In my defence
IN RESPONSE to the recent spate of attacks on my term as mayor - I oversaw a change to the balance sheet from net debt to surplus, was successful in getting large licks of outside money into the shire and initiated some stateof-the-art infrastructure including chemical-free drinking water and tertiary sewage treatment for Port Douglas with 100 per cent water reuse. I initiated and negotiated the bitumen for the road to Cape Tribulation, a free ferry for locals, protected agricultural land, introduced the selffunding tourism promotion fund, attracted $50 million for conservation and infrastructure north of the Daintree River and drove many initiatives to support the cane industry at its lowest point. The main sore point is the Daintree Coast, where the entire Wet Tropics World Heritage concept was conceived because it’s the birthplace of flowering plants The efforts to save it by myself and many others from clearing, subdivision, a bridge and highway up the coast since the mid-’70s has paid huge dividends. To the surprise of the broader conservation sector at the time, tourism - now 80 per cent of the shire’s economy but non-existent then - was embraced from the outset by the local protesters. The Daintree Coast was not ‘‘neglected’’, it was the subject of a radical regulatory measure that removed development rights from a number of properties and paid compensation. It caused widespread offence to property right values and had a big impact on a number of people planning to build there not those already there - a lesser impost than land resumption for a school, road or airport? It also made a lot happy - people who at last could sell their land at a premium and those who lived off tourism. Yes I fought mains power that few could afford anyway, until the buyback was completed but agreed once done, the subject should be revisited. I stuck to that and successfully argued for money for feasibility work which was finally spent by Cairns Regional Council on an ineffectual study. Now I’d like to see innovative local area, reticulated, underground power that links existing rooftop solar panels and replaces generators and batteries with centralised backup. Saving The Daintree from looking like Mission Beach has helped conserve the shire’s greatest tourism and conservation asset. I know it has hurt some, not on the scale many make out but look at the size of the economic dividend - tourism is the only substantive economy on the Daintree Coast, sadly looking increasingly tacky these days. Yes CRC have done a great job fixing the road, and it will need more of that as time goes on, but it has neglected the presentation such as the Gateway, it has boom-sprayed the roadsides giving us ugly collapsing dirt banks to look at and done nothing to progress a new future for the area, a process begun and budgeted for by the previous Douglas Shire Council. Daintree needs attention again but it’s not just electricity, it needs to look beautiful and that’s more an economic than a conservation issue. It needs its own marketing strategy that advocates ongoing conservation, presentation and promotion. The whole shire, as well as Cairns tourism, would benefit enormously from it.