Predictions, forecasts, hopes for year ahead


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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What will the new year bring for the Douglas Shire.

What’s in store for the New Year, in this case 2020? It’s a question commonly asked as the old year winds down and the New Year kicks in.

In Australia, the economy, housing market and the threat of a recession dominate discussion. All topics that generate considerable debate. There are fears, too, mostly surrounding the bush fires, the on-going drought; and how to deal with the mental health crisis, poverty, homelessness and the impact social media has on our everyday lives. And there is so much more.

This is a significant year for Queensland – and there will be substantial interest and anticipation as we approach two scheduled elections: the local government elections on March 28 and the state election on October 31.

Interest is already building in the Douglas Shire and besides those who have already committed to running for one of the four councillor spots, all eyes will be on incumbent Mayor Julia Leu, who is being challenged by first-term councillor Michael Kerr. There has been mention of a third person entering the mayoral race, and if this is the case, it will impact the voting.

Elected the shire’s first mayor following de-amalgamation from Cairns in 2014, Leu was re-elected in 2016 and will now be seeking a third term in office. And she is looking forward to the year ahead.

“As we enter the final months of this Council heading into the election in March, Douglas Shire is in an excellent position to move into the new decade.

“There are many projects underway that Council will continue to work on in 2020. Here is just a small sample:

• Business case development for Port Douglas lagoon
• Port Douglas Carnivale 2020
• Construction progressing of the Wangetti Trail
• Opening of the Salvation Army’s Kubirri Aged Care Centre in Mossman & further aged care development on neighbouring land
• Progress on works in the Port Douglas Blueprint
• Masterplans for Port Douglas Sports Complex and Mossman Showgrounds
• Masterplans for Rex Smeal Park and Market Park in Port Douglas
• Improvements at the Mossman Pool and Caravan Park
• Prepare for new solar ferry including gateway infrastructure works
• Finalise Council’s carbon neutrality strategy, including the use of purchased land north of the Daintree River.

Councillor Kerr said he is excited at the prospect of what 2020 holds.

“Obviously it will be an exciting time ahead going into an election year. While we still have council meetings happening, of course the campaign will be at the forefront of my mind until the election.

“My hopes for the New Year will be to continue contributing to our community through both the theatre (Clink) and getting the Paws and Claws facility open later in the year,” said Kerr.

Kerr said if the community so elects then of course a majority of my time will be working towards making Douglas an even better place for the people who live here.

“If that’s not the case, I will continue doing what I do to contribute to the community spirit in Douglas through the charities that I chair.”

Councillor candidate Kym Rowley said he is looking forward to 2020 both personally and professionally.
“Professionally, I look forward to the opportunity of representing local residents as part of a new Council team, which will be more focused on the needs of the Shire and not those of a personal interest.

“I believe there are many outstanding projects, including a number of major maintenance issues that need to be resolved before we look at pie in the sky projects,” he said.

Councillor candidate Natalie Johnson said her most significant goal for 2020 is to successfully become a Douglas Shire Councillor and she has many goals and objectives.

“And I aspire to serve that position to the best of my ability. Achieving bite sized, individual goals under the pillars of tourism, business and families – all of which are underpinned by ensuring water security, managing our pristine environment and promoting communication – will I hope, roll together to meet that aspiration.

She says the greatest goal she would like to kick in tourism is ensuring we can continue to differentiate ourselves from all other destinations.

“With the successful awarding of Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification, our region is the envy of all others; particularly given we are the proud custodians of the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.”

“However, as significant as these two beauties are – and their preservation is pivotal to our tourism offering – they are not all our Shire has to offer.

“By ensuring private tourism businesses are supported through basic council functions including maintenance of local roads and paths, public health, continued support for new tourism offerings such as the botanical gardens, walking and biking tracks, indigenous, agri and ecotourism, we will have the most diverse and unique offering in Australia. 

“No other destination can promote travel to a World Heritage rainforest via a solar ferry, and I would love to maximise the business and tourism opportunities for the newly acquired Daintree block,” she said.

Ms Johnson said the Douglas Shire, although heavily reliant on tourism, is not just about tourism.

