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Letter to the Editor / A close investigation of the Daintree river crossing options consultation

As a general member of the community with no affiliations to any political group I feel it’s important for the people of the Douglas Shire to have oversight of ALL of the questions being submitted to the DSC and the DSC’s responses. So, I am respectfully requesting that my questions and answers be published on the DNN website and Facebook page if you are agreeable.

NAME WITHHELD UPON REQUEST


Dear Editor,
In relation to the activities currently being performed by the Douglas Shire Council in relation to the Ferry/Bridge Options Community Consultation, the DSC has said that only questions and answers “relevant to the wider community” will be published on the DSC website. The Community Consultation Meetings have not been recorded as far as I am aware. In a truly transparent process, all questions and answers, unless they are considered commercial-in confidence, are usually relevant to the stakeholders.
As a general member of the community with no affiliations to any political group I feel it’s important for the people of the Douglas Shire to have oversight of ALL of the questions being submitted to the DSC and the DSC’s responses. So, I am respectfully requesting that my questions and answers be published on the DNN website and Facebook page if you are agreeable.
In the spirit of true transparency and in keeping with the legislated principles below these published questions and the DSC’s answers are uncut, unedited and de-identified. I have re-ordered the questions/answers into relevant groups to make it easier for the reader. I can provide source emails to demonstrate the authenticity of the information in this document if requested by DNN.
The Local government principles that underpin the Queensland Local Government Act 2009, and which the DSC is bound by, exist to ensure the system of local government is accountable, effective, efficient and sustainable.


Parliament requires —


(a) anyone who is performing a responsibility under this Act to do so in accordance with the local
government principles; and
(b) any action that is taken under this Act to be taken in a way that—
i. is consistent with the local government principles; and
ii. provides results that are consistent with the local government principles, in as far as the results
are within the control of the person who is taking the action.
The local government principles are—
(a) transparent and effective processes, and
(b) decision-making in the public interest; and
(c) sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective
services; and
(d) democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement; and
(e) good governance of, and by, local government; and
(f) ethical and legal behaviour of councillors and local government employee


While I am personally not bound by the above legislation, I am publishing this information in support of the
Douglas Shire community and in the hope that it provides some additional detail about the options, the
community consultation and some of the issues I hear being raised in the community.
Please find my questions and DSC’s answers below.


Questions to DSC and DSC provided answers regarding the Options Report, the Community Consultation Plan and other related matters

  1. Can you tell me when the question & answer time finishes?
    DSC: With regard to an end date for questions, I did not anticipate there would be an end date –
    I expect people will keep asking questions up until Council makes a decision and we’ll aim to keep
    providing answers as best we can.
  2. Are all questions and answers raised by the community about this report going to be made
    available for the entire community to review?

    DSC: Where the question and answer are considered to relevant to the wider community or a
    clarification to the information already presented, these will be published on
    https://douglas.qld.gov.au/daintree-ferry-contract-renewal-2021/ under the Frequently Asked
    Questions heading.
  3. I note the clause in the Introduction stating that the report doesn’t address environmental,
    social, economic or cultural heritage implications. When will these be addressed and
    compared?

    DSC: The options report focusses on the financial and serviceability aspects of a bridge or two
    ferries. During the consultation process, information will be gathered on the environmental,
    social, economic or cultural heritage issues raised and will be included in the report presented to
    Council.
  4. I note the last paragraph in the Introduction states that Council will gather “community
    sentiment towards a bridge option”. It doesn’t say Council will gather sentiment towards a
    “ferry option”. Does that mean that Council’s focus will be only on gathering support for the
    bridge as suggested by that sentence?

    DSC: Council wants to know whether people prefer a bridge or a two-ferry service – there is no
    focus on gathering support for either option.
  5. Revenue (income generated) and Cost (expenditure) are two opposite terms, can you please
    explain what is meant by the term “revenue/cost” in the tables in the Financial Comparison?
    Is Council saying that they will LOSE $900,000 if a bridge was built? The table is very
    confusing.

DSC: I’ve tried to explain further below.
To explain, the first line of the table for example, relating to the single ferry can be read as follows:
i. With the single ferry, net revenue to Council budgeted in 2019/20 was $1.15million
ii. This $1.15 million represents revenue of $121.78 per ratepayer
iii. The $1.15 million represents 3.4% of rates collected in one year
iv. The $1.15 million represents 2.5% of total revenue in one year
The third line of the table, Bridge no toll, for example, may be read as follows:
i. With a bridge without a toll, Council will lose $900,000 per year
ii. This $900,000 represents cost of $95.11 per ratepayer
iii. The $900,00 represents 2.7% of rates collected in one year
iv. The $900,000 represents 2.0% of total revenue in one year
5a. The $900,000 loss is per annum….over how many years?
DSC: $900,000 per year for the 100yr life of the bridge, based on current knowledge.
5b. The $1.15 million revenue per annum………….is that across 25 years?
DSC: This is across the life of the two ferry contract, the proposed contract issued with the tender
documents was for 15 years, plus an option to extend for a further two periods of 5 years. If this
is fully adopted, then yes the $1.15m/year is the forecast for 25 years from the start of the new
contract.

