Port Douglas DNA under threat

Thursday 22 March 2012

Port Douglas DNA under threat

Architect and long time local Gary Hunt sent this letter through to The Newsport for publication to open the debate about what he  sees is a very disturbing issue -  “Port Douglas – and the rest of the old Shire is reaching a crisis point where it’s very DNA is under threat”.

His full unedited letter reads as follows –

The essence of what makes this part of the world unique is being drastically stripped away by a small number of Council officers numb to the values that this community holds dear.

There is a major disconnect between elected representatives and the bureaucracy responsible for our part of the world.

The CEO, local Council Manager and a few other staff continue to condone the destructive vandalism of the coconut trees on Four Mile Beach in the name of “revegetation” and “community has already been consulted”.

What absolute rubbish.  And destruction totally in contravention of local planning policy.

This same executive also oversaw the debacle on Front Street Mossman.

And arguably one of the most appalling examples of urban design imaginable being the “revamped” Esplanade in Port Douglas.  A dysfunctional, ugly monument to a complete misunderstanding of the laid-back Douglas lifestyle.

Also they presided over the ugliness of a bright fence snaking its way up the headland on Island Point visible from miles out to sea in complete contravention of the visual amenity drivers in our still current Town Plan.

We have witnessed the manipulation of the so-called “community consultation” process resulting in a lagoon a tenth the size of the Sheraton pool set in an ugly urban spiders web of paths wedged between a church, licensed premises and what will become the busy entry road into the village.

How absurd.

I challenge the Council to close off the carpark area where the “ puddle “ is being built to see what impact it will have on the Sunday markets.

I am sure they won’t because the backlash would be deafening.

What can we do about this chasm between local values and fortunately just some isolated parts of the Council ?

When the amalgamation occurred I took the view it was better to work with the Council rather than fight it.  Work from within to ensure the best outcome for Douglas.

It has cost me thousands of dollars in lost income being on Council Boards and even Cairns-centric committees but I have now come to the realisation that under the current regime Port Douglas will just become another suburb of Cairns at great expense to ALL ratepayers. The homogenisation of what was once a unique and sometimes delightfully flawed place that fed the soul.

Interestingly – as a side bar comment – our local architectural, master planning and interior design practice has not received one cent in professional fees from this Council.  But they have spent a small fortune on consultancy fees from southern “experts” in our backyard.  This is not a whinge but emblematic of an attitude.

An attitude that I hear from so many other local providers commentating that they cannot get a foot in the door with this Council.

The case for de-amalgamation has become more potent as anger in the community grows.  The coconut tree debacle is the straw that broke the elephant’s back.

As a ratepayer could the CEO please answer the following questions?

1.      How much is Council charging the Douglas Division for travel costs, staff charges and equipment movements from Cairns to the ex Douglas Shire?

2.      How much has Council been charged for consultant fees for projects in our Shire?

3.      Can you provide a full breakdown on costs...internal and external.... for the Port Douglas Waterfront since amalgamation? How much did the landscape guide cost.. ..internal and external  ?

4.      Why has the Waterfront Management Committee in Port Douglas not had a meeting since August last year yet Council decisions continue to be made on outcomes on the waterfront?

5.      When is the Council going to apply for a replacement of the coconut trees that they removed without wide community consultation and in contravention of the Council’s own planning policy? ( We need local community input on the reconstitution of this area now that it has been irrevocably damaged....driven by locals and not the vandals )

I suspect that these requests are futile and a reply – if any – will just be the usual spin and avoidance. Talk instead to local Council staff from the old Shire that have witnessed the relocation of heavy machinery to Cairns and the expense of bringing it back up when a job needs to be done...as just one example.  Their frustration is palpable.

My personal opinion is that we need a new Council executive that can connect with the community rather than dictate to it with the arrogance that has been the hallmark to date.

Or watch the inevitability of de-amalgamation.

Gary Hunt

Ex member Iconic Panel Douglas Shire and Port Douglas Waterfront Management Committee 


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