Council makes landmark decision on Daintree Ferry future
The Douglas Shire Council will buy the Daintree River Ferry.
After months of back and forth in contract negotiations, no mutually acceptable agreement has been able to be found between the Council and the current Ferry operators Sirron Enterprises (QLD) Pty Ltd.
With the current operational contract set to expire on June 30, the Council was forced to act and during a special meeting in Mossman yesterday, it was resolved that Council will purchase the current cable ferry and associated equipment for an agreed amount.
The sale price currently remains subject to commercial-in-confidence with Council stating it plans to transparently release the information once contracts are signed.
The purchase offer remains subject to Sirron and Council entering into an asset sale agreement by 21 May 2021.
The agreement will allow the ferry to keep operating uninterrupted.
The Council report states that the sale price is “higher than the marine valuers’ assessment of current or replacement value. However, the Council needs to consider the importance of continuing to provide the service without interruption.”
The motion to purchase was passed three votes to two, with Mayor Michael Kerr, and councillors Lisa Scomszzon and Peter McKeown voting in favour.
During the meeting Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said he was “disappointed” a perfect solution couldn’t be found however, this was the best option.
“Council staff have recommended the best option from a list of choices,” he said.
“I will continue to support a ferry service as declared after the consultation and I will continue to direct this Council in the best of its ability to progress in a two ferry system.
“I believe it is in the best interest of the ratepayers to support the staff’s decision to purchase the Daintree Ferry for the proposed amount.
“It is the only option available to this council that will guarantee that a full service will continue without interruption from 1 July and I believe in the long term it will put this Council in a much better position to be able to negotiate ferry contracts moving forward, owning the actual asset itself.”
Cr Somozzon said she was also “disappointed” to be left with little option but to outlay such an “exorbitant” amount to purchase the essential service.
“The upside to all of this is now the ferry will be a council asset and I believe that it should remain a council asset so that we aren’t put into this position again.”
Councillors Roy Zammataro and Abigail Noli voted against the option.
Cr Noli said she was unhappy with what had led to this recommendation.
“Let us be very clear about what is happening here today.
“This is not a great outcome for the Shire. This is a last-minute bid to make sure there is a way to cross the Daintree River from 1 July onwards.”
Another Special Council Meeting has been called for Thursday 20 May, so Councillors can consider awarding the tender for a ferry services contract.
Council has hired a Project Manager to coordinate upgrades to the land-based infrastructure required for a two-ferry system. A concept design is nearing completion.
“Once acquired, we can continue to progress plans to upgrade land-based infrastructure at the crossing for a second ferry service, which will form part of a re-tendering process later in the year," said Mayor Kerr.
View the full Special Council Meeting below:
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