The highs and lows that dominated 2019


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The year that was: see what dominated the news in 2019.

It all began in January with monsoonal rain that caused havoc in the shire, which even resulted in cows being washed up on Wonga and other beaches in the Daintree.

The Daintree River experienced the worst flooding in 118 years and Port Douglas and Mossman were subjected to more than 100mm and 200mm of rain respectively.

The heavy rain did provide some unusual luck for an Adelaide couple who netted a cool $12,500 after hitting the Iron Bar Jackpot.

Forced to abandon their shopping plans on Macrossan Street, they sought shelter in the Iron Bar, a cold beer, an opportunity to talk to the locals and an eye on the poker machines …

This is among many of the stories that dominated the past year and in assessing some of the events that made up 2019, Newsport has gone back to the archives to re-visit what grabbed attention over the past year.  

Plans for the Crystalbrook Marina were unveiled amid much fanfare, only to be tempered when the proposed $250 million development was put on hold ‘indefinitely’ by developer and owner Ghassan Aboud pending the future of increased traffic through Cairns Airport and support from the State Government to boost tourism numbers.

There was a further setback for tourism when China Southern Airlines revealed they would be temporarily suspending direct flights between China's southern city Guangzhou and Cairns – the main airport hub of the region – citing a review of their international routes. This was compounded by Cathay Pacific pulling its flights from Cairns.

Referred to as a ‘real frontier of innovation’, Far Northern Milling (FNM) secured ownership of the Mossman Mill in July following 28 months of intense and extensive discussions involving the state and federal governments. It is expected to transition into a bio-refinery using the latest in green chemical technology.

Responding to what residents have for years been calling for, in September Douglas Shire Council announced Port Douglas will finally have a swimming lagoon to be developed in close proximity to the Surf Life Saving Club. It will be Australia’s first chemical-free public swimming hole. Although the plans have been revealed, there has been no mention of cost.  

In June, Council voted to join the Healthy Reef Partnership – a partnership with Qantas Future Planet, GreenCollar and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) – with the objective of obtaining carbon neutral status in Douglas and help reduce overall emissions. The plan involved engaging in a carbon trading scheme with the County of Rawbelle, inland from Bundaberg.

The plan, which did not have the support of Councillor Michael Kerr – the Mayor and other councillors were all in favour – was met with a backlash of criticism including a petition and in August, Council backtracked and ceased negotiations with Qantas. Instead, Council said it would focus on local green projects.

Business, too, made the news in 2019. 2Fish Restaurant, one of Port Douglas’ favourite restaurants, was forced to close its doors after a particularly tough year and after a 16-year run as a staple in the Port Douglas food scene.

And there was a sour taste after two Port Douglas restaurants suddenly closed, reportedly leaving a number of staff and suppliers without pay. Arabella’s and My Italian Baby were left empty and deserted and with no word on the owner’s whereabouts. 

There was some movement on development in the town when David Lucas unveiled plans for a site adjacent to the Sea Temple resort and known to locals as Mango Beach, being transformed into a seven-lot beachfront enclave.

There, too, was tragedy when a man was killed and a woman seriously injured at the Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in Cape Tribulation after falling more than 10 metres when the zip line broke. The company has closed its zip lining tours until March 2020.

Our favourite reptile, the crocodile, was understandably in the news when one, known as Howard to Douglas Shire locals, was labelled a problem animal and targeted for removal by the Department of Environment and Science (DES).

The four-metre reptile was reported in Salt Water Creek off the Mossman-Daintree Road. There was community outcry, petitions and a letter by a 10-year-old boy to save Howard. 

On the sporting front, our three major codes – AFL, Rugby League and Soccer – all enjoyed success winning their respective premierships.

The Port Douglas Crocs AFL team made history by becoming the second team in the history of AFL Cairns to win four premierships in a row.

Douglas United Football Club clinched their third successive premiership when they beat the Atherton Eagles 2-1 in extra-time in the FNQ Football Second Division Men's Final.

Mossman-Port Douglas Sharks notched a ‘two-fer’ winning the Cairns District Rugby League A-grade premiership and the Reserve Grade. The 30-24 grand final victory over Innisfail Leprechauns secured back-to-back premierships for the Sharks.

And that was a snippet of the year that was … 

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