DouglasNews.Network caught up with Douglas Shire Councillors after last week’s fiery Council meeting to clarify outcomes regarding the aquatic precinct, the media relation policy, and the future of the Daintree ferry operators.
Mayor Does Not Support Splash Park for Port Douglas
“In November 2021 I moved a motion to gain clarity on two concepts. Where does the Douglas Shire want the splash park situated in Port Douglas and does the shire want a free form, lagoon style pool or a 50m rectangular lap pool? This was necessary because my close relationship with the community was informing me that Cr Kerr was incorrect with his unilateral insistence for Reynolds Park and a 50m pool.”
Cr Noli submitted a motion to gain accuracy before a potentially clamorous mistake of no return occurred. At that meeting she stated that she would work to deliver whatever the community wanted.
“My motion was passed, and Cr Kerr objected to my questioning of his autocracy. He published misleading information that blatantly said I had now destroyed any chance of Port Douglas getting a splash park and/or pool, unfortunately, some people believed this.”
Cr Noli explained that community engagement occurred between January and March 2023.
The purpose of that community engagement was to:
∙ Capture the views of a wide range of the community.
∙ Generate statistically verifiable data from the community on their preferred location.
∙ Measure the level of support for a public swimming facility in Port Douglas, either a 50m lap pool or lagoon, on the basis the community understands the ongoing operational costs and the potential impact on their rates and/or reduction in service in other areas.
∙ Measure the level of support for whether an additional, future, public swimming facility needed to be co-located with the splash park.
The key survey findings were:
The consultation process yielded an exceptional response, with statistically verifiable data of the community’s preferences.
The survey attracted 1,239 responses including 834 people living across Douglas Shire.
- Jalunbu Park preferred by 541 people [44%] versus Reynolds Park preferred by 298 people [24%]
- Almost two thirds of respondents, 61%, prefer a free form lagoon over a 50-metre lap pool which is preferred by just 15% of the population.
The data and recommendations to advance were collated by staff and brought back to Councillors for a vote to continue.
The four recommendations were that Council:
1) Notes the results of the community engagement regarding the preferred location of a splash park and level of support for a public swimming facility in Port Douglas as per the attached report,
2) Notes that public feedback confirms Jalunbu Park as the preferred location for a splash park,
3) Seeks tenders for the design and then construction of a splash park in Jalunbu Park, and
4) Investigates options for a co-located swimming facility to attract future funding.
“The voice of the community had spoken and it didn’t agree with Cr Kerr. At the meeting Cr Kerr tried to skuttle the recommendation citing that he knew better than both the CEO and Manager of Governance, and that the recommendation couldn’t proceed because of a technicality. He then tried to offer an amendment to the recommendation that was out of scope to what the consultation results produced. After establishing that he in fact was wrong, the Council voted to pass the recommendation 4-1 in favour. Cr Kerr voted against because he argued that the community didn’t understand the information given to them during the consultation, their voice was wrong and he knew better.
“Cr Kerr tried his hardest to stop the progression of the splash park and pool in Port Douglas because he wasn’t getting it where he wanted or the shape he wanted. He refused to listen to consultation, what his election campaign was based on, and tried to spite the Shire because the people did not agree with him.”
“On December 1, 2021, Councillor Kerr wrote on his Facebook page that, “Unfortunately due to Cr Noli’s motion yesterday, past by Cr Zammataro and Cr Scomazzon you may never see it”, by this he meant the Splash Park.
However, Cr Kerr’s actions during the June 27 meeting of this year proved that what he was saying was you may never see “his vision”, showing total disregard for what the community prefers.
Considering the current financial situation of the Shire and the unnecessary purchases made in this term, which have resulted in ongoing costs for ratepayers, it is not feasible for the Douglas Shire to invest in a second pool at this time.”
Deputy Mayor Scommazon has also provided feedback on the meeting:
“The recent survey to consult with the community for the location of a splash park and a water precinct was well received. I believe the location of the splash park at Jalunbu Park is the best spot as it is ideal for families because it is close to the beach and the surf lifesaving club.
