Daintree forums: Residents want faster action to address Daintree challenges

DAINTREE

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Daintree business owners are bemoaning the fact tourists can wait up to two hours before boarding the ferry. IMAGE: Supplied.
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IN what could potentially be the most significant move to resolve the future of the Daintree ferry, an independent feasibility study will be undertaken with funding expected to come from the Douglas Shire’s $4 million ferry fund.

This emerged from Tuesday’s closed community meeting in the Daintree. It was further agreed that no decision on the current ferry contract is to be made until the feasibility study is complete.

The ferry meeting was held after a presentation was delivered entitled Powering Daintree, which was produced by Sunverge Energy Australia.

Warren Entsch, the Federal MP for Leichhardt, will present the document to John Frydenberg, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy; State MP Cynthia Lui and Council.

And while there was consensus that power is a necessity in the Daintree – although it was stressed that it would not be compulsory – the ferry crossing produced the liveliest debate with many business owners bemoaning the fact that tourists had to wait up to two hours before boarding the ferry.

A number of options were presented and former Douglas Shire councillor Bruce Clarke listed five:

 - Stick with the current arrangement
 - Have a larger ferry that can accommodate more vehicles
 - Have a second ferry
 - Build a single lane bridge
 - Build a two-lane bridge.

These options will be addressed in the feasibility study.

Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu, who was not invited to the meeting, said the possibility of employing a second ferry, along with a range of other matters, will be investigated before the current contract expires in 2021.

“Widespread public consultation that will include the whole community is expected to start next year,” she said.

“A detailed assessment of traffic congestion in the area is required before Douglas Shire Council spends ratepayers’ money on an extensive feasibility study.”

But it was mentioned at the meeting that the community needed to be aware they could be locked in until 2021 without consultation. It was agreed that time is of the essence and whatever the option, it would not damage the forest.

Daintree business owner Betty Hinton, who organised the meetings, said it was a shame that the 2004 report regarding the ferry crossing had not been updated.

“But more importantly we need to take into account that tourism is changing and visitors have greater demands. The traveller is more sophisticated and does not want to wait two hours for a ferry.

“We have to be aware of the power of social media and if we get negative comments, it will hurt us. We need to address the challenges facing us; we cannot wait any longer. We need action and we need it now,” she said.


POWERING DAINTREE REPORT


Meanwhile, in the Powering Daintree report, five options were provided for complete power supply – network plus generation or standalone generation – to the Daintree community.

The first option – single Daintree electrical micro grid with synchronous machines and a staged pathway for high renewable uptake – was the preferred scenario. 


The other options are:

- Multiple Daintree electrical micro grids (three segments).
- Daintree gas micro grid with high renewable uptake using power to gas and biomethane.
- Micro grid supply to Cape Tribulaton (leverage of existing generation to extend in small LV networks).
- Upgrade of individual remote area power supply options.

Warren Entsch, the Federal MP for Leichhardt, said this document presented a great opportunity for the Daintree.

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“If there is consensus, we need to move forward. I will present it to the appropriate stakeholders and I am confident there will be strong support,” he said.

“We also have the support of the Energy and Environment minister Josh Frydenberg. He has been out to the Daintree and if he was not interested, he would not have come.”

Entsch said the Powering Daintree document was one of the most significant that has been prepared and should provide a level of confidence among the community. 


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