How will our garden grow?

Tuesday 19 February 2013

How will our garden grow?

Tonnes of dirt has been delivered to the site of the proposed Port Douglas Community Garden in Mowbray Street.

The embattled project, which had initially aimed to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, struck difficulties when it was determined that the site was contaminated and was not suitable for food production.

The land had previously been used as a rubbish dump until 1990 according to Community Garden Project Manager Kevin Eldridge.

Disillusioned with the news, some members of the working group are no longer involved, however the Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centre has breathed new life into the project by taking a lead role.

"Something has to happen at this site no matter what, and Cairns Regional Council recognises that," Mr Eldridge said.

"There have been several development applications here over the years that never proceeded. Someone wanted to put a BMX track in here, someone wanted to put hockey fields in here.

"This now has gone through consultation with (environmental and health and safety) experts who have been employed by the CRC and State Government, so it has gone through two tiers of government in order to be signed off on."

That process took eight months, momentum was lost, and, according to Mr Eldridge, some volunteers lost faith.

Pictured: Project Manager Kevin Eldridge and Manager of the Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centre Jo de Riva O'Phelan stand atop the tonnes of dirt delivered to the site last week.

"But, the lease is owned by the Neighbourhood Centre, and they are 100 per cent determined to continue here in some capacity. Evidently so are CRC," Mr Eldridge said.

The newly delivered dirt will form a 20 centimetre deep clay barrier that will sit atop an existing 30 centimetre deep capping in order to provide enough protection from the contaminated soil beneath.

Mr Eldridge said that while it is unlikely that the area will be the community food bowl envisaged, there is the potential the garden will branch out into other areas.

"Only a small portion of it now, we think, is going to be dedicated to food because the site management plan is so strict, you've go to be so careful.

"The rest of it could be things like a butterfly garden, a flower garden, a native plants garden, activities for kids, a barbecue area.

"The site management plan allows for any type of recreational activity."

He said Cairns Regional Council are paying for the lease, and are responsible for paying for the ongoing testing of the site. It's a responsibility that would fall to a re-formed Douglas Shire Council should the campaign for de-amalgamation be successful.