  1. What is the timeframe across which that loss or gain has been calculated for the two ferry
    and bridge options?

    DSC: Per annum
  2. Is the cost of land acquisition included in the bridge costs? If not, what is the likely cost of
    the land?

    DSC: The cost of land acquisition has been included in the bridge options, however the cost of
    significant legal or court fees related to the land acquisition has not been allowed for.
  3. What is the contingency plan and the related cost if the bridge is wiped out by flood or
    cyclone?

    DSC: A bridge would be constructed to the suitable design standards that would make the
    destruction of the bridge unlikely. In the event of significant damage/loss from a declared event
    such as a cyclone, then the Disaster Relief Funding Arrangements would apply whereby State and
    Federal governments contribute almost all of the repair/replacement costs for a un-tolled bridge.
    Insurance or other similar mechanisms would have to be acquired for a tolled bridge.
  4. How does Council intend to compensate the loss of 30 local jobs if the bridge were to be
    built?

    DSC: Council has not at this stage considered the loss of jobs implications.
  5. What are the three figures – 21, 41 and 65 – in the table on page 10.
    DSC: Should have $ signs. If a toll was imposed, the toll would be: $21 return 6-10 seater bus; $41
    return 11-20 seater bus and $65 return 21+ seater bus.
  6. How has Council included the cost to acquire the land in the bridge estimates if there is no
    confirmed location? What amount has Council allocated to acquire the land?

    DSC: The four locations mentioned in the Options Report were used to calculate the average
    bridge cost. For each option a possible road layout was determined, which indicated the area of
    land to be required, to which a typical rate was applied. The allowance for land varied between
    options and ranged up to 2% of the overall cost.
  7. What is the likely cost to undertake thorough environmental, social, economic or cultural
    heritage assessments related to building the bridge?

    DSC: If a bridge was the preferred option, Council would then need to determine what studies
    were required and prepare a scope of works. Until that is done, the likely cost is unknown. The
    Options Report includes some typical assessment costs for developments of this nature at the
    usual industry standard of consideration.
  8. What is the cost associated with testing visitor opinion about toll costs?
    DSC: If a bridge was the preferred option, Council would then determine the need to test visitor
    opinion regarding a toll. In the past, Council has not tested visitor opinion about ferry fees.
    Until it is determined that visitor research is required and what form it would take, we do not
    have a cost.
  9. How much time will be added to drivers needing to drive to other locations to cross the
    bridge when compared with travelling to the current Ferry site?

    DSC: The travel time to bridge locations not at the current Ferry site will vary, however from a
    high level assessment of road locations it is expected that a bridge located at Daintree Village will
    add 20 mins each way to the travel time compared to a bridge at the current Ferry location for
    travel between the Ferry turnoff and Forest Creek Rd.
  10. Have the financials considered the costs of running one ferry while the bridge is being built
    or are the financials independent of the build time?

    DSC: The financials are based on the cost to build and maintain a bridge or operate two ferries,
    the cost of (or revenue obtained from) operating the current ferry operations during the
    construction period has not been included in the financial comparison.
  11. What plans/financial contingencies does Council have in place if we see a situation similar
    to what’s happening at the Adani mine or indeed the Daintree Blockade many years ago
    which is very highly possible given the community’s reaction to this situation.

DSC: In this case, Douglas Shire Council is seeking the community’s preference and will use the
findings to guide it’s decision making. The plan is to listen to what the local community says and
this approach is designed to minimise angst.

  1. What’s the approximate cost for capital finance on a loan to build the bridge and across
    what timeframe?

    DSC: If a loan is required, interest payments would be in line with current rates on offer by
    Queensland Treasury Corporation.
  2. Has Council secured an extension for the provision of the ferry service from 01/07/2021? If
    not, how will we get to the other side of the river at 30 June 2021?

    DSC: To remove the time pressure on the consultation, at its meeting on 28 July, Council resolved
    to negotiate an initial one year extension with the current ferry operators, with options for a
    further three, two-year periods to be activated if required by Council. These small increments
    allow for flexibility depending on the option chosen and reduce the likelihood having to go back
    and request further extensions.
    18a. Based on your answer can you therefore confirm that Council HAS NOT actually executed a legally
    binding contract yet with the ferry provider after the 30 June 2021?

