Two community meetings were held in Mossman on Friday October 2, 2020 as part of Douglas Shire Council’s public consultation on the Daintree River Crossing Options Report. DouglasNews.Network summarises the key outcomes and issues arising from the two Mossman meetings.
Councillors Michael Kerr, Roy Zammataro, Peter McKeown, Lisa Scomazzon and CEO Mark Stoermer attended the afternoon meeting, while Councillors Michael Kerr and Lisa Scomazzon also attended the evening meeting.
Opened and chaired by Gaye Scott, Community Liaison Officer, the meetings were presented by Scott Hahne and Colin Chalmers from Douglas Shire Council, co-authors of the Options Report. As Council’s Asset Management Officer, Colin introduced the essentials of the two-ferry option as he manages the current ferry contract, while Scott, project engineer, introduced and fielded questions about the proposed bridge options. The Daintree Strategic Plan was consulted in developing the Options Report.
Question Time from the Public
Members of the audience addressed a number of issues arising out of the Options Report.
Vitally, the question was asked, “who exactly is this going to benefit?” And, “why is this even happening?” Given the rate increases expected to cover the cost of the bridge options, and the loss of $1.15 million per year from ferry revenue, who exactly are ratepayers bearing increased costs for?
A member of the audience respectfully suggested that the 350 residents living north of the Daintree river bought or otherwise reside in properties, with values that reflect the unique nature of accessing the region by ferry, and without mains power or services. And that this extraordinary experience of living nestled between two World Heritage environments is to be revered.
Another member of the audience with over thirty years’ experience in tourism, assured the group that tourists love and genuinely value the unique ferry experience.
One community member made a passionate plea that as local residents and rate payers, we have no right to interfere in the World Heritage area, “it doesn’t belong to us”. This recognition was warmly applauded by supporters.
One of the most prevailing views what that the survey was simplistic, and did not adequately cover the range of options available, including the existing option of a single-ferry. One member of the audience urged the Shire to “think outside the box’, and that there are far more options than a simple A or B choice, as each of the choices does not adequately address the many nuanced issues at stake. For example, a bridge is undeniably the most efficient and effective way to transport traffic over a river-but the impacts of that development have far more wide-reaching implications that we must consider.
- The environmental and social impact of the expanded road and traffic infrastructure to support heavier traffic as a result of losing the limiting aspect of the ferry. Mayor Michael Kerr stated, “It was my Mayoral promise during my campaign to leave the Bloomfield track as it is. It’s not on Council’s agenda to bitumen the Bloomfield Track.”
- That there has been no environmental impact assessment, to which Council responded that they did not have enough detailed research, time or funding to have completed prior to consultation. One attendee said, “Even if it took three years for the study, don’t you think it’s worth it when we’re looking at impacting a 180-million-year-old rainforest?”
- How are we going to solve any perceived issues with wait-times over the next two- to five- years while the ferry or bridge option is in process? Council detailed how the bureaucratic process for clearing mangroves on the northern side to build an often suggested priority access lane for locals would demand a lengthier time frame. Additionally, concern arose with the projected time-frame when considering lengthy tendering and procurement processes. Questions were raised about the delivery of the ferry services after 30th June 2021, when the current contract expires. Colin Chalmers stated that “Douglas Shire Council is currently negotiating with the current ferry providers.” Recognition of maintaining the ferry service being at the mercy of the current contractors came as quite a shock to many attendees.
- Another community member detailed a suggestion to build a high level bridge at Kilkearies Point, the most narrow point of the river, and then a road formed to Forest Creek and a tunnel was suggested that could come out at Diwan.
- Maritime issues with vessel navigation
- The possibility of a public-private partnership to source funding for a proposed bridge. An interested community member asked, “Has anyone at all in Council had any conversations with any private companies or private investors to fund the bridge?” Scott Hahne responded,“No. A private company wouldn’t want to do this because they wouldn’t make any money from it. We could consider a public private partnership but there would be no use because it might not be feasible for a private organisation to fund it.” Another member of the public suggested the possibility of a large local company being involved in the process to which Council assured, “No, there isn’t.”
- Lack of consultation and representation with local Indigenous groups and Elders.
- Emerging recognition that despite the measures to consult with the public, that ultimately, the decision actually comes down to a Council vote, “Councillors would look at the surveys and submissions and consider the public’s preference but would vote whatever way they liked.”
As one of our concerned community members implored, “let’s fall back a bit”. We need to very carefully consider the long-term implications of any decision that we make. We all seem to expect instant gratification these days, and the opportunity to experience a slower pace of life is rare, unique and to be treasured.
Have Your Say
Members of the public are urged to have your say. There are four main ways to do s:.
+ Complete your mailed out survey postcard.
+ Complete the online survey at www.douglassurvey.com.
If you are not happy with either of the two choices provided, in your comments, please express your view, and preference.
+ Complete a submission by email to Council to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions are de-identified unless submitted by an organisation who would like to have their view on public record.
+ Attend one of the public consultation meetings to be held tomorrow at Diwan Sports Centre. You will need to register to attend, and Council will advise if you have been successful.
Council advised on Friday, that if you are not happy with one of the two options presented on the survey postcard, to cross them both out, and to write your own comment, such as “leave as is” if your preference is to maintain the single-ferry service as is.
October 26, 2020 : Public Consultation closes
November 17, 2020: Compass Research Report and Submissions Report Workshop with Councillors
December 1, 2020: Report published
December 15, 2020 : Douglas Shire Council meeting