The People Have Spoken: Council urged to focus on tourism in open letter

Wednesday February 4 2015, 10:50am

The Douglas Chamber of Commerce and local economic development group Douglas Inc have written an open letter addressed to Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu and other councillors urging council to refocus on development of tourism within Douglas Shire. 

The letter, signed by Chamber president Phoebe Kitto and Douglas Inc chair Gerry Ireland, also warns council not to underestimate voters and points to the results of the recent State election as an example of what happens when governments lose touch with what the people want. 

The letter is reproduced below in its entirety:




Dear Mayor Julia and Councillors,

Given the way in which Far North Queenslanders have spoken over this last weekend, it seems timely to remind you that electorates in this decade are well informed, social media savvy, and demand action and consultative leadership from its elected government.  

Lack of direction, failure to commit to trust representations previously made to the public, or direction without engagement with the community is quite rightly punished by voters at elections.  

Our focus is Economic Development.   Douglas Shire deserves a Council that is prepared to share the leadership in terms of Regional Economic Development. Two years ago, our Team published the 2013 Douglas Shire Economic Strategy Report, which summarised the scale of our economy, and the significant 85%+ dependence on Tourism throughout the Region. Tourism represents a conservative $500+ million p.a. and will remain the core industry that will continue to drive the Douglas Shire economy. 

Immediately prior to the last election, all of you at the pre-election public meeting held in Port Douglas  nodded sagely confirming you had all thoroughly reviewed the report and its economic data and voiced your individual and collective desire to take measures to sustain economic viability in the region.   The development of an updated ’98 Tourism Strategy Plan, concentrating policy sustaining tourism and primary industry growth and embracing a re-focus on the Port Douglas Waterfront Master Plan were considered high priorities for that action.

It is timely for us and you to dispassionately review how matters have played out one year on. 

On a positive note:

The Reef Marina Development Project has been passed by Council - a real tick in the box on this

The Douglas Shire has stabilized since the de-amalgamation.

Progress is underway with the Daintree Gateway

Roads and Bridges, as you would expect are receiving attention and action

Mossman Aged Care has Council’s support

Albeit not due to any policies taken by Council, there has been an upsurge in many accommodation houses occupancy rates, although there has been a worrying downturn in economic activity in many other parts of our tourist towns.

On a negative note:

Council’s commitment to TPDD  is at the same tired levels – specifically Council committed  to fund TPDD at $420,000 p.a. for each of the next three years – the same level as they allocated in 2005,  So in “real value” terms no increase in proportion to  equivalent of around $320,000 p.a first set by Council over 10 years ago. 

There has been no effort or direction by Council to take a lead role in developing a coherent Tourism Strategy Plan or an Economic Development Plan for the period to 2020

Tourism does not rate a mention in Council’s Corporate Plan 2014 – 2019

 Council has not justified or explained how its Capital Works Budget is significantly improving key Tourism areas within the region.   Although Council may well be making informed development decisions, there is a distinct public perception amongst the electorate that it perceives Council to be at best “neutral” towards economic development, or indeed any development 

Pragmatism within Council seems to take a second fiddle to machinations and spin within Council.

Council is being perceived by the wider business community to have removed from its agenda or considerations the promotion of economic development in the engine rooms of  the Shire’s economy and in particular Port Douglas.

Economic development appears less important to Councillors than wider social commentary on matters outside the scope of local government. 

So Mayor Julia, Councillors, Abigail, David, Terry and Bruce, we encourage you to use this year to begin taking constructive steps to pursue economic activity development within the Region and to explain how those steps will encourage that activity.     

This year Council should take note that it will be scrutinised far more heavily by groups such as ours and the wider business community to assess whether its actions are implemented to drive activity rather than just stabilization of the old Shire. 

Kind Regards,
Gerry Ireland 
Chair, Douglas Inc

Kind Regards,
Phoebe Kitto

President, Douglas Chamber of Commerce