$100 million marina development gets pre-approval, council still not happy

$100 million marina renewal development gets pre-approval, council still not happy

Published Wednesday 18 May 2016

Everything on the surface looks fine.

The leading news coming from the Douglas Shire Council and The Reef Marina yesterday was the $100 million waterfront expansion has been given preliminary approval following a council meeting in Mossman.

The Shire’s own press release was headlined ‘Marina redevelopment granted preliminary approval’, while the marina sang from the same hymn book and praised council’s decision to unanimously support their development master plan.

“We are thrilled that the council has chosen to vote for jobs, investment and regional prosperity,” Andrew Hooper-Nguyen, Managing Director of The Reef Marina, said in a statement following the council meeting.

“Our waterfront renewal project will be a huge win for Port Douglas. It will help arrest a long-term decline in local and regional investment, and boost jobs and business confidence.

"We will now commence detailed architectural design and submit a Development Approval application for council consideration.”

However, what’s obvious is the two camps remain at odds over the key piece of land at the current slipway, and nothing of substance will be done until it’s sorted out.

The slipway has been closed since March for not meeting its environmental obligations and both the marina and council continue to butt heads over what its future looks like.

“While council believes there is the potential for the Port Douglas marina to be redeveloped to become a world-class facility, the retention of our commercial fishing industry and the provision of a working slipway are essential and should not be sacrificed for the sake of a commercial development,” Mayor Julia Leu said in a statement yesterday.

She said council was ‘unlikely’ to grant a development permit if issues surrounding the location and operation of a commercial fishing fleet and the slipway could not be resolved to the council's liking.

“On plans currently put forward to council by The Reef Marina, the future redevelopment of the site will diminish the presence of the primary functions of the port’s marine and fishing activities and remove the industrial and commercial land uses associated with the marine industry,” Mayor Leu said.

“Furthermore, the current application does not involve any proposal to relocate the commercial fishermen to an alternative site and the applicant contends that the slipway, which is currently closed, is unviable and does not propose to continue this land use activity.

“If both of these issues are not dealt with to the satisfaction of council, which currently they are not, then council is unlikely to issue a development permit.”

So what to do with the slipway?

The marina’s development plan involves building a world-class public plaza on the current slipway site with views across Dickson Inlet, and refurbishing the Duck Pond to host numerous fishing trawlers.

A Port Douglas Waterfront Masterplan developed in 2009, which sought community and stakeholder engagement, promoted major slipway operations be gradually moved from its current location at the Duck Pond to a site further south near the Marano lease area, and for light use to remain at the current site.

If this is even a viable option, or ever was, remains unclear.

"Does Port Douglas want heavy industry in the tourism centre? Or does it want high-quality public amenity such as a public waterfront plaza and arbour park?” said Hooper-Nguyen.

In any case, it's clear plenty more needs to be done beneath the surface before an anticipated waterfront transformation begins.