A Little Bit About Me

A Councillor with the Douglas Shire Council since 2016, and having lived with my husband in the region since 2002, I immensely enjoy my work on council and broader involvement in our fantastic local community. Currently President of the Douglas Theatre Arts Group Inc., Homeless Animal Society and Boarding Kennels Inc. and Douglas Animal Welfare Group Inc., I also am a Director of Connected Communities FNQ, Bendigo Bank’s charity arm, which has donated back over one million dollars to charities throughout our region. I am a member of The Port Douglas Community Service Network, Port Douglas District Combined Clubs Inc., Mossman Botanical Gardens Inc. and the Cairns Animal Welfare Group Inc.

My Vision

Collaborating with both the resident and business communities to grow a successful Douglas with transparency, cohesion and financial viability for all that reside within it.

Infrastructure

Our roads, water infrastructure, bridges, gardens, street lighting and parks are just some aspects of Shire infrastructure that desperately require capital investment. If we are to remain a top tourism destination and a highly desirable place to reside and invest in, we need a reliable and feasible infrastructure action plan, which is why I have been formulating a Road Network Plan and Beautification and Usage of Parks and Gardens Strategy to lead the way in improving our local infrastructure.

Commerce

Douglas needs more than a basic Economic Strategy. We need a Sustainable Recovery, Development and Economic Growth Plan to help guide our Shire towards a brighter future. As a Council, we must deliver projects that enhance the Shire’s economic growth in existing areas, such as tourism, yet also encourage new industries to our region. This will ensure greater confidence in investment, leading to job creation and security, commercial success and residential growth.

Environment

Some may try and make this election predominantly about climate change. As a small green regional shire council, we need to be concise in our approach to dealing with this issue. We must always deal in facts, adopting a common-sense approach by strengthening our economy, which in turn allows us to participate in a range of environmental projects. The best path forward is for council to be transparent and build consensus via community consultation in devising a realistic Climate Change and Carbon Policy Strategy Plan while continuing to protect the environment through sensible planning, education and initiatives.

Agriculture

Our shire hosts a volatile and ever-changing agricultural sector, lead by sugar. While agriculture sits in the top 10 employment sectors of our local economy, council must assist in improving, developing and educating the sector in best practice and effective operating costs so we can retain, diversify and grow agricultural output from the Shire. While our Sugar Mill remains the economic heart of Mossman, both it and other agricultural and aquaculture businesses will remain an essential element of Douglas returning to being a highly diversified, successful economic region.

Family

Douglas is not just a place for tourism and agriculture – it’s a place where all kinds of families live. And while the word “family” may mean different things to different people, we have generations of locals who have the very fair expectation that Council exists to help make their lives the best they can be. At times, assistance from their elected representatives might be required, from a range of social services to affordable living for the elderly or disadvantaged to public transport that will assist residents in accessing employment, medical needs, shopping or social activities. Council should always have you, the resident, as a priority by planning, scoping, advocating and providing whatever is within its power to make lives better for all who live in the Shire.

Community

Council can be a driving force in facilitating a safe, diverse and social range of activities to promote growth, awareness, health and wellbeing in our community. From sports to the arts to outdoor activities, via projects such as the Port Douglas Sports Complex and Mossman Showgrounds master plans, council can help our region thrive through the increased availability of facilities that enrich and encourage people to create friendships, form communities and develop lifelong memories and relationships.

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

– Gail Sheehy

Your Support Will Help!

They say that every vote counts. Believe me, it’s so very true. If you feel you could be in a better position than what you currently are, help bring about real change and show you want a new direction by voting on Council Election Day.

Vote on 28 March 2020, and have your say in the direction our Shire will take in the new decade and beyond.

And don’t forget – voting is compulsory!

Some Background

Since moving to the shire nearly 20 years ago, I’ve always held a keen interest in the direction the region is taking. Although I intended running for council earlier than my first run in 2014, I was persuaded to hold off when the shire was amalgamated with Cairns.

Following de-amalgamation, I ran in the 2014 election and was in that attempt unsuccessful, but undeterred successfully ran in the 2016 election and remain a councillor as we head into the 2020 election.

A Move up North: Becoming A Local

After a career in hospitality management in Victoria, Tasmania and SE Queensland, I moved to the Douglas Shire to take on work at a resort property in 2002. Meeting my future husband at this property provided an extra reason to settle in this amazing location. When the opportunity arose around two years later to work in the UK, we both took advantage of it, going on to live in London and Glasgow for three years before we were brought back to the Shire in 2006.

