Mayor fights for new tourism investment in council debate


Karlie Brady


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The Tourism and Economic Development Officer position sparked debate during the Douglas Shire Ordinary Council Meeting on Tuesday.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr has said the implementation of a Tourism and Economic Development Officer (TEDO) position within Council will play a vital part in rebuilding the local economy.

Council resolved to note the implementation of the Tourism and Economic Development Officer and support the process undertaken by the CEO in the recruitment of the position, during yesterday’s Ordinary Council Meeting.

Mayor Kerr raised the topic via a Mayoral Minute noting that some people have questioned whether the CEO has acted appropriately in recruiting for this role.

Mayor Kerr said he was embarrassed they were wasting Council’s time debating the issue saying that the position was vital and he 100 per cent supports the position of the CEO.

“COVID-19 has decimated our economy,” he said during the meeting.

“Our tourism industry has been reduced to pretty much non-existent, the sugar industry is in a never-ending precarious position. Many if not most of our shops and business are closed and our investors are disappearing.

“The economists have shown us that when JobKeeper finishes in September the unemployment figure in this region will grow to near 30 per cent and yet we are sitting here debating the extremely rational and warranted decision by the CEO in doing his job in employing a specialised staff member in this area of economic building.”

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- On the agenda | Council seeks Tourism And Development Officer

Recent economic predictions made by Economic advisory firm, ID. Consulting Pty Ltd, forecast that the region could lose up to 12.7% of local jobs by the end of June this year and the Gross Regional Product could decline by 25.3% this quarter due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“This is no time to be playing politics, we are in a very serious situation,” Mayor Kerr said.

The Mayoral Minute was met by opposition from Councillors Abigail Noli and Roy Zammataro who voted against the motion.

Cr Noli called for Council to suspend recruitment for the TEDO position until at least the formal acceptance of the 2020/2021 budget asking for more time for questions to be asked.

“There is a need for an open conversation that includes the public as to why this position exists today, in this year in particular, and if indeed this is the right time at all,” she said.

She argued that there was a strong correlation between the TEDO position and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) of which she said there was a question mark hanging over its future with its contract with Council due to expire in a month.

“It may be argued that the wage of roughly $80,000 [referring to the wage of the TEDO position] would be better suited to be handed to TPDD as extra spending.

“There is nobody better positioned, better connected, better respected, better known in the world, nobody better to do this job then TPDD, at least that is what I think.

“But I’m not saying hand the money to TPDD, I’m saying I want to look at the options,” Cr Noli said.

Cr Noli also put forward a motion calling for the correspondence and meeting details between TPDD and Council to be provided to Councillors and contract arrangements between the two to become a public conversation.

Cr Noli’s motion was shot down with Mayor Kerr saying there were clear confidentiality clauses in contract negotiations between individual entities and Council.

“On the conclusion of the discussions of the new agreement, which is proceeding with TPDD, and once it has occurred I have absolute confidence that the CEO and staff will bring it to the Councillors to discuss any further amendments that you may wish to suggest prior to it being signed,” Mayor Kerr said.

“If you, as a councillor have an issue with the operational procedures of the CEO or staff and the direct procedure that they do as written in the Local Government Act, then bring the issue to me so that I can discuss it with the CEO and not make it a public spectacle of this local government office.”

The CEO also added it was not appropriate to discuss contract negotiations in an open meeting as it is confidential at this stage.

Cr Noli’s motion was not passed with Mayor Kerr and councillors Lisa Scomazzon and Peter McKeown voting against it.

Other items resolved at yesterday’s Council meeting include:

  • Proceeding with the installation of a playground at 49 Milman Drive, Craiglie, of which there had been public petitions created for and against the project.
  • The development application for a material change of use for medium impact industry (water bottling facility) in Upper Daintree.
  • And Council resolved to defer negotiations of the transfer of ownership of Macrossan Street from the Queensland Department of Transport & Main Roads to Council.

The full meeting can be viewed on Douglas Shire Council’s Facebook page.

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