Mayor hits back at open letter but councillor agrees with criticism

Thursday February 5 2015, 3:30pm

Douglas Shire mayor Julia Leu has hit back at an open letter accusing council of not doing enough to bolster tourism in the region, but at least one councillor thinks the criticism is warranted. 

On Wednesday afternoon the Mayor responded to an open letter addressed to her and council from the leaders of the Douglas Chamber of Commerce and local economic development group Douglas Inc. 

In the open letter, Chamber president Phoebe Kitto and Douglas Inc chair Gerry Ireland said council was failing to invest sufficiently in tourism, Douglas Shire’s primary industry. 

In her own open letter, Cr Leu pointed out various investments council has made in tourism development since being elected, in addition to a few swipes at Douglas Inc. 

Meanwhile councillor Bruce Clarke has said that some of the points raised against council in the letter from the Chamber and Douglas Inc were valid. 

One of those points was that council has focused too much on hot-button social issues such as same-sex marriage and coal seam gas mining, at the expense of focusing on economic development within the shire. 

“I agree that council has had a focus on social commentary as opposed to development,” Cr Clarke said. 

“Its a problem when development is difficult because it’s how you build jobs and grow your community.”

Douglas Inc and the Chamber of Commerce are preparing a second letter in response to Cr Leu’s, which is reproduced below in its entirety:




Dear Gerry and Phoebe



RE: Joint Open Letter to Douglas Shire Council Mayor and Councillors



Thank you for the opportunity to explain the economic development and community engagement opportunities Douglas Shire Council has undertaken in its first 13 months.


One of the first actions of the new Council was to adopt a Community Engagement policy and framework ( which recognises the principles of best practice identified by the International Association for Public Participation.


Community engagement initiatives undertaken by Council to date include:

the inaugural Daintree Community Forum (never before undertaken by any Council);

Council’s Community Support Program and Events Strategy;

long-term management of crocodiles in the Douglas Shire;

providing greater access to Council services;

Council’s complaints management process;

the Daintree River ferry concessional policy;

the Port Douglas Roundabout;

the Port Douglas Outriggers Club relocation;

the Cape Tribulation Playground;

the Women of Douglas Get Out – Get Active survey;

the Langley Rd-Little Reef St road barricade; and

Council’s 2014-2019 Corporate Plan


The Corporate Plan is essentially Council’s strategic blueprint for the next five years and Council consulted extensively with our communities to ensure it reflects the objectives of our communities, which included workshops in Port Douglas, Mossman and Diwan, feedback provided at local markets and consultation with our local indigenous community as well as the opportunity for anyone to contribute feedback via email, on the phone or in person.


Contrary to your statements, tourism is referred to specifically in the Corporate Plan and is also encapsulated in Council’s strategic objectives for economic development.  For Local Government, economic development involves much more than just tourism or one industry sector.  Sustainable economic growth relies on the integration of policy, strategy, funding and action.


It was interesting to note that no representatives from either the Chamber of Commerce or Douglas Inc attended any of the Corporate Plan community workshops and the only feedback Council received from the Chamber of Commerce or Douglas Inc. on the Corporate Plan was after the closing date for submissions.


It is also true that Douglas Inc., a self-appointed Port Douglas-based business group, requested $165,000 per annum from Council for “economic development” for the Shire.  The economic development credentials of this self-appointed group were not proven and Council determined the $165,000 of ratepayers’ money was better spent on real economic development outcomes which had been properly costed and analysed.


Economic development is at the forefront of Council’s operations and Council is a significant driver of the Douglas Shire’s economy in many facets. To succeed, economic development requires investment in sustainable initiatives which recognise that a strong economy is diversified and can demonstrate a return on investment for the broader community. 


In 2014 Council provided certainty to Tourism Port Douglas Daintree which included an increase in funding of 5 per cent per annum over the next three years. This is an outcome TPDD is very pleased with as Council collaborates much closer with the organisation over this period by collecting better data to get a more accurate picture of the needs of the local tourism industry.


