Douglas sustainability group weigh in on Bloomfield Track
The Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) has not altered its stance on development north of the Daintree River renewing calls for a master plan before any roads, power or bridges are proposed or considered.
This comes in the wake of Cook Shire and Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shires sharing the cost of a $30,000 Cummings Economics feasibility study to assess the impact of paving the Bloomfield Track.
The councils sanctioned the study to improve motorist safety and boost tourism along the 40km dirt highway, which stretches from Cape Tribulation to Wujal Wujal.
Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said the environmental, safety, and amenity benefits are obvious to all with a visual comparison between the sealed Cooktown – Wujal road and the unsealed section of the road between Wujal and Cape Tribulation.
“Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners have formally requested that the road be sealed and I have had favourable comment about the environmental benefit of a sealed road surface from both the Wet Tropics Management Authority and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,” said Cr Scott.
But DSSG president Didge McDonald said today the Cummings Economics report is focused on the perceived benefits of more traffic and shorter travel times putting the road on a trajectory of becoming a major thoroughfare to Cooktown.
“That will inevitably lead to a bridge over the Daintree, widening, straightening, clearing and substantial earthworks,” Mr McDonald said.
“The ferry is already over capacity for at least one month in the year now. The road over the Alexandra Range is slow, winding, and not built for larger vehicles or speed and is close to capacity.
“Once Cooktown is quicker by the coast and reliable, it will become the supply route for goods and services, and resident commutes to and from Cairns – it is much shorter,” he said.
McDonald said Cooktown will no doubt benefit, but Cape Tribulation and Wujal will become roadside stops for fuel and food supply to through traffic.
“The Daintree Coast will lose its magic; it will be a catastrophe for an environment already under pressure and tourism will suffer.
“It is not the tourism image the shire seeks. Cooktown has a magnificent inland road, built at enormous cost: they cannot expect to damage our environment and economy to get more people into Cooktown.”
Mr McDonald says spending enormous amounts of money on road upgrades, reticulated power and a bridge, without a plan, in one of the world’s most precious ecosystems, with none set aside for the environment, is clearly ridiculous.
But Mayor Scott contends that the current ferry service over the Daintree is already proving inadequate in the busy season and consideration must be given to a second ferry to provide a more reliable and robust service.
“The ‘Daintree Wilderness Experience’ for the vast majority of day trippers is currently from sealed roads.
“This project would extend that opportunity and allow non 4wd drivers to enjoy the benefits of world heritage National Park on a sealed loop road from Cairns to Cooktown using the Bloomfield Track coast road and the inland Mulligan Highway,” he said.
Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu is against paving the track and in 2017 gave an undertaking that her council would stage a 1980s-style Daintree Blockade protest if plans proceeded to seal the Bloomfield Track.
Cr Leu is also at odds with the Cook Shire and Wujal Wujal questioning why the feasibility study (to seal the Bloomfield Track) was completed without input from the local government that owns the road (Douglas Shire Council).
“What’s most disappointing is our neighbouring councils felt the need to ambush us, rather than consult with us to get the facts right about our road,” said Cr Leu.
Members of the DSSG include Mayor Julia Leu, Councillor David Carey, his partner Roisin Allen, and former Douglas Shire mayor Mike Berwick.
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