Political Controversy Heats Up
by Jill Booth
One of the 'Green Shire Sees Red' rallies
Residents of the small towns of Port Douglas, Mossman and Daintree in Tropical North Queensland are lining up for a fight.
It’s a fight for their futures, and that of their children and grandchildren, well into the foreseeable future.
For five years now, the old Douglas Shire, which encompassed the area north of Ellis Beach to Cooktown, has been under the rule of the Cairns Regional Council, with which it was forcibly amalgamated by the then State Government, despite wide protests from residents.
Huge assets and cash of around $24 million were transferred to Cairns Regional Council and one lone councillor became responsible for the whole of the previous Douglas Shire (as well as additional Cairns suburbs), which had previously fielded seven representatives.
The reality of being governed by a group of councillors and staff, whose interests are elsewhere, has been depressing and frustrating for many residents of the, former, proudly independent, shire.
My personal experience in dealing with Cairns Regional Council, as Coordinator of the highly successful Go Troppo Arts Festival in Port Douglas, seemed like a constant battle and reinforced the general impression that there was little interest or understanding, from staff and the majority of councillors, of either the Arts or of our unique geographical and social situation.
The Douglas region has immense natural resources, a 'plus' for its previously thriving Tourism industry, for which Cairns is now a direct competitor. The previous Douglas Shire had a brilliant record of innovative, sustainable planning and financially and ecologically sound management.
Residents, who are on the electoral roll, will have the opportunity to vote to become independent and regain their sense of identity in a referendum to be held on March 9 – or to reject the opportunity forever. There’s no going back once a path has been chosen!
Understandably, many people have aligned themselves in one camp or the other and emotions and wild ‘doom and gloom’ pronouncements abound.
A lunch and information session will be held at Ramada Resort in Port Douglas this Thursday January 24 then in Mossman at 6pm on February 7 as well as in Port Douglas on February 14 or, for more information, you could check this website - http://www.friendsofdouglasshire.org/News.27.0.html
What are your thoughts about de-amalgamation? If you own property in the Douglas region you will, no doubt, be interested in the situation, as you have already suffered huge rates rises and perhaps are not happy about the sometimes unkempt state of the main streets or the interference with our, once pure, water supply, the dismissal of the Waterfront Plan – or even the wilful destruction of the coconuts on Four Mile Beach. Unless you are also on the electoral roll you will not be able to vote but you can, at least, express your opinion.
Are you FOR or AGAINST de-amalgamation of the Douglas and Cairns Shires? Please tell us WHY?