Billy Gordon questions legitimacy of Paws and Claws snub


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STICKING TOGETHER: (L-R) Member for Cook Billy Gordon, Paws and Claws President and Douglas Shire Councillor Michael Kerr, and Mayor Julia Leu lead the community march in Port Douglas recently. IMAGE: Facebook.

MEMBER for Cook Billy Gordon has questioned the Department of Natural Resources and Mines for its lack of transparency after it rejected a proposed Paws and Claws animal shelter at Yule Point.

Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu flew to Brisbane last week to express her disgust at the decision to senior officials and she has a strong ally in Gordon.

Council has already submitted a number of Right To Information (RTI) requests to the State Government but is yet to receive a single response. It has prompted a meeting between the Department and senior Council staff be brought forward to Friday as they desperately seek a solution to the issue.

“I am aware that DNRM…has apparently refused Mayor Julia Leu’s request for the evidence/data/information that can back-up and explain its assessment and how it reached its decision,” Gordon said in a letter to the Minister for State Development and Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lytham.

“I am concerned that the advice provided by the Department to you may not be entirely accurate and objective.

“I urge you to investigate this matter and to allow all interested parties more time to make their case.”

Council has requested an extension to the December 20 deadline to respond to advice rejecting the proposed location for a new animal shelter.

Mayor Leu said Council would continue to argue the Yule Point location is the ‘only’ potential site for the community facility, and denied the Department’s assessment about its importance to cassowaries.

“I met with senior representatives from the Minister’s office last week… our staff continue to have discussions with various State Government department officers as this decision fails the common sense test and has the potential to significantly impact not just our communities, but the cassowaries it is meant to protect,” Leu said.

“Council has consulted with our local residents, we’ve asked environmental groups, we’ve asked the State Government departments themselves to show us evidence this location is a high value cassowary habitat and we’ve been unable to find anyone who can even tell us they’ve ever seen a cassowary at Yule Point.

“As we have stated all along, if this is the reason for not allowing an essential community facility, when we have exhausted all other avenues to find an alternative suitable location, then I find it hard to believe how any development can occur in Far North Queensland.”

Leu said the Department and a senior policy advisor suggested the Killaloe Transfer Station was another potential location. She dismissed the claim out of hand, saying the site and a number of others are unsuitable for an animal shelter.

Without the Yule Point facility, Leu said abandoned animals would be ‘dumped and left to roam freely’ across the Shire, potentially killing cassowaries.

“It is disappointing the State Government has not provided Council with the evidence it has based its preliminary decision on, as we cannot properly respond to this decision without this information, hence our RTI submissions,” she said.

“It is no coincidence that Douglas Shire Council has only a few weeks ago been awarded the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Cassowary Award for services to the environment, I myself was the 2016 World Cassowary Day Ambassador and there is no Council in Australia that does more to preserve and enhance cassowary habitats than ours.

“We’re calling on the State Government to show some common sense and leadership on this issue but unfortunately we are yet to achieve the desired outcome.”