Returning for a wedding, we realised how much we missed this location. The trials and tribulations of the council at the time always interested me and this is when I first started to investigate the possibility of running as an elected member. In August 2007, the Shire of Douglas was merged with Cairns City Council and the newly formed Cairns Regional Council took over. Several years later during the de-amalgamation debate, I made the decision that if it was successful I would run for a council position.

Having no idea where to start, I put myself forward with 15 other hopefuls and came 12th. Disappointed at not being successful, it was actually a fortunate outcome as it was the best learning experience about local politics. Realistically, I can also look back and see I wasn’t ready at the time. The most wonderful part of the process was the people I met on the journey. Following my initial tilt, I was approached to assist in various organisations and have since then been able to use my knowledge and skills to help the community with various projects.

President of The Douglas Theatre Arts Group

Not long after the 2013 local government election, I was approached to see if I would be interested in joining the Douglas Theatre Arts Group Committee. Having cabaret room experience and loving the old theatre, I jumped at the chance for an opportunity to be involved with this local treasure. The Arts can play such an important role in our lives, particularly in local communities, and the experience of being a cast member in a show lives with you for a lifetime while bringing much joy to those who come to see productions.

It was challenging at first: money was tight, experience levels were mixed and the theatre itself needed a lot of work. But over the years we have been very successful with our productions, which have included Annie, Grease, The Sound of Music, The Full Monty and most recently, Oliver. We have also had many solo artists and groups perform at the theatre who locals normally wouldn’t have access to without a trip to a city.

Our success is due in part to being highly successful with grant applications, receiving over $100 000 through various funding streams over the past five years. These grants have allowed us to improve disability access to the theatre, ensure the theatre meets occupational health and safety standards, and for modernised equipment to be environmentally friendly and more cost-effective. As President of the Association, I am extremely grateful to the committee and the experienced professionals who assist in making it all happen.

President of the Homeless Animal Society

I remember so well the day I was asked to take on this committee. I thought, “What can be so hard, raise some money, find a block of land and there you go…done!”

How wrong I was and how unaware of the many battles ahead that we would face. This is by far be one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had while also being one of the most rewarding. Animal welfare is one of my passions and when days came along in my own life that felt hard or impossible, I would go to the shelter and sit with the puppies knowing they still had it worse.

If it wasn’t for us trying, they would literally have no hope.

Since taking on the role of president with the association, as a committee, we have raised thousands of dollars through community support. Throughout this time, we knew we were doing the right thing. Whenever a call was made donations came in and with every battle we faced the community was there behind us. It wasn’t without challenges, however. When the old shelter closed in September 2016, we seriously thought our days were numbered. Instead, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and set about opening a charity shop to keep the association afloat. The support has been amazing and through this charity, we have been able to keep the organisation running.

We still have a long way to go and I’ve made a commitment that I’ll see this through. Douglas Shire needs a shelter to give abandoned and unwell animals the opportunity of life. In the past five years, we have been extremely lucky with grant funding allowing us to purchase a property, pay for the costs involved in getting council approval and to fund an expensive legal battle. Through perseverance, we won through, with the property now officially the association’s and allowed to be converted into an animal refuge.

After many meetings and constant harassment by our passionate committee (thanks Warren!), we received a grant for $500,000 from the Federal government to assist in the conversion. We hope that this will see us over the line and allow us to have an open and operational facility in the near future.

We remain committed and thank the kind, caring and charitable people of the Shire for your ongoing support.

Douglas Shire Council Councillor

Becoming a councillor was one of the most exhilarating things I have accomplished, while also being one of the most difficult. Experience from my previous campaign assisted in the 2016 election, but I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of bullying and unsavoury activity that occurred, part of which was the juvenile “any1buttkerr” campaign, which included memes, posters and even a website. A tough period of my life, it also gave me one of the greatest lessons in toughening up and a welcome to the rough and tumble of public life.

We all have different views, with not everyone agreeing, and admittedly finding balance has been challenging in my first term. I always said that if I was successful in my run for office my main goal was to be able to go home and sleep at night with a clear conscious. Sometimes that has been hard: living in a small town means decisions you make affect friends and people you know and care for. But I hope and believe that I have always had the best interests of everyone when making decisions and will continue to strive to do so.

Over the past four years, I’ve taken the opportunity to watch and learn how council works and of what is expected of councillors. This is an important part of the next step in my political journey. While in the future situations will arise that need to be handled differently to how I might prefer, I believe it’s important to continue good relationships with those who hold the majority view in our democratically elected Shire council.