    DSC: Negotiations are underway, but no contract has been executed.
  3. The Options Report clearly shows some of the commercial in confidence information
    contained in the ferry tenderers tender, in particular, a solar powered ferry. Given that the
    contract has not been legally executed how will this impact the competitive situation if
    Council needs to go back out to tender due to probity issues or if the current provider
    chooses not to extend their contract? Hasn’t the exposure of the commercial in confidence
    information now given other tenderers the point of difference from the winning tenderer?
    How will this create a fair playing field?

    DSC: All information contained in the Options Report relating to the Two-Ferry solution was
    approved by the ferry contractor prior to publishing the Option Report.
  4. The Community Consultation Plan says that we will receive a ‘post card’ about the matter
    in the mail. I live in Mossman, in town, and haven’t received anything in the mail about this?
    When are the post cards being posted?

    DSC: Post cards were delivered to Mossman Post Office Tuesday 22 September. Australia Post
    expects deliveries will commence 28 September and apart from the more remote locations, all
    will be distributed by 2 October.
  5. Can Council please explain how the locations for where the Copies of the Report were
    determined and how conflicts of interest are being managed?

DSC: Council determined the locations of hard copies of the Options Report to be where residents
may gather. Council will consider putting them in other locations if requested. Please advise
where you consider there are conflicts of interest and Council will review.
21a. My question about HOW conflicts of interest were and are being managed in relation to the
chosen locations hasn’t been answered. Can you please provide an answer?

DSC: Council is unaware of any conflicts of interest associated with the location of copies of the
report.

  1. I don’t understand why the Options Report says there will be a “reduced delay for users” if
    a bridge were in place. In my question about timing you answered the following, “The travel
    time to bridge locations not at the current Ferry site will vary, however from a high level
    assessment of road locations it is expected that a bridge located at Daintree Village will add
    20 mins each way to the travel time compared to a bridge at the current Ferry location for
    travel between the Ferry turnoff and Forest Creek Rd.” While there may be no queueing, the
    travel time will be increased compared to current travel times. Why hasn’t this been included
    in the Options Report as a possible challenge or risk?

    DSC: Travel time varies between the different bridge options. The challenges and risks in the
    Options Report apply to a general bridge option.
  2. In regard to the Focus Groups listed in the Community Consultation Plan, there appears to
    be no consultation with any commercial business groups other than tourism related
    companies and environmental groups. The ability for people across the river to the travel to
    townships of Mossman and Port Douglas impacts ALL businesses in those townships. Will
    Council also consult with the Chamber of Commerce or other business groups in the region
    to collect their thoughts and opinions about the two options?

    DSC: All businesses and all industry groups are invited to put in submissions as part of the
    consultation process. All submissions received will be considered by Council and all submissions
    will be published in full – de-identified.
    23a. Can you please answer my question about why the Chamber of Commerce and other relevant
    business groups are not included as a Focus Groups in the Community Consultation Plan?

    DSC: The focus groups target minority groups whose opinion could get lost amongst the majority
    – such as Traditional Owners, residents of Daintree Village (under 100 people) and Daintree tour
    bus companies who number under 20. The Douglas Chamber of Commerce and other groups are
    welcome to put in a submission.
    23b. Can you please confirm that “ALL submissions will be published in full” regardless of what they
    contain?

    DSC: Submissions will be published in full except comments containing swearing; where
    individuals are mentioned, or where information could lead to the submitter being identified.
  3. The Options Report says that two of Council’s Senior Engineers were deployed to identify
    potential locations and to prepare indicative costs for a bridge at those locations, however
    there is no mention of who undertook the financial analysis/comparisons. Can Council
    please advise which company was engaged to undertake the financial
    analysis/comparisons of the two options?

    DSC: No outside company was engaged to do the financial analysis/comparisons of the two
    options. Council’s Finance department prepared the comparisons.
  4. The Community Consultation Plan says that we will be invited to submit an outline of our
    reasons for our preference (section 6.2.1). It also says people will be encouraged to put in a
    submission but I’ve not seen anything anywhere about a submission opportunity. When will
    those submissions be requested by Council? I haven’t seen anything anywhere about this,
    other than at the back of the Options Reports which offers a contact for queries.

    DSC: The post card lets people know they can send a separate submission to Council and provides
    an email address. The website also advises separate submissions can be sent in and provides an
    email link.
  5. Why was the Council meeting to review and discuss the Options Report closed for viewing
    to the public? Wouldn’t this be considered to be a critical part of this entire process?

