Bris­bane and was con­sid­ered the best per­son­al­ity to take on this land­mark project.

He was asked to work closely with lo­cal Port Dou­glas iden­tity John Mor­ris and his team, which thank­fully he did.

All through 1985 and 1986 the Mi­rage emerged, as Skase’s own team of ar­chi­tects, engineers and builders took over, hap­pily em­ploy­ing my­self for some res­i­den­tial site plan­ning and the golf course de­sign and con­struc­tion.

Gary Hunt, now a lo­cal ar­chi­tect, was brought on board. The Sher­a­ton had come on board as the ho­tel op­er­a­tors.

Their guests ar­rived from a great va­ri­ety of climes and coun­tries who sought the “siz­zle” of Four Mile Beach, the Coral Sea with its won­drous reefs, mar­vel­lous swim­ming la­goons, the com­pany of co­conut trees and warm sun­shine. The Mi­rage im­me­di­ately be­came the premier des­ti­na­tion re­sort in Aus­trala­sia.

Later, much later, ma­jor south­ern Queens­land de­vel­op­ers Ju­niper bought the Links Golf Course and sur­round­ing lands and built their Sea Tem­ple Re­sort.

“Only one thing Michael”, they said, “We want to give your links a more trop­i­cal feel with the plant­ing of co­conut trees through­out ... they are our ’theme’ trees for the re­sort and what our guests ex­pect.”

As time passed and a new cen­tury emerged, things changed for the worse in front of the GFC. Tourism, our lifeblood, suf­fered ter­ri­bly and Port Dou­glas strug­gled.

Not be­cause we didn’t have the prod­uct, we did not have the peo­ple.

Here we are, at the be­gin­ning of 2012 and just when things show signs of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional im­prove­ment, our tourist sea­son soon to be­gin, new mar­kets in China and other Asian sources poised, we find the myth of Port Dou­glas, blessed tourist haven of the Far North, has been in­fil­trated by a team of Bol­she­viks in the name of the lo­cal coun­cil, de­ter­mined to un­der­mine our hard-won philoso­phies and rep­u­ta­tion by em­bark­ing upon a scheme to rid us of our co­conut trees and for that mat­ter, at­tack the well­be­ing of the 1200 oil palms which line the en­try into Port. How bloody mar­vel­lous. Come on Bris­bane, rein­vig­o­rate those splen­did ide­olo­gies and philoso­phies of the 1980s which did so much to help put us on the tourist world stage.

Let’s start afresh.

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