Council slammed for buying land for carbon offset projects

DOUGLAS SHIRE COUNCIL

Howard Salkow

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A leading Port Douglas business identity said today Douglas Shire Council has held rate payers and the business community in contempt by purchasing land north of the Daintree for carbon offset projects.

“This is a slight on the community. Council talks about consultation with the community, yet they make a decision, and then seek input from the community.

“They are treating us with contempt. The same goes for the breakdown of the 18-month discussions with Qantas, as part of the Healthy Reef Partnership. Who said what and who got it wrong? This is what we need to know,” said Kym Rowley, a councillor candidate in next March’s local government election and general manager of the Tin Shed.

Council advised Newsport today that it had purchased a 376ha block of land north of the Daintree River for $725,000, which is well below an independent valuation that Council sought prior to the purchase. The expected settlement date is October 3.

“As previously stated, Council is committed to doing local carbon offset projects and the land purchase presented an opportunity that could not be passed up.

“Council is now taking a step back and will be developing a longer-term carbon strategy with input from the community and other stakeholders.

“Council has not told any cattle graziers to remove their stock from the land and will be offering them an opportunity to continue using the land while the project is discussed with the community,” said Mayor Julia Leu, in a statement to Newsport.

But Ronald Jack, who leases and runs about 120-head of cattle on the soon-to-be Council property has been advised by the land owner, Chris Link, that he needs to remove the cattle within 30 days.

“I was advised last week of this development and my options are to either sell off some of the cattle, or move them to my property on Forest Creek Road.

“Although no one can do anything about the decision, I still feel this is a waste of tax payers’ money. Council is driven by one individual. Someone is loading the gun, and Council is firing the bullets,” said Jack, who feels strongly that Council should run these decisions by the community.

Although it will be pointed out that Council has every right to conduct its business like any other local government body, the carbon offsets project has come under severe criticism because of a lack of consultation.

“An issue of this importance – and where rate payers’ money is involved – should have been presented to the community. As I’ve said, why is Council in such a hurry? The backlash they have received stems from a lack of communication and this is unacceptable, and should be unacceptable, to every rate payer in the shire,” said Mr Rowley.

Meanwhile, the issue of consultation was raised at yesterday’s Council’s open session when it resolved to undertake the following:

  • Consider adoption of the National Carbon Offset Standard;
  • Commit to carbon mitigation projects which will reduce Council’s carbon footprint;
  • Investigate carbon offset projects located within the Douglas Shire.

Cr David Carey moved that the above motion be amended to include the following: “Confirm a previously publicly stated undertaking it will now broaden its community consultation through public workshops, and on-site visits, part of which will include residents and groups being invited to register their interest to receive information about the project and consultation opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Russell O’Doherty, president of the Daintree Renewable Energy Inc., and the driver behind a petition challenging the Healthy Reef Partnership that garnered close on 800 signatories, was quietly mused and annoyed by the latest Council decision.

“This is appalling no one that we know has been consulted in the Daintree community. Obviously, it is being supported by the mayor and some councillors, as we believe there is a meeting in the Council offices on Friday,” he said.


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