I have immensely enjoyed my time as a councillor. Making the decision to run for mayor has been challenging as I know as a councillor I still have a lot to give to our community. I don’t want this journey to end, but the feeling of restraint given the way council currently stands is far worse. I cannot do the many things I believe are required for Douglas to grow and prosper unless I take this step.

It is my hope that alongside similar-minded locals, we can join forces to bring Douglas Shire to a better place that everyone who lives here feels graciously proud of.

Director on Connected Communities

Connected Communities FNQ Ltd is the board that distributes the community grant funds accrued in partnership with the Bendigo Bank.

I was honoured to be invited to the board in 2018 and have actively been part of decision-making around many of the grants issued throughout our region. This board has issued more than $1,000,000 since it commenced in 2010 – it’s wonderful working with like-minded people and being able to assist a range of deserving local charity groups. www.cc-fnq.com.au

My Abilities

I am community-driven and have extensive experience in managing people, businesses and the many processes of local government.

I believe I have the following to continue to offer.

Committed to my Community

I am a person of deep conviction with a local reputation as being committed to working selflessly for others. If voted mayor, this tireless work will continue across many other sectors of the community through my commitment to making Douglas a better place to live, work and invest in.

Determined to Succeed

“Nothing was ever achieved, by someone doing nothing”.

To achieve your goals, you need to put yourself out there and work hard towards what you want, even if it’s only in small bites at a time. I believe I’ve shown the community that I’m willing to do what it takes to get a task completed, no matter how long it might take or how hard the fight. I will take this attitude with me if elected as mayor, always fighting for what I believe in and the good of the community.

Honest and Open Minded

In a shire with such diversity, all voices must be heard. Just because something isn’t an issue or problem for one person, doesn’t mean it’s not for somebody else. Being honest, open-minded and by dealing with facts rather than emotions or preconceived ideas is how I come to conclusions, taking this open attitude with me when dealing with people on a daily basis.

Willing to Listen and Assist

I pride myself on being approachable and willing to take time to listen, an attitude I’ve held firmly during my time as a councillor to ensure I hear the concerns of local people no matter where in the Shire they’re based. We all live here, we all love living here and we all have different needs and wants, so being inclusive and always listening is crucial to the continued prosperity of the entire shire community.

My Priorities For Douglas

I will work together with local residents and businesses to move Douglas in a new, refreshing direction, while always remaining aware

of maintaining the unique heritage of our region and the essential essence of what makes it such an amazing place to live, work and visit.

While I understand not everything can be accomplished immediately, the following are priorities I will advocate for once elected.

Accountable, Open and Inclusive Government

Shire residents I speak to have concerns that council has not been inclusive enough when it comes to consultation and information provision. Council is elected to represent and work the voting public, so it is imperative that decisions we make have the support of the majority of ratepayers.

I will endeavour to implement vast improvements on what we currently do and how we do it and will investigate a range of digital technology to make this happen. This will be introduced as part of a new Community Engagement Framework – “Douglas Shire Council Transparency Code”.

An example of one aspect of this code would be a system of live text feeds to all registered ratepayers to advise when and how surveys, consultation or information sessions will occur, linked to the opportunity to input their feedback on multiple platforms.

This code will improve council’s democratic accountability by offering ratepayers more agency and transparency in local decision-making processes, ultimately helping shape the Shire’s future direction in a way every one of us feels we have had our say in.


Changing Times Mean Changing Attitudes to Managing Water

Many of us appreciate that we are witnessing a change in weather patterns. While we’ve all been through periods of massive regional downpours, these have been accompanied by more frequent episodes of long stretches of close-to-zero rainfall, which threaten our ability to provide clean town water.

Council must address this. With weather patterns becoming more unpredictable even as we attempt to grow our shire to improve the local economy, I will lead council to investigate how to ensure there is enough water to meet demand, either drawn from local healthy river systems or collected and stored to offer uninterrupted supply during lean water periods.

Through creating a Water Security Level of Service Strategy Plan, we can forecast our water requirements and goals, navigating a way forward on how to achieve them through improved infrastructure, efficient water usage, enhanced education, and reusing and recycling water in safe and productive ways.

Input from the community on this will be invaluable. Water-use innovators will be encouraged to come forward and be part of the process to drought-proof our shire.


Reliable Roads that Help Drive Our Shire

Our local road network is critical for many residents of a shire that reaches from the south at Wangetti Beach all the way up beyond Degarra in the north. We live in a region that has periods of tumultuous and extreme weather. We know that it floods. We know of roads that are constantly blocked. We know the areas that are constantly damaged through these events. Because of this, our roads must be maintained by council so that they remain accessible and usable all year round and we must have plans in place to restore roads following extreme weather events.

