28.12.2020 An earlier version of this article, now removed, asserted that Douglas Shire Chief Executive Officer Mark Stoermer had “deliberately disobeyed a council resolution” in relation to the Daintree ferry-bridge issue. DouglasNews.Network acknowledges that this is not the case and apologises to Mr Stoemer for any embarrassment caused.
In unison, all four Councillors criticised aspects of the Daintree ferry debacle that Mayor Kerr has brought about.
At Douglas Shire Council’s Ordinary Meeting held on December 15, 2020, the two-ferry or bridge question should have been finalised. It appears, however, that the Mayor is still trying to avoid having the contract signed, by instigating a questionable last minute change to the meeting recommendation, and further, not advising all fellow Councillors of his intention to do so.
The original recommendation stated “That Council resume contract negotiations for 2019 – 084 Daintree Ferry Contract 2021”.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Cr Kerr moved an amendment with the addition of “and requests that the CEO is to bring back a request to Councillors with the key final terms of the contract for approval”.
Cr McKeown kicked off a subsequent barrage of criticism, affirming that “there were still some problems” in reference to the consultation process. He continued, stating that there was public confusion on both how to vote, and whether only one vote per household would be registered.
After thorough criticism of the public consultation process, Cr McKeown demonstrated his own lack of understanding of the financial implications of either the bridge or ferry by suggesting that the two-ferry solution will cost Council money.
The Options Assessment Report (page 9) clearly states that the two-ferry solution will NET each ratepayer $124 while the bridge will COST each ratepayer $900.
Cr McKeown continued, “this is not the result I was looking for” referring to the public’s overwhelming decision for the ferry. “We have two new Councillors that have not seen the contract and before I could make a decision…I need to know more information.”
Cr Zammataro addressed the issue next, opening with “there was an overwhelming majority for the ferry, and to me this proves that Douglas Shire residents favour protecting the environment.” Further, “at the end of the day, there is no doubt what people wanted.”
Cr Zammataro concluded, “we can now carry on, finalise the contract and move on with Council business.”
Cr Noli thanked all respondents to the survey, and summarised the views collated via the consultation. Broad views ranged from explaining how the ferry is a revenue raiser, that a bridge would incur yearly costs for ratepayers, that a bridge does not guarantee passage during floods, nor does it make any difference to emergency services.
“A bridge will not magically increase prosperity in the Shire, there will not be a convention centre built north of the river, nor a factory, as examples” she said.
“Jobs will not increase, and yet a second ferry option will increase the full-time employment”.
Cr Noli concluded,“I have been telling you what the results would be right from the beginning, why did I know it was going to be like this? Well unsurprisingly, for the last four years, I have been listening to the whole cross-section of the Shire”.
Cr Scomazzon was the final Councillor to speak, opening with “I am confused how this has gone ahead, I was under the understanding that the Report was to come back to the meeting for further discussion…it also states this in the public Report…all the information was going to come back to be discussed”.
Cr Scomazzon was referring to how the Mayor has changed documented and public information to the process that was supposed to be followed.
The Mayoral Minute that was used to initiate this $59, 000 consult states that Council,
“Brings the results of the community consultation back to an Ordinary Council Meeting for further discussion and resolution.”
Additionally, Council ratified (by vote) at the Ordinary Council Meeting held 25 August, 2020, in the Daintree River Crossing Round Two Public Consultation Plan, that
“Councillors will make the final decision on the Daintree River Crossing, but will do so only after taking into consideration all the community’s concerns and aspirations gathered during the consultation process.
A report on the consultation findings will be prepared providing a summary of all feedback received. As was done with the first round, the report will not offer opinion on any comments or viewpoints, with the exception of providing context where required.
As was done with the first round of engagement, all comments in their entirety, (de-identified) and submissions in full, will be included in the Appendix. Where organisations are happy for submissions to be published under their organisation’s banner, this will be done.
The report to Council will be a presentation of the findings, and will not include any recommendation from Council officers.
To be fully transparent, the report on consultation findings will be released publicly ahead of the Council meeting.”
“Myself and Cr Mckeown have not been brought up to speed on anything to do with the contract and as such I feel blinded and I have to make a decision without having the full facts on the implications for this Shire”.
Cr Scomazzon closed, requesting all contract versions, past, present, and future, be given to Councillors so they may make the best decisions going forward.