OPINION / Part 2 Breaking Down the Douglas Shire Council’s Draft Economic Development Plan


Following on from yesterday’s article, we continue to break down the supporting priorities to perhaps offer a glimpse of the deeper thinking behind the DSDEDS.

Key issues to address:

  • One billion litres of water
  • Actioning plans from the previous EDS
  • Building our Indigenous Tourism and Employment opportunities
  • Arts, culture and the environment
  • The big questions

1. Provide infrastructure that connects people, enhances liveability and supports business

Much has been discussed and argued over the years about water security. The big take away from the DSDEDS is the commitment to “progress a feasibility study for long-term water storage options with a capacity of at least one billion litres (1GL)” (DSDDES, 2020).

Those who require a quick comparison – that’s 400 Olympic sized swimming pools – about the equivalent of a small lake. (New South Wales Irrigators Council).

That’s a lot of water.

How many people are you looking to provide that amount of water for – more importantly, where on earth in the Shire are you going to build it, or dam it?

The additional ten “What we’ll do” dot points beg the simple questions –

  • How are you going to do it?
  • Who will pay for it?
  • Where are the action plans associated with them?
  • And what are the short, medium and long term goals?

2. Develop an innovative culture across business and the community

At this point, regurgitating the questions of how, how much and when are getting old, and the five major projects listed are already well into development, supported by Council in name and in some cases, grant funding.

Choosing to live and work in the Far North, we are already an innovative bunch; however, streamlining process and actively supporting business is always a high priority, and recognising this need is applauded. 

The incubator hub and offshoot services is nothing new – it was a priority in the previous Economic Development Strategy, so perhaps we need to get on with that one. However, reading between the lines suggests there is again, no clear time frame or concrete outcomes.

3.Build direct links between our indigenous community and the economy

The Mossman Gorge Centre offers “a more engaging, immersive experience for visitors to the Mossman Gorge World Heritage site” (Mossman Gorge Centre). In conjunction with the William Angliss Institute, the Indigenous Training Centre provides accommodation and accredited training opportunities for indigenous students. The multi-award-winning centre showcases local indigenous art in the gallery, offers interpretive tours, actively protects and conserves the surrounding environment through innovative water supply, conservation, waste management practices and energy use.

The DSDEDS does not recognise this.

Instead, it advocates a feasibility study into establishing a First Nations Cultural Centre mirroring Mossman Gorge’s work – particularly in the fields of art and training. 

Increasing the opportunities to connect the regions indigenous culture and expand on training and employment opportunities is an absolute regional priority. However, one must ask why our current, world-class offering seemingly appears to be overlooked when the culture of using our existing resources innovatively is being spruiked.

Overarchingly, again, where are the timelines, and long term goals associated with this priority located?

4 . Ensure environmental and social links to the economy are strengthened and maintained

While it is heartwarming to read “Council is deeply committed to the notion that we must confront the environmental challenges that we face to ensure that future generations can benefit from and enjoy the World as we do today” (DSDES, 2020) there is no mention of a strategic action plan regarding either the management or conservation of the Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rainforest.

Nor is there reference to drawing on the expertise of, or engaging with, conservation groups, community groups or expert agencies.

Missing in action is also an update to the DSC Climate Change (Council Operations) General Policy which is pushing over three years old.

The DSDEDS does note, “Through proactive strategies and strong partnerships, this Strategy aims to stimulate private sector investment, while advocating for the environment and increasing the liveability of the Shire” (DDSEDS, 2020).

Again, what are these proactive strategies, how will they be implemented, where is the supporting documentation, timelines, costings and goals, and who are these strong partnerships with?

More positively, the commitment to promoting local artists, organisations, public art displays, and historical places in the Shire and a commitment to using local artists and craftsmen will encourage our region’s incredible talent to make their mark on our public spaces.

5. Reduce ‘red tape’ and improve business support

Aside from working more proactively with the film industry, which was a part of the previous EDS, nothing has not already begun or been considered previously.

Ultimately, while there are a limited number of new ideas, the Draft Economic Development Strategy left us with more questions than answers – primarily:

  • How are you going to achieve it?
  • What are the environmental, social and construction costs and who pays for them?
  • What are the timelines?
  • Who are the strategic partners and stakeholders?
  • Where are the detailed studies regarding infrastructure projects?
  • What were the outcomes of the Economic Strategic Review Committee?
  • What are the short, medium and long term goals of the strategy?
  • What level of population are you seeking to achieve?
  • How will the Captain Cook Highway, water infrastructure and supply cope with increased population?
  • What are the strategies surrounding agricultural land preservation, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest?
  • Is there an updated Climate Policy to underpin the EDS?
  • How do you attract service providers?

Hopefully, our Councillors will raise these important questions before being required to vote to adopt the Strategy.

At the end of the day, how can one make such an important decision for our future if they are not armed with adequate decision-making information and research?

Some of our best stories come from our readers. Tell us what’s happening in your life or community, or send in a Letter to the Editor to express your view.