In hope of putting some of our road network problems of the past behind us, I will introduce a Road Network Plan to guide council’s preparations for road improvements, repairs and future developments. I will also prioritise the sealing of frequently used gravel roads and regular maintenance on unsealed roads, such as the Bloomfield Track.


Economic Drivers to Keep Douglas Competitive

Just south of our shire is a city developing exponentially, and while many of us would agree that we don’t want any town in our region to become another Cairns, their local council are setting themselves up for massive residential and tourist growth.

This has the potential to have a devastating effect on our shire if we don’t introduce sensible and creative economic drivers that suit our region. Port Douglas is no longer a sleepy fishing town, Daintree Village is a gateway to the largest rainforest in Australia and yet tourism has seen a slump in recent times. And while the cane industry is still an important aspect of our local economy and community, neither Mossman nor the rest of the shire can continue to rely on it as one of the main drivers for employment and income.

Council needs to pivot towards a local economy that is attractive to developers and investors in its own unique way. Drivers such as the Mossman Botanic Garden, Marina Project and Mossman Mill Bio-Precinct are all positive economic boosters that should be celebrated and supported. We can help formulate other great projects similar to these if we collaborate whenever possible with all levels of government and private investors to incubate new opportunities that will create jobs, better incomes, greater investment and renewed confidence in our shire, strengthening our economic base and positioning it to grow further.

A stronger, broader-based and resilient local economy will also give us the ability to continue to protect areas of our shire – the Daintree, our wonderful beaches, the reef, amongst others – that are crucial “natural” drivers of our tourism sector.


Douglas SHIRE Development Plan

The current council wishes to develop a Port Douglas blueprint to look at all the requirements for the continued growth and development of Port Douglas.

While I obviously support and encourage this, given we also have many other wonderful townships, I believe we need to widen the development plant to encompass the entire shire.

One example would be investigating the expansion of the Balley Hooley to travel on from St Crispins through to Mossman where tourists can then access the Pool, Mill tour, Mossman Gorge etc. Another is to revisit the solar-powered bus service concept (based on the successful Adelaide Tindo buses), which would improve shire-wide transportation access outcomes for residents and visitors.

Every inch of our wonderful shire is as important as the next. Limiting the blueprint to Port Douglas betrays a lack of vision and fairness, and could even be detrimental given its narrow framing might lead council to double-up on expensive infrastructure better utilised on other important projects. A Douglas Shire Development Plan will allow for a range of projects to be looked at in both Port Douglas and other towns or locations, positioning the shire to take a more integrated approach to grow the value of our local tourism sector.


Protecting our Precious Natural Environment

So many of us live in the shire because we fell in love with the pure essence of our beautiful, one-of-a-kind region. I don’t believe any of us want to see the essential “nature” of our shire be diminished, or worse, disappear.

It is a central responsibility of council to ensure that the environment we live in is protected and preserved for future generations. We can do this by acting responsibly in our governance as a council and by giving residents the tools to assist them in ensuring our environment is protected for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Our Planning Scheme should be a double-barrelled, positive environmental mechanism, on the one hand ensuring sensitive areas in need of protection are preserved and on the other, allowing the development of residences, businesses and agriculture in a way that minimises harm to the environment.

Let us never forget that as the guardians of the Reef and the Rainforest and the remarkable natural landscape our shire exists on, we can live in harmony with our region by maintaining a balanced and holistic view to development.

My Climate Change Platform outlines further details of a thoroughly community-consulted “Climate Change and Carbon Policy Strategy Plan”, which will be suitable, appropriate and sensible for a small regional tourism council like Douglas.


Restoring our Parks and Gardens to be Glorious Green Spaces

While tourists come to the region for the rainforest and the reef, many stay longer to explore our region.

But what are we offering them in the way of public spaces?

Sadly, for me, one of the more disappointing aspects of our shire is the condition of our parks and gardens. At present, so many of our parks, gardens and open green spaces are in states of disrepair or drastically underused, sometimes being nothing more than paddocks of weeds and prickly grass. Occasionally, they contain playground equipment but for the most, many of these open public spaces present anything that would inspire tourists or locals to spend time in them.

Areas like Rex Smeal Park, with its lack of defined walkways, can be dark and dangerous,  and there are few cultivated gardens in the shire that are truly representative of us being the international tourist location we position ourselves as being. Even many of our streets are bland, almost desert-like, lacking colour or dimension.

