Perspectives / Rod Davis offers his perspective on Douglas’ rating system


Rod asks, ❝what is the point of a Shire intent of providing good rental yields to its remote owners, when every single tourism business here, is on its knees?❞

Douglas Shire once had a rating system that protected local residents and charged remote landlords $200pa more, to pay for occupancy promotion, on a user-pays principle. During amalgamation, Cairns Council demolished this relatively innovative rating system, but few in Douglas remember what was lost?

This then is a reminder post.

The rating system that charged $200 to $250 more to properties with short term holiday tenancy was introduced to pay for the tourism promotion of their commercial, holiday, investment. That extra $200 paid triple what the Council now offers the community’s tourism promo team.

The logic in the user-pays system was that property owners who wanted higher tourist occupancy, would benefit by more communal promotion of the destination. The rating design then resulted in Douglas ending up with the best-funded, most meaty Local Tourism Association in Queensland.

What a mess we have now by comparison.

If you are a local struggling waiter, your landlord’s rating costs are passed onto you, whereas pre-amalgamation, we had sympathy on the local waiter, and charged a property extra if it was used by AirBnB, and houses for locals got a lesser rate charge. We looked after our community ahead of interstate investors.

It’s not rocket science.

Consider the fact that since the early 1990s, the model for growing Douglas saw 95% of new projects built, strata-titled, then sold to southerners. There are now 4900 rateable properties owned by out-of-towners in Douglas.

The impact of these 4900 remote landlords sees a huge slice of Douglas’s economic wealth, going south in massive amounts. People, please, stop and think a moment, as one of the main drivers of the Douglas stagnation comes from the drain that those 4900 landlords now extract. A simple townhouse or apartment, housing local workers, pays upwards of 40% of its rental income, paying rip-off body corporate fees, and rates jacked nearly 30% by Cairns during the amalgamation.

We are being bled.

And with most rental apartments owned by out-of-towners, we are being bled like halal sheep. So bled in fact, that everyone is a loser, both property owners and tenants.

Politically, Douglas is different to the local Shires of New South Wales or Victoria, because if you do not live in Douglas, you do not get a vote in Douglas’ local elections. Elsewhere down south, if you own property in a local area, you get a vote on who is Mayor. Just ponder that a moment. What we have here is 4900 remote owners with no say in local politics.

For God’s sake, put two and two together folks.

Douglas is facing a crippling tourism recession, and we are being bled dry by our landlords, yet no one can see the wood for the trees?

If we were to change the rating system to a proposal once legislated by a dope-smoking, half-mad former Councillor, we are completely free to push back against our remote landlords. The Council can raise rates for owners who want to rent their houses to tourists, and reduce rates if they rent to us locals, on long-term leases.

You could, in fact, deem the definition of a non-tourist use, as a property with a 12-month lease, as hey, how many interstate owners love to evict that same waiter, to pick up a high season via AirBnB? If you did this, you would help protect locals from the appalling habits of remote landlords.

And we can do this with full political immunity from voter backlash in Melbourne. I mean, doh.

These landlords have no vote, they are now burying us in costs while we have no income, and we as a community are not willing to take a stand?

AirBnB is raping every tourist worker on the planet, as they are forced out of homes once reserved for locals.

The workforce is then squeezed out of Port Douglas, to be replaced by retiring baby boomers who want to close down anything fun.

Fight back, damn it!


To mindlessly just jack up the rates in Douglas last week, at a time of peak disaster, is the act of a Council team that are dreadfully inexperienced, and safely immune from a distant re-election.

When every other Council on the coast is having sympathy on its community, Douglas stands out as a complete dick.

A further outcome of this Council inexperience, is evidenced in the decision to slash the funding for the tourism promo body by half, at a time when it should be doubled.

This is plain nuts, even if some cargo cult guru is to parachute into a job that breaks all Government, open market hiring rules.

Just because Council pays a big share of the promo costs, (noting Council is not the only funder), it is not the right of a new Council to think it is now in charge of an independent community based, commercial, promotional body.

To ignore the fact that the remote AirBnB owners are getting a free ride, by dismissing the chance to restore a rating system to a user-pays system, is a great example of how a right-wing Council is seemingly ignorant of smart, right-wing, business nouse.

What’s the point of shifting from green Council, to an LNP Council, if the right-wingers have the business acumen of roadkill?

If you want a model of a politically smart, and socially empathetic rating system, then look at how rates were levied in 2008.

Traditionally, the rates battles in Douglas were a political competition between the farmers and the tourism teams, but this must now change, and we need to see the community here as two mobs, those living and now suffering here, and those who do not live here, and want their rent.

What is the point of a Shire intent of providing good rental yields to its remote owners, when every single tourism business here, is on its knees?

The very first business of our new Council, should have been to address the seriousness of a COVID crisis that is crippling Douglas.

For God’s sake, starting arguments over a Bridge Too Far for the Daintree was a daft distraction.

When every other tourist area in Queensland was lobbying for that border to open, Douglas did nothing, too scared to speak out?

Great leadership, eh: the Titanic just hit an iceberg, so the ship’s captain decides to up the ticket price, and look for a bridge.

Come on, Mayor Michael, if you are from the right-wing, and you are here to get things spinning, then start thinking like a right-wing businessman, and lead your people with the business smarts.

We know you can do it.

Or we hope, at least, you know what to do…

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