The Reef Marina questions Councilâ€™s compulsory acquisition threat
Published Monday 1 February 2016
Following the lodgement of the waterfront masterplan development application with Council on 20th January, The Reef Marina (TRM) has announced their proposed development of a new ‘Seafood and Fishing Precinct’ and fishing berths.
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To safeguard the future of the Port Douglas Fishing industry and to preserve it’s growth, TRM proposes the construction of a dedicated trawler berthed facility to develop a ‘Seafood and Fishing Precinct’ which will see the sale of fresh and cooked seafood to locals and visitors within the precinct.
After extensive consultation with the commercial fishing industry as well as other stakeholders, TRM presented various alternatives in order to accommodate the trawler customers. These were; remain in the current location on Dickson Inlet; relocate to the Duck Pond adjacent to the proposed Public Plaza; or relocate to the southern end of the marina basin and partner in the development of a new ‘Seafood and Fishing Precinct’.
Under the proposal, the marina will construct a dedicated trawler berthing facility which will be leased to the fishermen on a long-term lease basis. The fishing industry will seek to procure the adjacent land (Lot 96) from which to sell fresh and cooked seafood and to support trawler operations. This land is currently controlled by Council.
TRM stated that representatives of the fishing industry, at a meeting in November last year, unanimously resolved that the Seafood and Fishing Precinct would be in the industry’s best interest.
To progress the Precinct, the marina stands ready and willing to construct the trawler berthing facility and to lease it long-term to the fishing industry on favourable commercial terms. This commitment is independent of the waterfront renewal project and will also be the catalyst for TRM’s important Stage 2 expansion.
TRM stated they were delighted that, having previously rejected a similar proposal last year (see Douglas Shire Council Ordinary Meeting 20 January 2015 ), the Douglas Shire Council has now thrown its support behind the Seafood and Fishing Precinct, adding that the Council has a vital role to play in securing the land for the fishing industry.
In a media statement issued by Council last Friday 29th January, Council stated it had endorsed a proposal to ensure the security of the commercial fishing industry.
Council’s proposal was unanimously supported in last Thursday’s Ordinary Council Meeting where Council tabled the Port Douglas Reef Marina Status Report.
Council stated the purpose of the report is to advise all stakeholders and the community of the actions being undertaken by Council through the Mayor, to achieve a workable and practical alternative location in Port Douglas for the fishing industry. However the report does not comment on planning matters properly considered as part of the pre-lodgement enquiry.
The proposal provides an opportunity for Council to resolve tenure issues through the purchase of freehold waterfront land and securing essential waterfront access for land and water-based commercial fishing operations.
However, Council also resolved to progress discussions with TRM over relinquishing part of its lease to locate the fishing berths and provide water access and reaffirmed its continued support for the Minster for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham’s direction that an alternative location for the fishermen be found “and made operational”.
Council stated that the proposal removes any perceived obstacles related to the relocation of the fishermen and provides an opportunity for TRM to move forward with other aspects of its development.
Council's media statement advised that Mayor Julia Leu and Council staff met with TRM in November last year “without prejudice” and proposed the solution outlined above as a way of settling the need to secure a suitable site for fisherman, which they stated was rejected outright by TRM.
Mayor Julia Leu said that in the event discussions with TRM over a request to relinquish a portion of its lease to locate the fishing berths fail, a report will be prepared for Council recommending the compulsory acquisition of the required area.
“It is a State Government requirement of TRM to demonstrate that any development of the marina does not diminish the viability of the marine-based industrial uses before it is granted freehold of the land and tenure extended for the Marina,” Mayor Leu said.
“With regard to the construction of the fishing berths, TRM was always to be responsible for the delivery of marine infrastructure to service the tourism, fishing and private boating community.
“The provision of the berths is part of the solution, and an approach that accords with the Minister’s direction that an alternative location for the fishermen be found and made operational.”
Mayor Leu said while redevelopment of the marina is an initiative that Council readily supports, she is concerned about the failure to arrive at a consensus regarding the relocation of the commercial fishing fleet.
With such a huge investment made in purchasing the marina basin and improving it, TRM stated that it is regrettable that Council now proposes the marina pay to construct the trawler berthing facility and then give it, together with the surrounding marina basin, at no cost to the Council and or the fishing industry.
The Reef Marina stated that this was not a reasonable proposal. TRM stated that, notwithstanding the importance of the fishing industry, it is not the Council’s role to use ratepayers’ money to subsidise private fishing businesses; nor to compel the marina to subsidise private fishing businesses.
Moving forward, TRM stated a commitment to the preservation and growth of the fishing industry and believes a privately funded and commercially viable Seafood and Fishing Precinct is the best way to achieve this important goal. Until this is realised, TRM stated that the marina’s trawler customers are invited to remain within the existing marina berthing facilities.