Healthy Reef Partnership community meetings put on ice
DOUGLAS SHIRE COUNCIL
Community backlash or unrealistic expectations are being listed as possible reasons for Douglas Shire Council putting on hold its proposed community meetings to explain the Healthy Reef Partnership with Qantas Future Planet, GreenCollar, and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD).
In a statement issued today by Mayor Julia Leu, it now appears unlikely the meetings will be held this month, or anytime soon.
“Council plans to hold community meetings once we are satisfied with the deal and have enough information about the benefits to present to the community.
“We will not sign a deal that Council is not happy with,” said Mayor Leu.
The announcement, made at a June 18 council meeting, has attracted negative reaction from a number of circles, including a petition – Stop the Douglas Shire Council from purchasing unwanted Carbon Credits – which has attracted nearly 800 signatories; being vehemently opposed by Cr Michael Kerr; leaving Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt ‘gobsmacked’; petitioner Russell O’Doherty saying the decision (by Council) to brush aside the petition would ‘hurt them at the ballot box’; and an influx of Newsport readers who questioned how the shire would benefit from the partnership.
Tin Shed General Manager and 2020 Councillor candidate, Kym Rowley, said he believes there are two possible scenarios why the meetings have been placed on hold.
“Firstly, I believe they are not getting what they were expecting to get. And secondly, the on-going community backlash has forced Council to re-think what they’re involved in. I really believe this is the case,” said Rowley.
Mr O’Doherty took it a step further when he questioned whether the community’s opinion mattered.
“Mayor Leu said Council will not sign a deal they (Council) are not happy with. This is a pretty clear indication that only Council matters.
“I believe they still need to approach the community with the current deal, explain it to us and respond to our concerns. This is now unlikely to happen and again highlights Council’s reticence to consult with the community and ratepayers,” said Mr O’Doherty.
In resolving to work with Qantas, Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) and GreenCollar, under the Healthy Reef Partnership to offset the Council’s carbon footprint through carbon sequestration projects in Queensland, Council has said the initiative will further push the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest in front of a growing ecotourism market.
According to Council reports, the partnership enables Council to become carbon neutral by purchasing premium carbon offsets located in Rawbelle, Queensland.
A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.
“Once this is achieved, the partnership will encourage local businesses, particularly tourism operators, to join the partnership and offset their carbon footprint through the scheme.
“This is a carbon offset and marketing opportunity aimed at promoting the Douglas Shire as a sustainable tourism destination,” the report said.
Cr Kerr has questioned the effectiveness of this initiative adding he did not believe this is the appropriate time to be mitigating carbon/reef offsets at ratepayer expense in the current financial climate.
“Tourism is down; employment is down; some 20 per cent of our residential properties are on the market; and the Shire is still re-building from amalgamation and de-amalgamation,” he said.
Cr Kerr said these ratepayer funds would then feed through these companies to be offset in a location 1,500km away from Douglas, Rawbelle in the North Burnett Regional Council, about 450km inland of Bundaberg.
“It will enhance their economy and improve their actual environmental position. All we will receive is the goodwill branding for tourism on a website funded and maintained by Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, our tourism body, which ratepayers also contribute to,” he said.
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