In my personal opinion I believe that Cr Kerr should respect the outcome of the consultation and ignoring it to me shows a lack of respect for what the community is asking for.
Cr Kerr attempt to move an amendment to the Port Douglas Aquatic Precinct which was totally out of scope of the approved motion. My concerns were that had this motion succeeded there would have been considerable costs to ratepayers for a design of a master plan which included a zero-depth water park, required amenities and a designated future swimming facility at both locations which goes against the community consultation.
As I said in the meeting, many of the comments from the community clearly expressed their views – just get on with it, make it happen.
This project needs to get under way as soon as possible or the Council risks losing this much needed grant money.”
The sound of silence is deafening
Cr Noli also clarified her motion to introduce a new Media Relations Policy to Council.
In June 2022 a recommendation was brought to Council to adopt a Media Relations Policy. The draft policy had been workshopped several times and despite being objected to by Councillors it was presented to the meeting in the same form.
“At that meeting before Councillors could voice their displeasure, only Cr Scomazzon had begun to speak, Cr Kerr moved to defer until the next meeting.
Should I had been given the opportunity to speak I would have explained that I am not against a policy per se but I objected to that specific policy on the following points:
- The policy denied Councillors communicating with the media if it wasn’t first okayed by Council internally.
- Council media releases never acknowledged the four other elected members, their voices, opinions and value that they were adding to the shire.
- Council social media never acknowledged other elected members when present at public, civic or council events.
- There were no boundaries as to posting or reposting social media and no boundaries as to the content.
- Councillors were discouraged in freedom of speech and opinion.”
Last week, one year later, Cr Noli offered a Notice of Motion for a Media Relations Policy. The policy presented was an edited version of that of the previous year.
“What I had was a fair and comprehensive edited version. I attempted to write a policy that aims to establish guidelines and procedures for effective communication with the media, ensuring accurate, unbiased dissemination of information while maintaining transparency and adhering to all Local government rules and regulations. “
The aims of the edited policy are defined as:
- Councillors are encouraged in freedom of speech and opinion and debate is encouraged.
Media released by council is not biased or politically skewed.
- All councillors are recognised for the efforts that they make and celebrated equally for what they and council achieve.
- Councillors must always maintain honesty and professionalism when making statements in all forms of media.
- Information released by council or councillors must be correct, accurate, comprehension and transparent.
- Dissemination of council news is widespread.
“Cr Kerr, as chair, refused ‘to accept’ the motion citing it was illegal even though it was only an edited version of what he wanted to accept last year. I have in writing from Council’s ’s Manager of Governance that he can find no rule, legislation or law saying that a chair cannot accept a properly made Notice of Motion. Never in the history of de-amalgamated Douglas has this occurred, in fact, nobody in Qld remembers something like this occurring. Cr Kerr has no qualifications backing his opinions, the proper procedure is to speak for or against a motion and then accept the majority ruling of Councillors without dissent.”
“The sound of silence is deafening from Council after the meeting, with not one media release emitted. How does Council say that the Mayor is not adhering to the democratic way and is not transparent?
How does Council say that the Mayor does not permit debate, discussion and does not honour the four other elected members?
How does Council say that the Mayor rejects the public consultation and calls the voice of the people unimportant?
How does the Council say that the Mayor voted against the splash park for Port Douglas?
Apparently, Council just remains silent.”
On the subject of the Daintree Ferry
“The ferry debacle must be concluded. Council owns a ferry that has very few years left of service, it takes a long time to build a ferry and more and more time is wasted.
Cr Kerr wants to silence Cr Zammataro’s motion for what reason? The public should demand to know what this Mayoral bungle has really cost the Shire.”
Thank you for your time Cr Noli, Cr Zammataro and Deputy Mayor Scommazon for the clarification of last week’s meeting outcomes.
Mayor Kerr declined our invitation for comment.
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