An Ordinary Meeting of the Douglas Shire Council was held this morning Tuesday, 23 February 2021.
ALL Councillors were in attendance, and discussed a wide range of current local issues, as reported in our Agenda Summary on Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at today’s meeting, and the important outcomes for Douglas Shire residents and ratepayers.
Infrastructure Charges for Daintree Development
The recommendation that Council resolves to adopt the proposed Douglas Shire Council Infrastructure Charges Resolution (No.2) 2021 did not pass through Council.
Cr Abigail Noli expressed concern with the provision for development north of the Daintree River to be free of infrastructure charges. She suggested that imposing a blanket policy of no charges for any development north of the river was not fair and equitable, in that it amounted to a loss of revenue that is a burden for the rest of the ratepayers in the Shire. Cr Noli suggested that it would be more appropriate for Council to consider each circumstance on an individual case-by-case basis.
In response, Council staff proposed that it was on those same principles of fairness and equity that they had decided not to levy the infrastructure charge. This is because they were considering the limited services and facilities offered in the area (as well as helping provide incentives for development).
Cr Lisa Scomazzon empathised with Cr Noli’s view.
Cr Noli insisted that developers north of the river should pay charges in the same way as anybody else in the Shire. She moved to amend the motion; to remove the exclusion of Daintree developments from the infrastructure levy.
That motion was not seconded by any Councillor.
Cr Roy Zammataro stepped in to suggest Council needed to further investigate Cr Noli’s suggestion; to consider each development in the Daintree on its individual merits.
Council agreed unanimously to remove the provision for development north of the Daintree River to be free of infrastructure charges.
Support for Gran Fondo Cycling Festival
The topic of a cycling event that will inject millions of dollars into the local economy but also requires road closures of the Captain Cook Highway attracted the liveliest discussion and debate today.
Cr Noli moved the motion that Council resolves to provide a letter of support to Connect Sport Australia to accompany their funding application for the Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival to regional and state tourism bodies. Cr Zammataro seconded the motion.
Cr Noli expressed her absolute support for the event but questioned whether Council should take one step further towards helping host company, Connect Sport Australia, secure the event.
Is a letter of support sufficient? Is there more the Council could do to help secure the event?
Cr Noli noted that the Council has been funding events quite generously and welcomed a conversation about whether Council should help fund the event. This opened the floor to Cr Michael Kerr, who was “really torn” about the benefits and costs of the proposed event. He acknowledged the worthy economic benefit of the event but stated that a decision ought not be made on the basis of financial gain only. There are also concerns with:
- conflicting football finals at the Sporting Complex
- community animosity about road closures
- access for domestic arrival and departure flights
- emergency service access, and
- other disadvantage to business and residents who are not involved in the event
Cr Kerr expressed his preference for the community to have more time to consider the implications of hosting the event, “the community needs to be taken on a journey with this event”.
In conclusion, Cr Kerr acknowledged that there were restrictive time constraints for Connect Sport Australia’s application for funding that prevent the opportunity to get more community feedback.
His suggestion is that Council provides in-principle support for the event, but that if the application for funding is successful, a finalised scope of the event comes back to Council for approval. This would give time to sort out other issues of concern and to facilitate community consultation.
Cr McKeown seconded the amended motion.
Cr Noli spoke against the amendment, highlighting the impracticality to Connect Sport Australia of receiving funding, and then coming back to Douglas Shire Council who could potentially reject the event. Cr Kerr has no comment to make in response.
Cr Scomazzon stepped in with another issue; asking what would happen to the approved funding for the event if Douglas Shire Council did step in and deny the event?
Cr Kerr reiterated his preference to defer the decision.
Crs Kerr and McKeown were the only Councillors to vote for the deferment of decision.
Again, the original motion stands.
Cr Scomazzon stepped in, emphasising her frustration with a lack of information upon which to make decisions,
Douglas Shire Council Deputy Mayor and Councillor, Lisa Scomazzon
We’re making another decision on the hop again, without getting all the information, it keeps happening over, and over again.