We need a more comprehensive strategy for park and garden management that will formulate what best represents each open space’s location while also helping fulfil the recreational needs of residents and tourists. A plan that will create usable spaces providing entertainment and memorable experiences. Elements of such a plan might include: off-leash dog areas; established picnic grounds with appropriate facilities; more play equipment; additional sports facilities such as basketball hoops and pump tracks; established gardens and pathways with bench seats; and better foliage and tree maintenance.

We live in one of the most beautiful natural areas of Queensland, if not Australia, so we should ensure our valuable natural assets are managed and treated as such while being utilised in ways that maximise their benefit to both the local community and visitors to our shire.


Sensible, Considered and Progressive Planning Scheme Adjustments

Despite council’s planning scheme being designated as award-winning by the State government, local planning often remains complicated, over-protected and mired in red tape.

Planning layers created to protect our shire have often served to hinder, deter or outright reject proposed projects, stymieing economic growth. Sensible changes need to be considered and made to the current planning scheme that will allow businesses to grow in correctly designated areas and that enables further residential property development, in turn helping increase council’s rate-paying property base, but which will not take away the protection of sensitive environmental areas requiring protection.

Serious consideration will also be required to ensure the supply of residential properties  in non-tourism areas so that we have accommodation available for residents to live while working in the shire.


Creating A Contemporary Tourism Approach

Tourism is the lifeblood of our region. Without a successful sector, our entire shire suffers due to a drop in employment opportunities, reduction in the permanent population and a diminishment of the local business and services sector, which also shrinks as a consequence of a smaller population.

Through a visitor-focused strategic plan designed to reach a broader range of tourists and deliver exceptional and authentic experiences across the shire, we can revitalise our visitor economy. This bold new vision requires the contribution of all sections of the community – businesses and residents alike – to reposition our shire as an innovative, contemporary, vibrant destination, underpinned by the very essence of our extraordinary region.

This fresh approach to tourism, at least initially, will commence with the introduction of a new Council position – a Tourism and Economic Development Officer who will work with the Tourism Body and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure the shire has the infrastructure, experience and forward-thinking policy that aligns with the new contemporary approach to tourism management.


Connecting Our Residential Hubs

Environmentally friendly and cost-effective transport may seem futuristic but it’s not. Several countries in Asia, New Zealand and even our own Adelaide have forward-thinking governments that are investing in environmentally friendly public transport. And, as technological advances occur particularly around battery storage capacity, the potential for public transport systems to be carbon neutral and environmentally sound grows greater.

The implementation of an electric bus service in Douglas joining communities such as Mossman, Port Douglas, Newell Beach and Cooya will not only add a missing piece of council service provision and infrastructure, it will also have a magnifying effect on local economies as it becomes easier to move between townships.

Operated by solar power and equipped with GPS, which generates arrival and travel times and complimentary wi-fi, these buses would be a boon for both residents of our shire and our visitors. The elderly and those with disabilities would be able to travel between towns to access important services such as Centrelink or hospital appointments but also just to simply enjoy the different townships across the shire and what they have to offer. Our younger population would also have a means of travelling to visit friends, attend social sporting activities and travel safely between townships. And of course, there is the economic bonus of a public transport network connecting Newell Beach, Mossman, Cooya and Port Douglas, allowing residents to travel to work and for businesses to have greater access to employees who may not drive but would happily work or live in other towns if a public transport system was available to them.

Our tourism sector would also receive a solid boost if tourists had access to buses to travel around the shire to places such as Mossman to visit the Gorge and hopefully in the not-too-distant future the Botanic Garden.

This is a project I have been canvassing for five years. In many ways, it seems like a no-brainer to me that we must get on with if we are to offer a full range of publicly provided facilities that residents and visitors expect of a modern shire and council.


Renewal and Transformation to a vibrant country town

Mossman’s Front Street is the main artery of Douglas Shire. While it is functional and serves a practical purpose, it can be so much more and it’s high time to make up for years of little progress or development.

Just as with Macrossan Street, Front Street also needs a 2020 facelift, revitalised in such a way that it still retains its great country-town character. If Mossman is to get any kind of commercial uplift to improve its take of the tourism market, this must start with council making the street investment-worthy. Improved car parking, access to public toilets and an enhanced streetscape are just some of the ways we can attract both businesses and visitors to the street. We must also consider Mossman’s ageing population, who might find the street challenging, particularly when it comes to disability access.

Mossman is one of several great towns in our shire and I am passionate about pumping new life into this central, important thoroughfare.


