Councillor candidate Johnson says tourism background key factor


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Natalie Johnson is the latest candidate to throw her hat in the ring. Image: supplied.

Local tourism identity, Natalie Johnson, today added her name to the now extended list of candidates for one of the four Councillor spots in the Douglas Shire Council elections on March 28, 2020.

She announced her candidacy under the three community pillars of: business, tourism and family.

She joins current Councillor Roy Zammattaro, former Councillor Bruce Clarke, Tin Shed general manager Kym Rowley, and small business owner Lisa Scomazzon, who also announced her candidacy earlier today. 

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Of the other current councillors, Abigail Noli is expected to seek re-election, while David Carey has not indicated either way.

After living in the Shire for almost two decades and working in high-level senior management positions in tourism – one of the two largest industries in the region – she believes she is well positioned to offer a fresh, business and tourism focused voice as a Councillor.

“Listening is key: together with engagement – two skills I have used daily for 20 years and I feel is something the community really wants more of. I believe there are some ways the Council can further engage through the option of perhaps a mobile council and meeting time rotations. 

“And I am excited about the opportunity to bring to the table extensive and successful tourism and business experience, passion and independent thinking,” said Ms Johnson.

“Given the Shire’s reliance on tourism, I believe it is important to have an experienced tourism sector councillor. The Shire’s recent, world-first eco-tourism destination certification is incredibly exciting and Council can work with industry to capitalise on this.

“There are fantastic opportunities in the entire region to further our tourism offering including the expansion of agri-tourism, the botanic gardens and in particular, indigenous tourism, which in our destination is already well ahead of others in terms of the number of ways tourists can engage with indigenous culture, and the exceptional quality of these engagements,” she said.

Ms Johnson’s community service work includes six years as a Director on the Board of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree and seven years as Chair of Business Events Port Douglas.

She has also spent time as a committee member with the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Douglas Theatre Arts Group (The Clink) and the Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centre.

Her passion for supporting survivors of domestic violence led to her organising a biannual fundraising lunch collecting much-needed items for the women of Ruth’s Shelter.

She says her financial and business acumen is a strong asset to bring to the council table.

“There has been a lot of discussion around development in the Shire of which I feel I can bring a balanced view to when considering economic, environmental and social outcomes.

“I’m not shy about development; however, it needs to be considered in line with the global issue of water security and local infrastructure capacity,” she said. 

Ms Johnson said the water security issue is not unique to the Douglas Shire and says we need to expand on water security education and storage, albeit community storage upgrades and increased grey water usage or working with individual households to encourage home storage tanks.

Another focus is family facilities and support within the region. “My daughters attended St. Augustine’s School in Mossman where I served two years as a Director on the Board and assisted the fundraising committee for eight, ensuring the school continued to enjoy the advantages of updated technology, modern classrooms and play facilities.

“As a mother, my children benefited from many of the Shire’s community programs and activities including playgroups, kinder gym, dance and drama, theatre, music, rhyme time and netball – all of which are essential for a strong community.”

She said as part of her family focus, she is keen to see asset upgrades to the Shire’s parks and the option of a children’s water play facility.

Ms Johnson was most recently the long-standing General Manager of Flames of the Forest and the Beach Shack Restaurant and Bar. She has worked extensively with government tourism agencies including Tourism Australia, Tourism and Events Queensland and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council to strengthen support for the growth of indigenous tourism and the importance of the protection of Australia’s two greatest natural assets - the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

A confident and engaging public speaker in business forums, she has worked closely with tourism organisations to shape the strategic direction of the tourism industry within the region.

She is passionate about creating an open, thriving, sustainable community of which every resident can enjoy and be a part of, while supporting the growth of tourism, small business, economic development and diversity, families, our retired community and ensuring water security.

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