‘Protect our Paradise’ group outline their concerns


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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An image on the Protect Our Paradise website points to the proposed development area.
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The proposed $60 million development on the 69-73 Murphy Street site overlooking the Esplanade, which developer Tim Gurner says is his ‘love project’, has been met with mixed reaction in the town.

Perhaps the most vocal is a group of residents who oppose the development and have created a website ‘protectourparadise’ to air their disapproval. Protect our Paradise is a community of residents who have concerns about the Gurner development .

In a letter addressed to Gurner and posted on social media, they said the way in which he has chosen to bring his brand into Port Douglas is in our opinion damaging on many levels. They listed five issues:

  1. It heavily and negatively impacts our iconic Four Mile Beach and Esplanade Ruins our Esplanade Park (Jalun Park);
  2. It ignores the traditional town planning codes that have protected our “no taller than a palm tree” village signature which attracts guests and residents alike to the region;
  3. It uses all but 100% of the 2833 square metres of the beach-end Flagstaff Hill with hardly a tree left standing (standard setbacks to adjoining buildings are not even provided for);
  4. Gurner’s intention to purchase from the State Government a portion of Flagstaff Hill located in the Esplanade to build on;
  5. It creates a precedent for high rise high-impact developments throughout the Shire.

In an extensive interview with Newsport, Protect our Paradise spokesperson, Wendy Crossman, owner of By the Sea Port Douglas, outlined their concerns in this Question and Answer. Wendy is speaking on behalf of the group.

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1. What is your stance on development in the town – what would be acceptable and not acceptable?

We are not opposed to development as long as it complies with the traditional and essential codes of the Douglas Planning Scheme that have protected our unique village signature. Specifically these codes/rules include: no building can be more than three storeys tall or no more than 13.5 metres high, there must be setbacks to maintain character and amenity and achieve separation from neighbouring buildings, that a low ratio of land is built on (to ensure that natural flora is maintained), that any development is built in a style consistent with its environment and the overall feel of the location, that the height of buildings must be in keeping with the residential character of the area.

Should the current Douglas Shire Council not abide by these essential rules, the Shire opens itself up to high-rise, high-impact developments which will destroy the essence of the village charm that is a core attraction to our primary tourist demographic.

2. Your group – through your website – has not been shy to express your disapproval of the Gurner project. We’ve listed why you believe this is damaging, but don’t you think it is unmerited to target a developer who can enhance the town?

www.protectourparadise.com.au is a community information and awareness website. We are not targeting Mr Gurner. Our concerns are not with Mr Gurner but how he has chosen to introduce his brand to our village. We voice our concerns with his proposed design. These concerns are genuine, informed and merited.

We are also voicing these genuine concerns because we believe that the community is generally only hearing about one side of the story and that is how brilliant it is that Gurner has chosen to develop in the town and not the negatives of his proposed development.

3. What sort of advice have you been given to obtain a better understanding of this complex project and what it entails?

Some of our concerns are perfectly straightforward and are quite readily identifiable in the information provided by the developer in the application to Council. However, we most certainly are not experts so you can be assured that what we state is based on independent professional advice that has been provided to us.

4. In terms of the planning what are your concerns when you view the proposed project from the perspective of Four Mile Beach Esplanade?

Mr Gurner is correct that the visibility and height of his proposed development is low from the perspective of its registered address of 69-73 Murphy Street. However, the reality as we understand it is that the development is centred in the Esplanade and will have a highly negative impact on an iconic location, Four Mile Beach and Esplanade, as well as the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. Our concerns are stated in our open letter to Mr Gurner dated 11.2.21, and are also available on our website www.protectportdouglas.com.au.

5. Do you think, as Gurner said, this project will benefit the town and stimulate the local tourism sector again?

At the end of the day, Mr Gurner is providing just another 18 hotel rooms, restaurants and bars into our tourism market. They might be beautifully ultra-luxe, but this certainly is not going to stimulate the tourist market back into action again.

Local tourism is depressed not by the lack of an ultra-luxe image, but because of the impact of COVID-19 causing state border closures and zero international tourists. Once vaccines roll out, the tourism market will undoubtedly return to the pre-COVID buoyancy.

If we are looking at what may further stimulate local tourism, we suggest that a priority should be the revival of the Marina, and also a swimming lagoon in our opinion.

As for the view that the Creation Hotel & Residences will create jobs in a town that is already struggling to find employees, we expect it will bring some builders in to town for a while (and provide work for those builders in the region if they do not already have enough work), but we do not expect it will generate a substantial of permanent employment opportunities

6. Has your group reached out to Tim Gurner with a view to meeting with him? If this occurred, what would your five messages be? He did say he would work with everyone who is interested in the project to ensure that it adds positively to Port Douglas.

Yes, we have. Please see our open letter to Mr Gurner posted both on www.protectourparadise.com.au website and also on Facebook/ Protect our Paradise Douglas Shire. Our message is simple – while it is good in theory to have the Gurner brand in the mix of our tourism, our alarm is how Mr Gurner has chosen to develop this brand, the size of his footprint, and where the development is located.

These would be five of the questions we would appreciate Mr Gurner addressing:

a) We understand that you are, in effect, utilising practically 100% of the 2833 sqm of Flagstaff Hill freehold land and that there will be hardly a tree standing. Does your development really need to be that dense and intense?

b) You are also intending to build on a portion of Flagstaff Hill (close to the Walking Trail) that you need to purchase from the State Government. This will encroach even further into the Four Mile Esplanade. Given the intensity and scale of your construction, the impact is already significantly imposing. Do you really need to encroach even further into our Esplanade by acquiring this community resource?

c) You have chosen to centre your Creation complex in the Esplanade (you actually refer to your hotel as the “Esplanade Hotel” in your development application). You have also chosen to utilise our Esplanade public park (Jalun Park) as the only vehicular entry to your resort complex. This requires the Park road to be considerably widened to accommodate tour buses, utility vans and guest car access. That is bad enough but rather than use the natural road as the entry in to the freehold property, you choose to build your own 6-metre-wide ramped road as across the western side of what is already a small park as exclusive entry in to your Creation. Do you really have to do that?

d) The stability of Flagstaff Hill is a concern to many in the community. The location is renowned for landslides in the wet season. The last permitted development on the land you are planning to utilise was for six villas. Yet, on this hill, you intend not only to build an 18-room hotel but also a complex of 16 very large villa style residential apartments and a 175-metre square restaurant, bars, wellness centre, gymnasium, pools and porte-cochere. What assurances can you provide?

e) Does your Creation complex have to be 27.8 square metres high and so intense? This does not comply with our Planning Scheme, and for the community, sets a dangerous precedent for future high rise and high impact developments.

7. Besides the website, what other actions are in the pipeline, eg. expressing your concerns to Council?

Of course we are going to continue to be proactive.

8. Is there a wide range of business people in your group; and what kind of support have you received in the town and beyond?

We have been delighted with the feedback and we would like to extend a big thank you to the many people who have chosen to support our community campaign.

Thank you!

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