Melchert responds to open letter

Friday February 6 2015, 4:00pm

Douglas Shire Councillor Terry Melchert has responded to an open letter written by the Douglas Chamber of Commerce and local economic development group Douglas Inc. 

The letter from the Chamber and Douglas Inc accused council of not doing enough to invest in tourism and allowing internal politics to obstruct development. 

In his reply, Cr Melchert continued arguments made at the most recent council meeting that council's administrative branch was not letting enough matters concerning businesses within the shire go before councillors for consideration. 

Cr Melchert however also defended council's general performance since de-amalgamation at the beginning of 2014.

Cr Melchert's letter is reproduced below in its entirety:




Dear Phoebe and Gerry:


Thank you for taking the time for expressing your views and encouraging Council to reflect on how we might have strong, stable and sustainable development  and business in Douglas Shire.

I must say I very much support the notion that Council should, as its very next priority, facilitate a discussion with the local Business Community and Community generally on the issue of Business Development and sustainability.

Although we have not had the chance to catch up since I met with Gerry, Sylvia and Frank prior to the Election I am sure you will see from my letter to the Editor in the Gazette yesterday, and recent comments I have made in Newsport, that I am honouring the commitment I gave at the time about encouraging economic development, and have already moved to encourage Council to review how it becomes more involved in the process.

From my perspective there is a lot Council can do immediately, and at no additional cost, to encourage and develop small business initiatives by changing its systems and practices.

My view in this regard is that rather than delegating most of all of the planning, development and business interaction to the Council Chief Executive Officer and Council Officers , the Council ( that is the Mayor and Councillors), should provide an opportunity in a structured way for businesses and developers who feel they are negatively affected by a Council system, practice or regulation, to meet with us to work through issues and provide realistic and pragmatic solutions.

As it stands at the moment, reports I have received suggest the Administration actively discourages this form of interface.

In my view, the current situation, does not encourage business development and in fact it dissuades and disenfranchises the people moving to expand an existing business or develop a new one.

As an example I refer to the recent trials and tribulations of the operator of the coach and limousine service “Examplar” who has had all sorts of difficulties getting relevant Council approvals. It has taken months and months of delays for him to get a half reasonable result and approval conditions. I am absolutely confident, based on the goodwill for the project I have seen in my Councillor colleagues, that had this small business person had the opportunity to discuss early on in the process, his issues with Councillors, at a formal deputation/delegation meeting, the whole thing could have been resolved in weeks not months at low or no cost to the developer.

After all it is the Council, not the Staff, who are in a position to provide sensible relief when general policies and procedures do not adequately cover a particular development or business opportunity.

I continue to support the view I expressed to all Councillors in an email earlier this week which is “Councils and Governments generally do not create jobs – business does-however governments can create an environment which creates business through friendly and helpful policy decisions and this does create jobs.

In general I support the views expressed by the Mayor that as a Council we have achieved a lot in a short period since de-amalgamation. We have, with a lot of blood ,sweat and tears, developed a strong budget which is far better than was predicted prior to de-amalgamation and we are providing good and in some areas exceptional base line services which give  great value for money for ratepayers and the community.

Further we have provided a cohesive Council which despite containing some quite different views has from day one been able to achieve a situation where at least 99.9% of the time our decisions are UNANIMOUS notwithstanding we have been confronted with  a diverse range of issues.

I also agree with the Mayor that based on its population Douglas Shire contributes more in cash and kind to its Tourism promotion group than any other Local Government in Queensland, and in my view it is probably greater than most areas in Australia.

In my view the Tourism Association does a great job, well above what could be expected from the level of funding provided, in promoting our destination, and I believe the recent increase in business  comes as a result of the hard work of the Association.

We would all like to contribute more however we are well aware the funding comes from ratepayers and any increase in Tourism funding would increase rates for ratepayers and more particularly small business who will have to find more money directly for rates  or as their contribution to Landlord outgoings.

At our meeting you particularly supported a view that Council should provide separate funding for an Economic Development program according to a “separate entity” model you had developed and if funding is provided it should be  allocated locally rather and through  Advance Cairns. All Councillors have since agreed that money not be allocated to Advance Cairns.

As explained at the time, from my perspective if the funding is able to be provided, it should be provided locally, be over and above the current Tourism funding, and be allocated to an existing tourism/business promotion entity (for example an arm of the Tourism Association) rather than being used to create a new entity. It is my view that if Council is prepared to provide extra funding for business development the process should be operated outside Council and be guided by business operators rather than by Council.

At the end of the day while I value your views and have a view of my own, in my opinion the most important view ,and the one I will be supporting, will be the one communicated to me and Council through properly facilitated and open discussion with the business community, and I am already in the process, as I believe are all Councillors, in moving towards having this discussion sooner rather than later.

In fact we have already, over the last few weeks, started to discuss and debate our views on development and business promotion and opportunity, and your comments are quite timely.

I look forward to meeting with your groups in the near future to further discuss the issues you have raised.


Councillor Terry Melchert

Douglas Shire Council