LETTER | Lucky to have Julia


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Dear Editor,

The response last week to the Gazette’s online poll about the Douglas Shire mayoral election reveals that the tactics used to subvert the common good in far bigger democracies than this shire are now afoot here.

It is not the Gazette’s fault. It put the poll up in good faith. But the people in Michael’s Kerr’s campaign latched on to it immediately. They got their people to click on to it early and often. So when the poll closed (after a very short time) the result was Michael Kerr 78% to Julia Leu’s 22%.

The result was preposterous, skewed, and not reflective of current opinion. But it should alarm the residents of Douglas Shire because it shows classic manipulation of the internet to undermine reasoned debate and sensible conclusions.

It runs like this. The aim is to capture power and the purse strings to divert broad public money and resources to narrow big-business and property-developer interests.

It starts by sowing doubts about the incumbent, whether it is about the “Washington swamp” or attacks on Leu’s financial competence or ethical standing. It does not matter if the attacks do not have any factual base. And there is an undercurrent that a woman is not up to the job (an almost worldwide phenomenon of not accepting women in positions of authority) coupled with slurs about appearance which Mayor Leu does not want to sink to respond to.

It then sets up “community” associations with benign names (but precious few members) as a mouthpiece to push its agenda, as if it is some broadly representative body ¬– just like the newly formed sham Douglas Shire Rate-Payers Association.

It then moves to promising a prosperous new economy under a new administration – a new Port Douglas boom based on huge increases in tourism, business, property development and growth.

It is highly delusional stuff. There is no nirvana. It is just a grab for power and the purse strings, against the interests of the broader public.

In Douglas Shire they have several aims – the hidden agenda, if you like. First, to expropriate the money the council spends on tourism promotion and tourism online infrastructure to turn it in to private profit. Second is to blow apart the town planning development envelope, especially west of the highway. Third is to loosen height limits along Four Mile Beach and elsewhere to allow profit-yielding buildings of six, seven or eight storeys. Fourth is to get the council to fund inappropriate infrastructure in the Daintree to the benefit of a few property owners.

This agenda will destroy the very things people come here to enjoy or the reasons they come to live here.

Overseas visitors, especially, are charmed by the village atmosphere of Port Douglas and its astonishing beauty. Of course, there should be development, but not high-rise, or turning sugar-cane farms to wall-to-wall housing or trashing the Daintree. And especially not if council money is diverted to those things away from other spending that would improve residents’ lives.

Development west of the highway is a nightmare. I have seen it elsewhere at local, state and federal level over a long career in journalism. Typically, someone buys agricultural land, gets it rezoned, flogs it off block by block. But existing ratepayers and taxpayers have to foot the bill as new residents demand infrastructure and services – often previously promised by the developer but never delivered by the developer. In short, existing residents foot the bill for the lining of the developers’ pockets.

Douglas Shire was quite right to knock this on the head. As it was to knock the micro-grid in the Daintree on its head. And to reject high rise in the town. But, the record shows, the council and its staff bend over backwards to help sensible, sensitive development, which is encouraged not hindered.

Michel Kerr and his backers have put out a grab-bag of statistics alleging financial troubles with little base in fact, but enough to sew doubt among people who have neither the time nor inclination to test the assertions. 

But the facts put the lie to this diversionary twaddle and the aspersions against Mayor Leu’s competence and integrity. Upon deamalgamation from Cairns, Douglas Shire inherited $5.2 million in debt. It now has no debt. Since deamalgamation it has always met its budget and is now in surplus. Whereas, Cairns Council now has $121.2 million in debt.

The big-business, property-developer interests loved amalgamation of Douglas in to Cairns. The Douglas voice got drowned out, so they thought Cairns would wave through their greedy agenda, even if it meant Cairns could reap Douglas rates and only spend a fraction of them back here.

But even after the people spoke to de-amalgamate, the profit-driven agenda is still alive.

These people are tireless, but they are tireless and selfish, unlike Julia Leu who is tireless and selfless.

We have been lucky to have had Julia Leu as mayor for the past six years. She has carefully balanced the various geographic, community, business and residential interests in the Shire. And we are so lucky she is willing to put her hand up for another four years. We would be insane to lose her.

Do not risk this Trojan horse – the horse that beguiled the residents of Troy at their peril and now threatens to beguile the people of Douglas Shire.

*Crispin Hull and his wife, Louise, were so attracted by Port Douglas that they bought a property here in 2009 and moved permanently from Canberra in 2012. They then bought a yacht and often frequent the Great Barrier Reef. They own holiday-letting property here so have an interest in the shire’s tourism industry and prosperity.

- Crispin Hull

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