DOUGLASNEWS.NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR, JOHN BURDEN
Douglas Shire Council hosted a public consultation meeting on Monday, as the first of seven community meetings concerning the Interim Report from Council on the Daintree River crossing options.
The meeting’s specific focus was the “financial and services aspects of a bridge or two ferries.”
Douglas Shire Council has distributed a ten-page document to residents, designed, “to find out what the public wanted”. The two-ferry solution was the preferred response as it addressed possible travel time delays and queuing in peak periods.
Mayor Kerr recently declared “for the first time our community will be making a transparent decision on this issue.”
He said that the Council would then have “a solid understanding” of the cost of each of the two stated options, and the engineering challenges involved.
“It’s time we put this issue to bed,” he added.
Note, there is no provision for a public vote on keeping the existing arrangement of one-ferry for the river crossing.
Socially-distanced listeners at the meeting did not appear to agree.
Michael Gabour opened by declaring the whole exercise was a joke. He described the Report as “woefully inadequate” and asked why residents were only allowed to vote on the two options of two-ferries or a bridge, when 53% of the respondents to the first Daintree River crossing survey said they were happy with the existing service of a single ferry.
“Why…” he asked “are we spending all of this money on one of two expensive solutions, looking for a problem?
There were nods of agreement from the audience for this recognition.
Certainly, Council’s costings and assessments were in short supply. The first page of the Report did not augur well with the public, “the options presented in this Report…do not consider environmental, social, economic, or cultural heritage implications.”
As the meeting progressed there was even less solid, relevant information provided. For example, for the option of a bridge, the Report said it “did not examine or compare costs or revenue of each of the four possible locations.” There was no mention of traffic control, modelling, or even the relative merits of a bridge versus ferry. There was also no mention of the cost of approach roads. What were the chances of State Government, for example, not approving dredging, soil disposal or new ferry landing facilities?
But there were four important points in the Report:
The capital cost of the two-ferry solution would be $2.8 million, and would take two years to build.
A new bridge would cost $53-$75 million, and would be ready in a projected five year time-frame.
The Report’s findings on the financial implications of the options are self-evident.
On the lack of an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), Gaye Scott, Council’s Community Liaison Officer, said an EIA would cost $1 million – and would need to know what colour the bridge might be.
David Pearse, from the floor, said he thought that Douglas Shire Council’s Economic Review Group had already approved the ferry option. So, what had changed? Why was a bridge now being considered?
The answer was that the new Council had simply passed a resolution on this back in April, 2020 and this was the follow-up.
Local Daintree resident, Ellen Terrell, concerned with the broader unique quality of the Daintree forest, said it was a World Heritage area and that WTMA (Wet Tropics Management Authority) should have an opinion on increased “visitation levels” – there was already a need to restrict tourists to certain areas.
Finally, it might be worth noting, that the current Council in its Operational Plan for 2020-2021, pledged to recognise its responsibility “in protecting and preserving our natural world for generations to come…Douglas Shire will be at the forefront of environmental protection.”
Mayor Kerr was present at the meeting but did not speak.
Would you like to have your say?
DouglasNews.Network encourages concerned residents, visitors and the broader community to have your say on the Council’s options of a two-ferry or a bridge over the Daintree River.
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