Gobsmacked Entsch calls on Douglas to vote for change


Howard Salkow

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Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch is floored by Douglas Shire Council's decision to enter into the Healthy Reef Partnership. Image: Victoria Stone-Meadows.
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Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt and the Coalition’s Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, has issued a clear message to Douglas Shire residents to decide how they want their shire to be governed.

“The rate payers have a key decision to make at the local government election in March next year. If they want to live with certain decisions made by Council, then so be it.

“If they want change, then they must seek it and challenge it at the ballot box. I have just been through an election where the people spoke up and the same can occur in the Douglas Shire.

“I hope people put their name forward to seek change,” said Entsch.

Entsch’s comments come in the wake of a Council decision yesterday to participate in a carbon off-setting partnership with Qantas Future Planet, GreenCollar and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD).

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The partnership enables Council to become carbon neutral by purchasing premium carbon offsets located in Rawbelle, Queensland. 

“I was gobsmacked, to the say the least, when I heard this. I had to go looking for Rawbelle. I am disappointed, concerned to what they’ve agreed to, and questioning what’s in it for the shire’s businesses and the rate payers. Rawbelle is nowhere near the Douglas Shire.

“They are selling the community out. Council should be investing in their community. They should be undergoing projects relevant to their region,” said Entsch.

He praised Councillor Michael Kerr, who was the lone councillor to vote against the motion which was tabled at yesterday’s open Council session in Mossman.

“I am full of admiration for Michael for having the courage and standing up for his beliefs. What I found disturbing are the cheap shots that were targeted at him yesterday, one involving Paws and Claws, which is not related to this matter,” said Entsch, who has received numerous calls from people within the shire who are frustrated by this decision.

Cr Kerr has argued that ratepayer funds would feed through these companies to be offset in a location 1,500 kilometres 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.

Entsch, who said that the Douglas Shire has clearly been “done over” by this decision, claimed former Douglas Shire mayor Mike Berwick has spearheaded this initiative.

“There is no question he is the puppet master. He is a paid employee as a Senior Policy Adviser of GreenCollar. Is this not a conflict of interest?” questioned Entsch.

Besides his other environmental conservation activities, Berwick is a committee member of the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG).

GreenCollar is a carbon credit market trader based in Sydney. They specialise in developing National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) accredited carbon offsets located within Australia.

Addressing yesterday’s Council session, Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu said the partnership reinforced Douglas Shire’s position as the leading sustainable tropical destination.

“We are so thrilled to partner with Qantas to tackle climate change and promote our beautiful Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest,” she said.

“Everyone knows Douglas Shire has a strong environmental charter, but now we can stand next to one of the country’s most reputable organisations, with our hand on our hearts and say our region is carbon neutral.

“I am confident this project will encourage more environmentally-minded visitors to fly into Cairns, turn right at the Captain Cook Highway and come to our pristine region,” she said. 

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