Momentum building for Port Douglas representation on Council

Published Sunday 31 January 2016

Momentum is building daily for Port Douglas to have Council representation and this has been boosted by two highly credible candidates who have thrown their proverbial hats into the ring. The Council election is on March 19 and the Port currently is not represented on Council.

Late last week respected business and community leader Michael Kerr announced his candidature; and earlier former Douglas Shire Council employee Donna Graham said she would be running.

In committing themselves, both expressed a firm belief that Port Douglas needs representation on Council.

“Port Douglas is a big part of the Shire, economically and especially in tourism, so having a Councillor who is community-minded walking the streets is important,” said Kerr.

“There are many reasons driving me, but I feel strongly that Port Douglas needs representation on Council and I want to fill that role. It needs a voice, is a major hub for tourism and also brings a unique set of circumstances,” said Ms Graham.

Yet, Mayor Julia Leu did not respond when Newsport asked her whether Port Douglas should have Council representation. “I’ll need to think about it,” she said.

The Douglas Chamber of Commerce also believe that Port Douglas needs a voice on Council.

Chamber president Helen De Ross said with momentum building for the March 19 Council election, it is the Chamber’s belief that Port Douglas needs representation on Council as the township needs locals who understand the unique challenges.

“Port Douglas is a distinctive area and provides a majority of rate payer funds for Council,” she said, adding that the Chamber will be involved with Community Election Forums.

One person who passionately believes Port Douglas needs a seat on Council is local resident Peter Martin.

In a recent Letter to the Editor (Newsport), he wrote: “A Port Douglas councillor with intimate knowledge of the Port Douglas area would be beneficial in bringing the views of this important part of the region to Council’s decision-making process.

“Given that tourism (direct and indirect) generates the largest income for the region; contributes the majority of the rates; and is the largest employer, it is worthy of a voice.”

Martin also makes a valid point that Port Douglas needs to be more strategic when it comes to the number of candidates vying for a spot on Council. There were too many candidates in 2013 (7) and it hurt the town.

“For Port Douglas to have a councillor in the next critical term of our region’s self-governance, we need fewer candidates to have any chance of a voice. Based on the last election, if there were four or even three, there is every chance at least one would have been elected,” said Martin.

In the 2013 election, the closest two candidates were Sylvia Healy and Roy Weavers. The former garnered 7.6% of the vote, falling short by 48 votes to Terry Melchert who was elected. Weavers got 7.1%.

In reiterating his point, Martin is urging anyone thinking of running to think seriously about the numbers. I cannot stress the point enough, if we have fewer but credible candidates, we have a better chance of ensuring a seat at the table,” he said.