A Vibrant Streetscape Tourists will Talk About

While the main street of Port Douglas is in no way broken, Macrossan Street needs a refresh.

Repopulating the gardens with modern tropical garden beds, and upgrading pathways and lighting themes will help increase public usage of the whole street and more generally improve its popularity. Parking is a major concern, both for locals and visitors alike, and if we hope to grow the number of tourists coming to Port, this must be addressed by the new council. A new multi-story car park and more streamlined cost-effective local transport solutions to take the pressure off our already strained parking network are just two ways we can improve the current situation.

The full length of Macrossan Street should be one of the strongest beating tourist-and-commercial-hearts of our shire. By thorough planning and not just ad-hoc projects we can make the entire strip inviting and vibrant so people will talk about it when they go home as having been one of the highlights of their trip to our shire.


A World-Class Marina in a World-Class Town

The Marina has the potential to be the focus of a new direction for Douglas.

As a major component of enabling Port Douglas to survive and thrive as a tourist destination, the proposed redevelopment is a priority council should be embracing, taking the steps necessary to ensure the development proceeds in a way that benefits the town and community but that is also true to the vision of the marina project development team.

This project offers an unprecedented opportunity for the Port Douglas tourist brand to be revived, particularly for international markets. Council must keep pace with what the redevelopment will bring to Port by matching its own infrastructure to meet the anticipated quality offerings of the project. There’s no point having a potential jewel in the crown built when it’s surrounded by pebbles and rocks!

A council with me leading it will not allow this opportunity to pass or have us fall short of the great potential it holds. We will carefully assess the many facets that might affect the external operations of the marina project, devising strategies and undertaking work to bring the entire township along with the project in a way that matches what this amazing development promises to be.


Improved Parking for Busy Town Centres

As residents in either community will agree with, parking is a problem in Mossman and Port Douglas. Both towns require improved parking options in close proximity to commercial areas so that customers are able to gain access to businesses in all weather conditions.

A range of options need to be investigated – from newly built parking facilities to improved access, which can be included as part of proposed street beautification works – that will open up parking opportunities for both townships.


Practical Safe Swimming Alternatives Now – Not in the Never Never

“To lagoon or not to lagoon” is an ongoing saga that feels older than Shakespeare. Each year around election time the idea is rehashed, leading to yet another new concept and design presented to solve the shire’s need for a safe swimming alternative in Port Douglas.

I’m yet to see a proposal that outlines how either financially or practically a lagoon can work with the currently limited rate base, little sign of economic growth and a shrinking population.

As beautiful and enticing as our shire is, we also know challenges exist when it comes to accessing our waterways. Whether it’s jellyfish on our beaches during the stinger season or crocs going about their business in places we’d rather they didn’t, as a 365-days-a-year tourist destination, we must provide safe recreational places for residents and tourists to socialise.

Council needs to take the lead with this issue, particularly when it comes to Port Douglas and its huge tourism flows, ensuring that there are social areas where swimming or water play can occur safely. But we can’t do this alone, so we must work on the strongest business case possible then canvas it at both the State and Federal levels and also to private operators to gain assistance in the installation of a permanent, safe, accessible water play area.

If we wish to continue to grow our tourism offering and increase this crucial sector of our local economy, while also offering locals an area for outdoor social activity, council must be an active force in making it happen rather than letting it sit on the backburner.

Whether it’s this design or the next, it’s time to stop planning and scoping and instead get to work on a safe swimming facility that also provides an alternative location for other social activity.

Realistically, however, I believe for it to happen within a reasonable timeframe it must be designed in a way that’s appropriate in terms of it being practical and cost-effective for our community.


Time to Truly be a United Shire: No More “Them and Us”

From Bloomfield to Wangetti, from Mount Windsor National Park to Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse, our shire should united – a shire your council represents in its entirety.

A hallmark of good government is Douglas having an inclusive council where regardless of population, all areas of the shire and its people are contributing factors in council decision-making and operations.

For too long, some residents have felt excluded from this. Over 700 people live north of the river, contributing to the shire as renters, homeowners, consumers, businesses and good citizens. Many of these residents have been left feeling their voices aren’t as important as others – that they are not included enough in council-made decisions about their lives.

As mayor, I will lead the change for greater shire-wide unity. My first priority will be to give a letter of full support to the Federal government initiative to supply environmentally friendly mini-grid power to Daintree residents who want it.

My second priority will be to further investigate the reality of providing a two-ferry solution via an effective solar-powered 36-car ferry for the Daintree crossing. I will confirm that the process for permits is being completed for this solution and will ensure that there is full disclosure of the costs involved, and who will end up paying for it. As rate-payers, you have the right to make informed decisions with all available information presented to you.


