PRINCIPAL, Managing Australian Destinations
Whilst I firstly congratulate the new Mayor and Councillors on their election, it’s sad to think that some people seem to be celebrating the demise of those who have fought in the past for the Shire’s environmental credentials.
With the World Heritage Listed reef and rainforest threatened by climate change, we need to realise our economy, prosperity and lifestyle are founded on the protection of those assets.
If not managed the right way, the Douglas Shire risks losing its position as a global leader in environmental management, and tourism. It was the Shire’s green credentials that once brought world leaders to this area to marvel at its environmental assets. US President Bill Clinton chose Port Douglas to call on Australia to introduce legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets. The Chinese premier, marvelled at our pristine environments and exhorted Australia not to make the same mistakes as China in an extraordinary speech at a Sheraton Mirage function. Visits from British and German leaders followed, the leaders of the world’s biggest economies, movie and rock stars all chose our Shire to visit.
Their visits were then followed by a wave of visitors and a boom in tourism at the same time as the Douglas Shire won national environmental and planning awards. More recently, building on that reputation, the Shire was recognised as the first ecotourism destination in Australia, a move strongly supported by the tourism and environment lobbies. We had an opportunity to be the first in the world to offer carbon-neutral tourism, a great marketing opportunity, that now unfortunately seems doomed.
All of this seems irrelevant in the current COVID-19 emergency we face, but more than ever people around the world are realising the value of clean air and clear water. This was brought home to me during a recent conference call with my US National Geographic client, who flies hundreds of passengers on private jets into Cairns, with their sole destination in Australia being the Douglas Shire.
With the spectre of the urbanisation of the Daintree via the proposed introduction of grid electricity, and the possibility of abandoning the fixed urban footprint, to open rural areas to development, I would like the new council to make it its priority to clarify the policy on these key environmental issues.
Are we as a Shire, going to continue to be a leader in conservation management, that ultimately draws tourists to the region, or are we to renounce that title and suffer the consequences?