    DSC: The Council resolution was to publish the Options Report. If the Item was in the Open
    Session, the Options Report would need to be included in the Agenda, which is published a few
    days before the meeting. By necessity, the item had to be in Closed Session.
  6. What would happen if the bridge option went ahead and the current ferry providers decided
    not to continue providing the ferry services while the bridge was being built?

    DSC: The Council has identified this as a risk and it is being managed.
  7. In the FAQs on the website, there is a question regarding the signing of the tow ferry
    contract. Council say that it’s not uncommon for them to take considerable time to negotiate
    complex and long term contracts, however they haven’t answered why the negotiations took
    so long and why, if the negotiations had progressed so well, what was the sticking point for
    Council that delayed the execution of the contract?

    DSC: Council has not indicated or inferred there was any sticking point that delayed the contract.
    28a. The FAQ’s state “the contract was not ready for signing” by the end of February 2020. Why wasn’t it
    ready for signing?

    DSC: The contract required additional inputs not available at the time and were still underway
    with the preferred offeror at the end of February, 2020.
  8. Will all Ordinary Council Meetings to discuss all matters relating to the bridge/ferry be open
    for public viewing from now on?

DSC: It depends on the item. If it is a Prejudicial Matter under S275 (1) (H) Local Government
Regulation 2012 then no. If it is not a Prejudicial Matter under S275 (1) (H) Local Government
Regulation 2012 then it will be in an Open Session.

  1. The Options Report says that Council has tried to minimise the possible length of road to
    be built if the bridge option is preferred. The Report also indicates that there may be a
    possible 6.3km length of road required. The Report also says that the “State Government
    do not approve new ferry landing facilities and road on the southern side”. Does Council
    believe the State Government will approve the construction of a 6.3km long road if they
    won’t approve the road on the southern side which I suspect would be nowhere near that
    long?

    DSC: Council has not assumed any State Government approvals will be given. Different approval
    permitting applies to different locations. Only risks and challenges which apply to a general bridge
    option have been listed.
  2. Based on a recent news article, the Mayor announced publicly that he has received
    confirmation of funding for the bridge from the Government. Some groups around the Shire
    suggest that this funding has never been requested by the Mayor. I’m unaware of the
    process so I don’t fully understand the workings of State and Federal Government, however
    why would the Government provide confirmation of funding if approvals have not yet been
    sought? Were the funding confirmations conditional upon approvals being granted? And,
    will the public be provided access to the written funding confirmation?

    DSC: Council has not applied for funding or received funding for a bridge across the Daintree River
    from the State Government. It first wants to know whether the community would prefer a two
    ferry service, or a bridge option. The Mayor did not announce any funding, or confirmation of
    funding, for a bridge across the Daintree River from any government.
  3. Has Council (meaning the Mayor, any of the Councillors, the CEO) had any conversations
    at all with any private organisations/companies or individuals about providing some or all
    of the funding to build the Daintree Bridge, either pre- or post the Mayoral elections earlier
    this year?

    DSC: Council officers are not aware of any conversations.
  4. Will the Bridge/Ferry survey results collected by Compass Research be the only measure
    by which the Council will decide to choose either the ferry or bridge option? And if not, what
    other measures or means will Council use to make a final decision?

    DSC: No the survey results will not be the only measure by which Council decides. Councillors will
    also be given the report with all the submissions, as well as summary of findings from each of the
    Focus Groups. The Compass Research Report, the Submissions Report and the Focus Group
    report/s will all be considered by Councillors in their deliberations.
  5. What is the purpose of the submission Council is seeking?
    DSC: The survey allows for only 500 characters, and space to write comments is limited on the
    Post Card. Submissions allow people to explain and/or substantiate any points they are making.

When we facilitated Round 1, the submissions people submitted helped Councillors understand
the issues behind the statistics. I see this as similar.

  1. Will the submissions influence Council’s decision between the ferry and the bridge?
    DSC: As above, the Submissions Report will be considered by Councillors in their deliberations. All
    comments/submissions received will be included in full, with the exception of removing swearing
    and if individuals are named.
  2. When will the submissions be made available for the public to view?
    DSC: December 1, 2020
  3. Can any organisation (including those located in and not located in the Douglas Shire)
    submit a proposal offering some alternative funding solutions for Council to consider for
    either the ferry or bridge at this current submission stage?

    DSC: Yes. Council will not exclude any submissions regardless of the submitter’s location.
  4. Will Council consider some bridge design options (as an unsolicited proposal) during this
    submission stage?

    DSC: Council is not currently looking for input or comment into alternative bridge options. It first
    wants to know whether the community would prefer a two ferry service, or a bridge option. That
    does not preclude people from sharing some ideas.
  5. Can organisations mark a submission ‘commercial-in-confidence’ and request that it not be
    released to the public based on it exposing a competitive advantage?

    DSC: Yes

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