Letter to the Editor / The Ethics of DSC’s Daintree Survey


❝ As a retired Community Development Worker experienced in social research for community organisations and local government, I believe it is important to explore the current research/survey methodology being undertaken by the Douglas Shire Council.

To start, any professional undertaking social research is educated on the tools to use for data collection, collation and analysis, and to the ethical responsibility required when surveying a population.

For the purposes of the current data collection regarding the Daintree River crossing options,  there are huge moral and ethical issues to be considered due to the region’s World Heritage listing with UNESCO.

The fragility of the Daintree ecosystem must be at the forefront of any action initiated as a result of this research.

However, there have been no professional researchers involved in the process to this point, and in fact won’t be until the collation of data, which is alarming.

Just to return to 2018 for a moment, the previous Council conducted a survey to determine the satisfaction of users of the single ferry service, which gathered qualitative and quantitative data.

There were very few suggestions for a bridge across the Daintree.

Participants focussed on suggestion to improve the existing service.

In 2020, after the recent Council election, it was decided by the new Mayor to suspend the current ferry service in 2021 when the contract for service ends, and in the interim to survey Douglas Shire residents, providing two options for a river crossing in lieu of the existing service. According to the Douglas Shire Council’s “Daintree River Crossing Option Assessment Report” dated 25/08/20, GDH Consulting Engineers provided a report to Council in which they identified four options for a river crossing.

They were:

1. Current service

2. Larger ferry

3. Two ferries

4. Bridge

Council have pushed ahead with their desire to survey residents even though they have no professional backgrounds in social research, deciding to devise their own survey tool. But instead of including all the options to us, the residents, they have made the unethical decision to manipulate the survey in order to obtain the answers they want.

So the survey now comprises only two options.

I asked a Council employee why the options were limited and was told that they were required to fit on a postcard plus the Mayor didn’t want a “no” action answer if the survey shows that residents are happy with the existing service because he has promised some people he will do something about the crossing.

Four questions wouldn’t take up that much room.

These actions creating red flags for me.

So now we find ourselves drawn into a process that sadly lacks professional input and is flawed from the outset.

It is certainly a dilemma because not answering either of the two questions will enable the Council to make the decision and according to all evidence to date, one could assume that they would choose the bridge option, especially since the Federal Member for this area, Warren Entsch has been an advocate for a bridge for many years and is encouraging this process.

So, for the residents not wanting a bridge the only option is a two ferry system.

It is a moral dilemma, created by a Council who have chosen to undertake work that they are unqualified to perform.

I hope our beautiful Daintree World Heritage area doesn’t suffer the consequences of this reckless decision.❞

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