Debate sparked over Port Douglas cycling event tipped to inject millions


Karlie Brady


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A three-day new cycling event slated for the Douglas Shire is predicted to inject over $3.8 million to the local economy. Image: Con Chronis, Grand Fondo event in Victoria.
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A three-day new cycling event slated for the Douglas Shire, predicted to inject over $3.8 million to the local economy, has gained the support of Council following a lengthy debate at Tuesday’s Ordinary Council meeting.

Council has resolved to provide a letter of support to Connect Sport Australia to accompany their funding application for the Port Douglas Grand Fondo Festival to regional and state tourism bodies.

Connect Sport Australia have proposed for the Port Douglas Grand Fondo Festival to be held on 10 to 12 September 2021, with multiple events scheduled over the weekend in the Douglas Shire.

The proposed dates are aimed at capitalising on a seasonal lull that traditionally occurs in the first two weeks of September before school holidays.

As the event grows and participation builds there is potential for the event to deliver over $10 million to the town within four years.

All Councillors agreed that the event and subsequent cash injection would be good for the Shire, however, the issue of contention is that the main event, a ride between Port Douglas and Palm Cove, requires a half-day rolling road closure for sections of the Captain Cook Highway.

The road is proposed to be closed on 12 September 2021 between Palm Cove and Wangetti (5:30am-11:30am) and Wangetti and Port Douglas (6:00am – 1:30pm).

Douglas Mayor Michael Kerr said he was torn with the request, believing that it was a beneficial event for the Shire, however, was also aware of the animosity created during other cycling events which have required the road to be closed.

The annual Cairns Ironman, a seperate event, has created heated debate amongst locals for years due to its full-day closure of the Captain Cook Highway with many perceiving it to have little benefit to the Douglas Shire. In 2020 the event saw the highway closed on a Sunday during the middle of the September school holidays.

“I understand the proposed three-plus million dollar economic benefits put forward that an event like this would bring to Douglas,” Mayor Kerr said.

However, he said there would be members of the community who will also be negatively affected.

“I believe that this decision cannot be made lightly.

“The issues that are created for those who are not involved in the event and don’t gain any advantage have to also be considered.”

“It sounds really exciting I'm not against the event, but it is another closure of the Captain Cook highway.”

Event organisers have been working hard to get local businesses on board with 41 already signing a support letter.

“This is a worthy event and I do believe that it has merit and I do believe that it deserves consideration,” said Mayor Kerr.

Mayor Kerr said he would have preferred to defer the decision to allow for community feedback, however, the time constraints on the funding application did not allow that.

Instead, he proposed an amendment to the motion that Council provides in-principle support for the event, however, said if funding is successful a finalised agenda of the event be brought back to Council before it could be approved, to allow time for community feedback.

However, the other councillors did not agree with the amendment.

Councillor Abigail Noli questioned what would happen if event organisers received their requested funding by tourism bodies only to come back to Council and be denied support.

Councillor Roy Zammataro said the cash injection was something the Shire couldn’t afford to miss out on; thoughts echoed by the other three Councillors.

“I fully support this event,” Cr Zammataro said.

“The last year hasn’t been very good economically in the Douglas Shire and any opportunity to inject $3.8 million into the economy is something we need to steam ahead with.

“The road is only closed half a day, I don’t think it will cause anywhere near the dramas of the other event.”

In the end, the original motion to provide a letter of support to Connect Sport Australia was carried unanimously.

Read the full Council report here or watch the full Council meeting below:

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