Formation of community group to manage Daintree project

COUNCIL MEETING

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Council has adopted a concept plan for a 376-hectare block in the Daintree, with the aim of expanding environmental initiatives through collaboration with the community. Image: Supplied.
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At Tuesday’s open Council meeting, it was agreed a community stakeholder reference group will be formed to ensure projects billeted for a block of land, located north of the Daintree River, complement existing Daintree Rainforest experiences and products.

Council has adopted a concept plan for a 376-hectare block with the aim of expanding environmental initiatives through collaboration with the community.

Expressions of Interest are expected to be called in April this year and Mayor Julia Leu said the primary objectives were to create positive environmental and social outcomes.

“The site is extremely versatile and suitable for a wide range of initiatives,” she said.

“We want this project to be a partnership between environmental groups, traditional owners, local businesses and researchers; and engage with the Douglas Communities, schools, corporate groups and visitors to the Daintree Rainforest.

“Council is excited by this site’s potential and looks forward to leveraging local expertise to make the most of this unique opportunity,” she said.

But Councillor and Mayoral candidate Michael Kerr was the lone councillor to vote against the motion.

“While I appreciate the motion for use of the Daintree block passed by a majority, I chose to reject it as I remain concerned about the use of this land not creating a return for ratepayers – as laid out in my ‘Better Land Use’ mayoral priority – and following what I believe were the unfortunate missteps with the Qantas/Green Collar Carbon Credit Scheme proposal,” said Cr Kerr.

Cr Kerr said while aspects of the moved motion and proposal might have merit in the broad sense that the block can obviously be considered for a range of uses, the community feedback he is receiving indicates that putting carbon offsets and abatement at the heart of the block’s usage denies the community a chance to put forward and discuss other proposals, environmental or otherwise.

“Council is playing catch-up on this issue, especially in stating they now want to take the community on a journey with them around how the land will be used,” he said.

“In line with my 2020 mayoral bid – underpinned by the notions of consultation, transparency and accountability, and particularly so close to the impending commencement of the caretaker period (22 February) – in good conscience I had no choice but to reject the motion.

“I firmly believe that the eventual use of this block should only be finalised once the new council is sworn in and detailed community consultation and feedback occurs,” said Cr Kerr.

The land is located about 1km north of the northern banks of the Daintree Ferry crossing. The cleared sections are currently being used for beef cattle grazing.

Council held Environmental Workshops in December in Cow Bay and Port Douglas with the aim of providing a high-level overview of Council’s current environmental initiatives and discussing key ideas for the project.

A feasibility study for the project will be undertaken following the establishment of a stakeholder reference group and the identification of potential initiatives.

Mayor Leu said the project would be community-driven.

“A dedicated webpage will be created with regular project updates and online surveys to gauge community appetite for various project initiatives.

“If required, community workshops will be arranged to provide residents and businesses with an additional opportunity to shape the direction of the project,” said Mayor Leu.

The Concept Plan outlines Council’s six objectives for the land: Environment; Partner; Indigenous; Research; Learn and Recreation.


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