Consideration and moderation needed for proposed lagoon


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Phillip Johnson's artist impression of the proposed Port Douglas Swimming Lagoon revealed yesterday. Image: Supplied.

Reaction to plans revealed yesterday to build a swimming lagoon in Port Douglas have been positive but some have pointed out issues left unaddressed.

Douglas Shire Council and the Port Douglas Surf Life Saving Club yesterday announced plans to build a multi-million dollar lagoon at the site of the current Surf Life Saving Club.

The plans include a freshwater swimming area for adults and kids, cascading waterfalls, boardwalk, large natural boulders and a variety of native vegetation.

The Surf Life Saving Club’s existing buildings and facilities are set to be completely redeveloped as part of the project.

Established businesses surrounding the site were reluctant to comment on the proposed development but those that did welcomed the announcement.

“I’m happy about it. The town needs something when it’s crocodile and stinger time in the ocean,” said Lynn Marshman, Manager at the Tropic Breeze Caravan Park.

In making the announcement yesterday, Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu said the lagoon would be a once in a generation project.

“This is a really exciting vision for the future,” she said.

“We have been absolutely blown away by Phillip’s enthusiasm and zest for mimicking our unique tropical landscape in this initial design.”

Port Douglas Surf Lifesaving Club President Stephen Pollard said the club welcomed the proposed changes to their buildings and precinct.

“The committee was very impressed by the proposed plans,” he said.

“There are obvious benefits to the club in the redesign of the existing format and the project would be good for the Douglas Shire by providing significant enhancement to the park area and providing a facility that can be enjoyed by the public all year round.” 

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The concept designs are the work of renowned landscape architect Phillip Johnson who has won various national and international awards for his work. 

Douglas Shire-based landscaper, John Sullivan, said it was an impressive coup for the Council to be able to work with Mr Johnson but some aspects of the project need careful consideration.

“Phillip Johnson is very impressive, he is a very good landscape designer,” Mr Sullivan said.

“However, my main concern about a lagoon swimming pool is the maintenance and upkeep and costs for a rate-paying community the size of the Douglas Shire.

“I think Port Douglas could really use a facility like this and tourism would welcome this greatly but also part of the maintenance is having security and, again, how this will be paid for?”

From a landscape design point of view, Mr Sullivan said the concept is impressive and could work really well in the town but with some differences.

“My first overall first impression of the design is yes if it’s a bit softer. It feels a bit Disneyland,” he said.

“However, I’m sure that could be scaled back to be more conducive to the area but the bigger issues to discuss is the finance before we get to that point.

“Also, the Douglas Shire as a whole needs to address water security. How are we going to, after two years of water resections and restricting resorts water that they look like deserts in peak season, make a lagoon work?

“Where is the water going to come from?

“Overall I think it’s a really good thing but we need to consider it really carefully.”

Council is currently running a survey to gauge the community’s reaction to the concept design and will schedule public consultation meetings later this year.

Douglas Shire Councillor Michael Kerr said he is personally really excited about the project.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” he said.

“One of the biggest concerns being a tourist here is there is no alternative to swimming in the ocean and the crocs are only going to get worse so we need to prevent a tragedy happening.

“This is a world-class project and I hope the federal and state governments get behind it and support it.

“It will be a great bookend with the marina and lagoon at either end of town that will increase economic potential around town as people walk between the two attractions.”

Details regarding the final designs, business plan and costing, and ongoing management are expected to be revealed in coming months as the project progresses. 

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