Business case route questioned for proposed lagoon


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Local businessman, Mike D’Arcy, of D'Arcy of Daintree 4WD Tours has raised some questions regarding the proposed lagoon. Image: supplied.

A concerned Douglas Shire ratepayer says although a water recreation feature is badly needed, Council should re-work and downsize the concept before going down the path of the business case.

Mike D’Arcy, of D'Arcy of Daintree 4WD Tours, said it seems highly unlikely that the proposed lagoon concept, in its present form, would meet State Government capital funding requirements and for this reason the path of the business case should be re-visited.

- Still early days as lagoon concept presented to community
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“Council has applied for a State grant of $300,000 for a business case designed to fully analyse costs and benefits, and based largely around additional tourist visitation benefits.

“If granted, it is taxpayer money, but would also involve considerable Council staff resources to support its analysis,” said Mr D’Arcy.

In their response, Douglas Shire Council said in October this year, it lodged an application for a State Government grant to complete the business case.

“The outcome of that application will be known in January 2020,” it said in a statement to Newsport.

It added: “More than 130 people attended the various community engagement sessions held with landscape designer Phillip Johnson and Douglas Shire Council staff last week.

“Council has since published a list of Frequently Asked Questions on the lagoon project page and is inviting further comments/questions about the project there.”

Mr D’Arcy also expressed a number of concerns about the proposed lagoon with its initial development plans around the Surf Life Saving Club.

“The Johnson concept is free to the public and uses no chemicals. But does it have the WOW factor?

“The waterfall, rocks and natural elements are exciting, but the lagoon looks inwards and the view to Four Mile Beach is a window, compared with the panorama of the original 2013 Wharf waterfront precinct infinity pool concept. This different location and concept will have a major negative on the project’s viability,” he said.

Mr D'Arcy, who has considerable experience in national programs including funding sport and recreational facilities, said a major concern is the likely operational and maintenance costs.

“The tropical conditions, waterfalls, rock and natural shapes are all appealing features; yet they pose a level of risk with abnormally high staff (eg lifeguards, security), water treatment and insurance costs. These could easily add up to over $1million per year.”

Mr D’Arcy views this as a pioneering proposal, and says there’s no easy comparison with previous projects. 

“At a possible capital cost of $15-20 million, DSC would be required to find at least a few million dollars to add to the State and Federal funding in addition to annual operational costs of $1 million or more,” he said.

He uses the Yeppoon Lagoon, which falls under the Livingstone Shire Council, as an example when it comes to cost.

The Yeppoon Lagoon is the jewel in the crown of the Yeppoon foreshore precinct. The 2500 square-metre resort style lagoon pool is located right on the beach front and includes a shallow children’s play area, an informal lap swimming area and a swim-up infinity edge with stunning views over the Keppel Islands.

“The Yeppoon Lagoon opened in 2018 at a cost of $18 million, which was part of a $53 million precinct development. Funding was shared as follows: Council: $14 million; State Government: $29 million; Federal Government: $10 million.

“How much could our shire contribute to the Port Douglas Lagoon? Livingstone Shire has three times the DSC Budget ($135 m vs $45 million) and three times the population of Douglas (37,000 vs 11,000).

Livingstone’s rates income is $73 million, compared to $35 million.

“We pay rates of around $3,000 per capita, compared with $2,000 for Livingstone, so any further increase in rates will be unpalatable to the community.”

Mr D’Arcy says Livingstone Council borrowed $80 million; whereas our latest 2019/20 budget shows zero borrowing. He questions how much should we go into debt? 

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