Daintree bridge versus ferry debate to go to public consultation


Karlie Brady


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A report will be released publicly later this week, comparing the options with the community invited to provide feedback on their preference. Image: Supplied.
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The debate about the type of crossing for the Daintree River has been a hot topic for many years and now the decision will go back to the community.

Douglas Shire Council has resolved to endorse a community consultation plan for the Daintree River Ferry Crossing at an Ordinary Council Meeting in Mossman on Tuesday.

The Daintree River Crossing Options Assessment Report will examine a bridge option and the proposed two-ferry service, including costs and provides a comparison against the current single ferry arrangement.

This report will be released publicly later this week, and the community will be invited to provide feedback.

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In moving the motion Mayor Michael Kerr said this consultation will allow everyone in the community to have their say in what choice they want for the crossing.

“This consultation will bring to a conclusion the debate once and for all with an opinion of the majority leading the decision,” he said.

Armed with this information, Councillors will make the final decision on the Daintree River Crossing, guided by community sentiment.

“This will allow our council to move forward knowing that they are entering a proposition that is wanted by a majority.”

The current Daintree ferry contract is due to expire 30 June 2021 and following a tender process, in December 2019, Douglas Shire Council resolved to commence contractual negotiations for the proposed a two-ferry service.

However, in April 2020, Council resolved to temporarily suspend the Daintree River Ferry contract negotiations in order to do a second round of community consultation to include a bridge option.

“It is called round two public consultation, but for many in our community, I believe it will be round one.

“The initial round of consultation was focused on what was wanted by way of an enhanced ferry service and the feedback received was used to prepare tender specifications for the ferry service."

Mayor Kerr said it did not include information about the costs involved to ratepayers in operating a second ferry or the option of building a bridge.

The Daintree River Crossing Options Assessment Report will contain more information about a bridge, potential sites, expected costs and the forecast costs for the proposed two-ferry service.

The two ferry option is based on the preferred tenderer’s proposal, and includes estimated costs for the land based infrastructure such as a new ramp, mooring pylons and a new road on the southern bank, to support the improved service.

The bridge options were developed in-house by two Council engineers with bridge construction experience. It involved a desktop review of possible locations and estimated construction costs and associated infrastructure including approach roads.

The report will be available for viewing and download online and hard copies will be available at Council’s administration building, both libraries and at various other locations around the shire when it is released.

All ratepayers will receive a survey either in the mail for absentee landowners, or dropped into letter boxes of all households in the Shire. People will have the choice of completing the survey online, or filling in the survey and popping it in the mail.

Community feedback is expected to be brought back to Council towards the end of 2020.

If a two-ferry solution is preferred, the time frame to obtain approvals, build a new ferry and associated land-based infrastructure, is expected to be over one year.

If a bridge option is the preferred option, it is expected that design, approvals and construction of a bridge and associated roadworks could take over five years to complete.

With the current Daintree ferry contract due to expire next year, Council has taken steps for continuity of services beyond the current contract’s end date by negotiating an initial one year extension with the current ferry operators, with options for a further three, two-year periods to be activated if required by Council.

Other items passed during Council’s Ordinary Meeting include:

  • Council resolving to install CCTV cameras at the Port Douglas Sporting Complex. The motion was introduced via a mayoral minute to help deter recent anti-social behaviour at the sporting ground. Council has budgeted $10,000 for the project.

  • Council resolved to enter into a three year Resource and Performance Agreement with Port Douglas Artists Inc for the Call of the Running Tide event with $15,000 (GST Exc) cash in Years One and Three; and $10,000 (GST Exc) in Year Two; with in-kind support including use of Port Douglas Community Hall, Mossman Shire Hall and parks during the event and for pre-event workshops.

  • Council resolved to provide in-kind support for use of venues and waive application fees for events, as part of a post COVID-19 economic and event recovery strategy, to the amount of:
    - $8,216 for Knockout Events - Wonderland Under the Stars
    - $2,508 + $1,500 security bond for Festival Amusements - Mini Fun Fair

  • Council resolved to provide one off funding of $10,000 cash and In-Kind assistance of waiving of venue hire fees for Sugar Wharf for the Better Together Conference to be held in February 2022. The LGBTIQ conference regularly attracts 400 delegates from across the nation. The conference will be held in Cairns while a staging event and a number of workshops will be presented over five days beforehand in Port Douglas. Participants in the conference are anticipated to spend those five days in the Douglas Shire.

  • Council voted to defer the decision to name the unnamed road off Captain Cook Highway, leading to Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, Noel Herbst Road, in light of new information provided by the Douglas Historical Society suggesting that the road has historical significance and should be named accordingly.

Read the full Council reports here.

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