Showcasing the Unique Botanics of our Rainforest

Progressing the Mossman Botanic Garden Project is an absolute necessity, with a proposal of this scale and vision supported by council to ensure it gets off the ground successfully.

The Garden will infuse Mossman with greater commercial opportunities due to its unique tourist-pulling potential in offering a world-class destination that provides invaluable insight into our Unesco world-heritage-listed Tropical North Queensland.

It may also lead to the beginnings of a new tertiary education culture for the township, offering the shire a new reputation as a place for students of botany, agriculture, environmental studies etc. to visit.

Between the Botanic Garden and the Bio-Mill Precinct, Mossman has the potential to become a place that attracts a semi-permanent university student population and maybe even lead to the establishment of new satellite campuses of larger universities. This could potentially position the town to become an educational hub for our region, adding a completely new sector to the local economy while boosting the broader economy with the flow-on effect of students visiting and living in the region.


Protecting a Million-Dollar Asset

Over ten years ago, a study was conducted into the health of the oil palms that line the entrance to Port Douglas, recommending that this million-dollar asset be protected and stating that if the palms where not mulched, irrigated and fertilised regularly, their lifespan would be cut in half. The report also recommended that the nursery start propagating and growing new plants to ensure they reach a suitable size to act as replacements when needed.

None of the recommendations has been adopted. Council’s current plan is to replace the palms as they die with native trees. I believe we must preserve the iconic million-dollar avenue Port Douglas is internationally renowned for and that has been written about in so many travel pieces about the town and region. Losing the oil palms is akin to losing part of Port’s soul. Oaks have set an example in front of their resort in the way they have cared for the oil palms. I would hope to mimic this landscaping from Captain Cook Hwy down Port Road, using grey-water piping (which runs most of that distance) to irrigate these treasures of our community.


Respect and Acknowledgement for Local Indigenous Peoples

Almost everything council does has the potential to affect the traditional owners of the land the shire sits on.

As a community, we must be culturally sensitive to the traditional owners and inclusive in decisions that directly affect them. There are many ways we can do this. Ensuring correct local language is used in signage, incorporating local indigenous artwork into our brand and assisting indigenous residents to be involved in local tourism are just a few initiatives I feel strongly about investigating.

I also believe we need an Indigenous Cultural Officer within council. This will ensure that the Kuku Yalanji, Yirrganydji and Djabugay people have a direct link to council – a champion for their needs, ideas and attitudes around how council manages the shire.


A New Green Artery and Social Hub for Town

With the marina development potentially set to become in many ways the new heart of Port Douglas, Grant Street could be refashioned into a bold new “green” artery for town.

Closing off Grant Street from the Macrossan Street end and increasing park and seating areas between Macrossan Street and Warner Street will turn the strip into a refreshed green hub. And with improved pedestrian access, more dining areas and some public art, Grant Street could well become a new mini tourist precinct, adding yet another perfectly “Instagrammable” picturesque place to town.


Building a Unique Collection of Coral for Conservation and Research

As coral reefs worldwide decline due to climate change, severe storm events and coral disease, Australian non-profit organisation GBR Legacy, with partners Corals of the World and Cairns Marine, have announced plans to safeguard the biodiversity of all known hard-coral species by creating the world’s first Living Coral Biobank Project in Port Douglas.

Their plan is to collect and keep alive hard coral species from around the world in a state-of-the-art holding facility – a type of “coral ark” – in an effort to maintain the living biodiversity of coral and their algal and bacterial symbionts to ensure the long-term survival of our Reef.

Not only is this a noteworthy and amazing preservation project, it will also be another unique tourist attraction for vacationers to Douglas that I fully support and will be advocating strongly for.


A Bio-Mill as the Heart of Mossman for Generations to Come

For many in Mossman, the Sugar Mill has traditionally been a place of employment and a mainstay of the local economy, although some rightly argue the Mill has not kept up with the times and as a result has been the subject of endless complaints around poor EPA standards and lack of care for those who live nearby.

I have no intentions of taking up the case to close the Mill. I see it as part of the foundation of our shire. For the benefit of the entire community, council must work alongside the Mill’s new owners to ensure they can meet their commitments and smoothly transition to operating within EPA regulations as a bio-refinery and integral part of our local economy for generations to come.


