Second community Think Tank meeting hailed as a great success


Victoria Stone-Meadows


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Dr Alexandra Bernhardi with Think Tank guest speakers Clint Reynolds, Monica Prins, and John Sullivan. Image: Victoria Stone-Meadows.

The second instalment of the new monthly Think Tank events was held in Mossman over the weekend.

The open community meeting saw about 50 people attend including Douglas Shire Councillors and staff, community leaders, and residents.

Topics discussed ranged from plans and visions for the future of the region to the current hurdles and obstacles facing the Douglas Shire.

The meetings are arranged and facilitated by Dr Alenxdra Bernhardi who covered topics from the first meeting last month before guest speakers took the floor.

One of the topics covered last month that was brought up again over the weekend was a claim that the Douglas Shire Council did not have a dedicated economic development officer.

Council’s Community Development Officer, Lisa Golding, explained to the crowd that although the name of the role had changed over the years, Council has always had someone whose role is focused on economic development.

“There have always been people there, we have just changed the name to reflect the focus of the position,” she said.

There was then sparked a wider discussion across the room regarding the Council’s role in the economic development of the region.

Tourism advocate, Gerry Ireland, suggested Council should consult closely with people in the community to develop a long-term financial strategy.

Douglas Shire Council CEO, Mark Stoermer, responded openly to these suggestions and was receptive to the ideas presented during the discussion. 

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“I think it’s important to not just look at the data but develop some solutions and what we do with that data,” he said.

“It’s really important to consider what are the solutions. We can talk about (economic and industry) diversity and that seems like a no-brainer; the question is how we do it? And this is how the economic plan develops. 

“The current strategy needs tweaking and refinement and we are doing that so it’s really good to hear people here are interested in participating and we will move forward with that.”

Following the open discussion, guest speaker Monica Prins detailed the importance of a sense of community and shared her idea of what a community-focused future for the Douglas Shire might look like.

“Once our basic needs of food and shelter have been met, we can only grow when we have a sense of belonging,” she said.

“We can’t develop without a group to connect to.

“We need community because we all need each other to grow. Our combined input helps us all grow and be successful.”

Her presentation encouraged people to think about the wider community when they consider their actions with a view to improving the overall wellbeing of the people of the shire.

John Sullivan from the Mossman Botanic Gardens Committee was next to present and gave an overview of where the planning for the gardens is up to and the goals of the project.

“Our vision is to demonstrate globally the crucial role rainforest plays in human prosperity and survival on earth,” he said.

“The gardens would encompass the whole of where we live and work as an economic driver and as a driver between the natural rainforest and agricultural base that’s already here.

“It will create 120 new jobs, half of which would be filled by youth and long-term unemployed, ATSI peoples, and to reduce unemployment and give people pride in where they live and exist.” 

The meetings are held at the Mossman CWA Hall

Mr Sullivan also implored everyone to put pressure on community leaders to commit to projects by taking pride and ownership of them.

“I am concerned about a lot of knee-jerk reaction planning where there is a new thing announced and the community hasn’t heard about it until it is a news item,” he said.

“We need to master plan the entire community and we need the Council to pull it together.”

Both Mr Stoermer and Ms Golding confirmed the Council is starting on a Mossman master plan to rejuvenate the town as well as working on a Port Douglas blueprint.

Mr Stoermer also volunteered to present at the next Think Tank event to outline the Council’s current position, projects, and planning to give the community insight into their operations and plans.

The last speaker of the day was local cane farmer Clint Reynolds who spoke about the importance of soil health for farming as well as the wider community.

“Farmers can turn climate change around, we can do it,” he said.

“Farmers can sequester carbon at a greater rate than the rainforest, using carbon cycling in our crops. European farmers are getting paid to do it right now.

“We can continually do it, over and over again, improving soil health and using fewer pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser.”

He said the most effective way for community members to support farmers is to buy local food and create a demand for locally grown produce.

Following the meeting, Dr Bernhardi said she felt the forum was very successful and is looking forward to next month’s Think Tank.

The community Think Tank meetings are held on the first Saturday of each month at the CWA Hall at 28 Front Street in Mossman.

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