- Original concept gets legs again thanks to land trust purchase
- Tourism industry, Traditional Owners and conservation sector to support
- Council yet to decide about becoming carbon neutral
The Douglas Shire’s Carbon Neutral, Reef Safe Initiative is back on track but without Douglas Shire Council.
Instead, Queensland Trust for Nature (QTFN) and Rainforest Rescue (RR) are taking the lead role after Council accepted their offer to buy the land outright rather than reimburse Council as per the offer under the original arrangement.
“We will pick up the Initiative where Council has left off”, QTFN CEO, Steve Lacey said following Tuesday’s decision by Council to accept an offer from the Trust to buy the 376 ha property (Lot 83) on the Daintree Coast for conservation, rehabilitation and carbon offsets.
Council had made an earlier decision to drop the Carbon Neutral, Reef Safe Initiative launched by the previous Council and tourism industry. Lot 83 was purchased by the previous Council in October 2019 to kick-start the Initiative for which it attracted a storm of criticism by the opposition candidates now in power.
Following the Council decision to accept the offer, Steve Lacey said QTFN and Rainforest Rescue will invite key players to form a community working group to advise on the program as originally envisaged.
“We see this as an amazing opportunity for conservation, for tourism and for the economy of the Douglas Shire,” Mr Lacey said. “We are confident we can attract national and international investment to support the restoration of the world’s oldest rainforest, making it the only place in the world where rainforest is expanding rather than being lost.”
Rainforest Rescue CEO, Branden Barber, said that “through our partnership with QTFN we are able to tackle bigger initiatives like this one. The restoration opportunities in the Daintree have always been limited by nursery capacity – this will give us an opportunity to develop a larger capacity nursery that will both provide trees for this property’s restoration as well as employment and training opportunities.”
“Having QTFN as a partner also increases our reach. As a relatively small conservation organisation that has been working in the Daintree for over 20 years, pulling properties off the market and into conservation and restoring lands that had been denuded by agriculture or development, the opportunity to do this at a larger scale is a huge win for Nature – and for the local community and the local economy. This is very exciting and really shows the importance of partnerships and working together for great outcomes that benefit the many.”
Mayor Kerr thinks the same, describing the sale as a win-win but in selling the land and voting to exit the Initiative, the Council may have dealt itself out of the opportunity.
Cr Noli said she is relieved the sale has been to such a reputable organisation but is disappointed that her and Cr Zammataro’s concerns fell on deaf ears.
“Council has broken its promise to consult with the public about the future of the land, about its commitment to climate policy and has lost a revenue opportunity, especially in these difficult times,”COUNCILLOR ABIGAIL NOLI
“There are three parts to my argument as to why this recommendation in my opinion is not the best outcome for this piece of land, for the Council and for the Shire”. she said.
“This proposal does not fulfil the strategies, policies, aims, commitments and promises made by this Council which are enshrined in its corporate and operational plans. We are actually defying this Council’s stated commitment to consult about the future of the land and abandoning the council’s claimed commitment to the environment.
It has failed the people of Douglas by abandoning its support for the multi-billion dollar Ecotourism industry. I fear that Douglas may actually decline and lose market share by not actively pursuing environmentally sustainable projects”.COUNCILLOR ABIGAIL NOLI
QTFN hopes Douglas Shire will again participate by offsetting its own carbon footprint as previously planned. According to the report tabled at Monday’s meeting Council will decide whether or not Council will continue the pursuit of a carbon neutral destination after “….Council’s broader carbon neutral strategy (is) explored after community consultation.”
“We think this is the best block of land we could have bought in all of Australia… We are looking to buy additional land and are already working with existing landowners to restore rainforest, funded by carbon credits and other income from environmental markets and philanthropic donors.”STEVE LACEY, CEO QUEENSLAND TRUST FOR NATURE
One of QTFN’s business units is buying land, restoring and protecting it with a nature conservation covenant and revolving it. “A major program in the Daintree is a fantastic commercial opportunity for our business model,” said Lacey. “It will bring new investment to Douglas Shire, support the tourism industry when it needs it most, provide local jobs, empower traditional owners to restore their country and build the shire’s national and international reputation. This is a circular economy at its best and it is thanks to our partnership with Rainforest Rescue and others that we’re able to do this. Together we are going to achieve great things.”
Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) a strong supporter of the original concept is delighted QTFN and RR have taken over but “disappointed and surprised” Council has bailed out.
“This was a fantastic opportunity for Council to position itself as a leader in conservation and ecotourism at no net cost to itself…Now we look forward to working with QTFN to revitalise the Carbon Neutral, Reef Safe Initiative.”DIDGE MACDONALD, PRESIDENT DOUGLAS SHIRE SUSTAINABILITY GROUP
“I’m delighted to see this initiative going ahead,” the TPDD CEO, Tara Bennet, said.
“TPDD remains committed to developing and promoting the regions credentials in sustainable tourism. The new owners of Lot 83 have a proven track record in conservation and rehabilitation, its a wonderful outcome for the Daintree Rainforest, community groups and the destinations ability to deliver on sustainability”TARA BENNETT, CEO TOURISM PORT DOUGLAS DAINTREE
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