Douglas Shire ratepayers contribute more to tourism per capita than any other Local Government Area in Queensland which is a reflection on the fact the Douglas Shire is the most tourism-supported LGA in Australia.


By comparison, the Douglas Shire contributes $39 to tourism per capita compared to $22.31 for the Gold Coast City Council, $16.89 for the Sunshine Coast Council and $9.69 for Cairns Regional Council.


On top of this, some of the major events Council supported in the past 12 months includes:

$50,000 cash and $15,000 in-kind to the Douglas Chamber of Commerce for Carnivale;

$42,000 cash and $10,000 in-kind for the Cairns Ironman, which includes the Heikeli Great Ocean Challenge, the RRR Mountain Bike Challenge and the Coral Coast triathlon in Port Douglas;

$10,000 cash for the Croc Trophy international mountain bike stage race;

$10,000 cash for the inaugural Mossman Sugar Festival;

$15,000 in-kind for the Mossman Show;

$5000 cash and $5000 in-kind for the Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival; and

$3000 to the Chamber of Commerce for the Port Douglas New Year’s Eve fireworks


Council is also contributing around $100,000 to other events and programs under the Community Support Program and $25,000 under the Regional Arts Development Fund program.  


In addition, Council enhanced the Douglas Card initiative to stimulate visitation and spending north of the Daintree River between 1 November - 28 February each year.  We are also developing a positive working relationship with Daintree Marketing Cooperative. 


All Capital works programs support financial sustainability and economic growth by not only employing local contractors but also by ensuring that good quality infrastructure is provided to support business throughout the Shire.


Projects being funded under Council’s $9 million capital works program this financial year include:

$287,000 for Stage 1 of the Daintree Gateway;

$50,000 towards beautifying the Port Douglas Waterfront;

$100,000 to beautify the Mossman streetscape;

$1.2 million on road reseals and rehabilitation;

$1.5 million on disaster and flood mitigation;

$1.1 million on upgrades to bridges, causeways, drainage and footpaths;

$375,000 for the implementation of gas chlorination at the Mossman Water Treatment Plant; and

Around $4 million to improve water and wastewater infrastructure


Council has also teamed up with Screen Queensland (SQ) to promote the Douglas Shire as the most film-friendly destination in Australia and boasts the biggest regional gallery on SQ’s locations database which is attracting plenty of interest from national and international producers.


Council is about to launch its Access Douglas initiative, an online resource which details the facilities and services in the Douglas Shire which are accessible for those with a disability so the Shire is attractive to this very lucrative $8 billion industry and we can promote the region as the most accessible and welcoming in Australia.


Another economic development priority for Council was to ensure local businesses and contractors could gain the benefits of a listing on Council’s Preferred Supplier register for Wet and Dry Hire and Council hosted workshops to encourage local participation. We now have more than 50 local businesses and contractors on Council’s Preferred Supplier register for Wet and Dry Hire, which results in the millions of dollars being spent by Council remaining in the local economy.


Council is finalising the tenders for more than $20 million in repairs to Council’s road infrastructure caused by two natural disasters in 2014 under National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) funding. Again, this will be an incredible opportunity for our local businesses and contractors to be engaged in this huge scope of works, with an unprecedented budget for infrastructure repairs in the Douglas Shire.


On top of this, Council assessed more than 140 Development Applications in 2014, including several large sub-divisions of up to 105 individual lots.  


This Council is taking the lead for our communities delivering several hundred different projects across the whole Shire, many of which are focussed on economic development.


Council’s website provides access to a large number of documents which inform our communities about these projects and initiatives. I encourage everyone to be informed about these issues and engage with Council if they have any questions, because at the end of the day we’re here to assist and support sustainable economic growth for the benefit of our communities.


For a quick snapshot of some of Council’s achievements in 2014, I recommend you have a look at our Go Douglas! Celebrating 2014 e-book



Yours faithfully


Cr Julia Leu