Council employee, Lisa Golding, joined the discussion, expressing the enthusiasm and support of organisations such as Cycle Australia and TTNQ for the event. She assured that the date for the event had been carefully chosen, during the week before national school holidays. This date provides a great window of opportunity for extended stays for visitors. Ms Golding also provided an assurance that the Port Douglas Sporting Complex would not be used if it meant displacing an AFL Final.
Cr Noli affirmed, in summary, that it can be possible to get a fair, equitable, and happy outcome for all parties involved.
Cr McKeown is fully supportive of the event. He took the opportunity to express clear dislike for the Cairns Airport Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship which requires a full day road closure of the Captain Cook Highway, “an absolute disaster to this Shire”. He perceives the overall benefit of Gran Forno, however, to outweigh the loss.
Cr Zammataro also fully supports the event; after a poor economic year, any opportunity to inject $3.8 million into local economy needs to be supported. He agreed that the rolling road closure strategy seemed reasonable.
The motion to support the funding application was carried unanimously.
Learn more about the event here
Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program
Council resolved to endorse the following projects and funds under the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program:
- Macrossan and Owen Street Intersection Upgrade $140,000.00
- Beach Access upgrades to Four Mile Beach $170,000
- Mossman Pool Shade Sails $90,000.00
- Pop up Engagement container/trailer $80,000.00
- Bump Track Access parking $27,981.00
There was some hesitation from Crs Scomazzon and Noli regarding the necessity for a pop-up engagement container/ trailer. Cr Scomazzon sought clarification as to what that actually entailed. Council staff advised this was a trailer or container conversion that could be used to:
- “activate space”
- engage and consult with the community
- hire out to social enterprise and not-for-profit organisations
Cr Noli stepped into support Cr Scomazzon, questioning whether there are other more pressing needs in the Shire. However, according to Council staff, the concept is “shovel ready” for funding and the motion was carried unanimously.
Contract for the Donovan Range Pavement upgrade
The recommendation is that Council resolves to award the contract for the Donovan Range Pavement Upgrade to Geo Construct Pty Ltd for $2,617,323.85.
The motion was not moved by any Councillor.
Cr Zammataro proposed an amendment, that the contract be awarded to Mossman-based MC Group QLD Pty Ltd. Further to discussions at the previous Council meeting, Cr Zammataro reiterated the importance of money and jobs staying in the Shire. He states that it is an overarching principle of the Council to support, protect and stimulate the local economy; Council’s motto is “Do it in Douglas. Not don’t do it in Douglas.”
The motion was amended accordingly. Cr Scomazzon wholeheartedly agreed with keeping money in the Shire, as did Cr McKeown and Cr Noli.
Cr Kerr summarised how in this particular circumstance, the economic benefit to the community outweighs some of the risks involved in supporting an alternative recommendation to the professional evaluation of the preferred tenderer’s criteria. He stated that he was happy to support the decision.
The new motion was carried unanimously.
Rates Incentive for Conservation Policy
The recommendation is that Council adopts the Rates Incentive for Conservation Policy.
Council offers a rates incentive for conservation as outlined in their Revenue Statement.
The policy establishes the process for affording rates incentives to landholders that enter into a Conservation Agreement for a Nature Refuge.
Cr Scomazzon was the only Councillor not to agree with the motion, which passed.
Other recommendations carried unanimously:
- that Council endorses the 2020 revised version of the Drinking Water Quality Management Plan
- that Council adopts the Rates Rebate for Daintree River Huts Policy
- that Council notes the Financial Report for the period ended 31 January 2021
- that Council adopts the Rates Rebate – Not for Profit Entities Policy
- that Council received and noted the progress of the Capital Works Program to 31 December 2020 for the 2020/21 financial year
- that Council endorses applications to Building Better Regions Fund for:· Mossman Shire Hall electrical, mechanical and building upgrades, including air conditioning, Marrs Creek Cycle & Pedestrian Bridge and shared path to Mossman Gorge Centre, Cooya Beach Reservoir Connection 2
Confidential items include the Land Purchase for part of Lot 5 on RP 716977 and a discussion of Local Government Regulation 2012-Rates Modelling Review.
The next Ordinary Meeting of Douglas Shire Council is scheduled for Tuesday 30 March, 2021.