“One of my goals is to support the economic development of private assets in the public interest, particularly the Mossman Mill, Botanical Gardens, Crystalbrook Marina and new agricultural opportunities – some of which are already beginning to reap rewards, while some will reap rewards in 12–24 months’ time.

“Upgrading the Shire’s business kit, contracting and employing locally where possible and continuing to access record grant funding for various projects, will assist in strengthening our business community confidence,” she said.

In referencing that families come in all shapes and sizes, she says her goal is to ensure Council is solidly delivering services to the diverse Shire through the regular maintenance of parks and playing fields, library services, the installation and upgrading of equipment suited to our tropical lifestyle such as a children’s water play facility, and the continued and expanded offering of community services and activities for all residents which fosters positive social interaction and health.

“It would be fantastic to explore the option of offering the Active8 program north of the river and consider additional programs for engaging our senior residents in fun and social fitness and community programs.”

She says an important personal goal is to champion new ideas for the management of our water security.

“I would like to look into the option of either an additional or upgraded water treatment facility with the technology to treat grey water to the level required to use on parks, gardens and sporting fields, helping to both beautify our public spaces making them green to the tourist eye and ensuring our drinking water will last far longer.

“I also believe we can nudge the State Government to extend the Water Tank rebate to include the Far North, not just the South East.”

In conceding that communicating with approximately 11,700 residents is challenging, but to pursue the fulfilment of this goal, she will aspire to be visual in the Shire and participate in as many diverse community activities as possible (eg cooking – excellent, sporting – suspect), ensuring she is accessible, approachable and available to listen.

“Based on current feedback, I would also introduce the concept of new engagement strategies including mobile council meetings and/or rotating meeting times, and the further development of three key community consultation platforms: face-to-face, social media and print.”

The president of the Douglas Chamber of Commerce Liz Ross said there are a number of plans which she hopes will come to fruition.

“We have planned a Small Business Forum which is now well into the organisational phase and will be held on March 6 at the Community Hub in Mowbray Street.

“The essence of the forum is to provide as much information as possible for small business impacting numerous opportunities from mentoring for growth seminars to how to write tenders and everything in between.”

Although she could not name the forum’s special guest, she did confirm they will be discussing the Wangetti Trail and what it will mean for local business.

“We will address the work that will generate such as guided walks by locals and to learn about the many facets of the trail and what is involved.

“We will also have other guest speakers including Construction Skills Queensland and we have confirmed Ross Hodgman from Transport and Main Roads. The purpose of these speakers is to advise what opportunities are coming up in the local area and further afield.”

Ms Ross said the Chamber is also looking at 'positive ageing' and with the NDIS, what are the opportunities for Small Business to assist those clients that have received NDIS packages and how Small and Micro businesses can gain opportunities in this space.

“Additionally, 2020 is the year of Indigenous Tourism and I am looking at what we might be able to do in this area as well to support Indigenous engagement in the tourism space.”

The Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, said the settlement of the Mossman Mill was a highlight from 2019.

“The mill has now settled into ownership and they have just finished their first crushing and I am very much looking forward to the bio hub which is next on the agenda.

“They have done exceptionally well and I think that it will make a huge difference to the Douglas Shire.

“They have has many large mountains to climb but I think they are going to be very successful,” he said.

He said in June, the full business plan will be released for the micro grid north of the Daintree. “This is something I am very excited about and I will do everything I can to make sure it is funded.”

Mr Entsch said the legislation that has just gone through regarding the super yachts will see a lot more come into the region with Cairns and Port Douglas obvious destinations.

“I’m also hopeful we can get the airport situation resolved and we can convince Ghassan Aboud to start on the Crystabrook Marina.

“Work is being done to get Etihad or Emirates to Cairns and we need more connections into Hong Kong and Dubai.”

Mr Entsch said he would like to see in the New Year the full transfer of ownership of the Mossman Gorge to the Mossman Gorge community – to see them take ownership back from the ILSC (Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation).

“They have earned the right to do that – they are in the process and I am working with them at the moment. I would really like to see it 100 per cent locally owned and operated. They should be so proud of what they have achieved.”

** additional reporting Karlie Brady  

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