Turning a Contentious Land Purchase into a Prosperous Asset

Late last year following the collapse in negotiations with the Qantas/Green Collar Carbon Credit Scheme, and at the request of some councillors, council brought forward the opportunity to purchase a block of land for tree planting to facilitate a locally-run carbon-neutral initiative. If successful, this will be discussed in a thorough community consultation on Climate Change and a Carbon Emissions Policy to gain a clear direction.

I have no desire to utilise this block for the reduction of council’s carbon footprint, personally believing the block is not fit for the purpose it was bought for and might, at best, mitigate a quarter of council’s carbon emissions at a large cost to the ratepayer. I agreed to the purchase because to me it felt chock-full of possible uses. I saw it as the purchase of an asset rather than as an expense as others have tried to frame the transaction, which of course makes no sense as council now owns a tangible asset that can be used to benefit the community in an ongoing way.

I am aware that others in our community also feel strongly about this and I am determined to flesh out the case for more useful, prosperous options going forward. My initial thoughts around using the land centre on the constant complaints we hear about the north side of the ferry lacking land to support the express lane and toll booths. Part of this purchased land would allow for the road reserve to be moved, allowing cars to be diverted into a designated express lane and toll booth area.

Given its location, this portion of the land could also double-up as a tourist attraction through the construction of an interpretation centre and tourism office where visitors can learn about the history of the Daintree dating back to how the traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji, inhabited the region right up until today’s modern issues around the environment and blockades. Tourists could also have the opportunity to leave their positive mark on the Daintree by buying and planting a tree to help rebuild that section of the rainforest. This would create another revenue stream for council and more employment in the region, and once these trees grow to a point where they can be used for carbon credits, the credits can then be sold to local or other small businesses to help offset their carbon emissions, creating even further income for council and value for residents.

There are also our beloved oil palms lining Douglas Road and the resolution over 12 years ago urging council to start growing them in a plantation in readiness for natural die-off and the eventual need for replacements in order to maintain our iconic entrance to Port Douglas. With time running out to start cultivating new oil palms, a portion of this parcel of land might be perfect for just such a plantation.

These are two ideas among many possibilities for this land, which could also include nature walks and a solar farm, and I look forward to a frank and full consultation with the entire shire community about the way forward.

This is more than just a block of land – it’s an important piece of the puzzle that helps make up a more prosperous future vision for our shire.


Helping Ageing Residents Remain in The Community They Love

Unfortunately, Port Douglas missed out on an important opportunity to improve housing outcomes for our aged community when Waks Development shelved its plans for Ferrero Road, as Council refused to amend the planning scheme that had already declined this project on its previous application. Even with the widespread support during the consultation stage by local residents, a majority of councillors insisted that the footprint of Port Douglas not be changed.

As well as providing accommodation options for ageing locals, a retirement complex would have brought in a new population of self-funded, non-working, ready-to-volunteer rate-paying property owners.

This is why revisiting the possibility of the Ferrero Road project ranks high on my agenda. As well as increasing council’s revenue, it will also expand our population and improve employment opportunities both at the IGA complex, as it potentially expands to cater to new locals at that end of town, and more broadly across other townships as an expansion of other services are needed for a once-again growing population.

We can do more, and we must. Revisiting the Ferrero Road development would be just one aspect of the kinds of housing opportunities in both Mossman and Port Douglas I would pursue with council as mayor. I value the great contributions to the shire of our long-term ageing residents, so working alongside the Douglas Shire Aged Persons Home Inc. to ensure that adequate and suitable housing is available will mean we acknowledge the great importance of our elderly to the broader community, enabling them to remain in the region they love and call home, rather than being forced to move elsewhere.


Let there be light…. and power!

Unless you’ve lived without the ability to perform the most simple action many of us take for granted – that of being able to switch on a light – it’s difficult to comprehend some of the daily struggles many over the river have to contend with.

This issue has been debated and surveyed ad nauseam. What I fail to understand is when a Federal government stumps up close to a million dollars to assist our fairly small Daintree community to kickstart an optional, environmentally friendly power solution, why would you not celebrate this and work for ratepayers towards a solution that embraces the option?

This opportunity to cut back at least some diesel use and enable those who want to be part of the eco-microgrid cannot be passed up, so I will ensure council works with the Federal government to get the best outcome when it comes to supplying the power needs of ALL residents living north of the river.


Redeveloping Mossman Aquatic Centre & Caravan Park

Swimming is a huge part of who Australians are, whether it’s in the waters off our amazing beaches, having a splash in our backyard pools or heading down to the local community swimming hole for a dip and some social activity.

Mossman Pool offers a safe and social environment for children and adults alike to become water-smart and fit, but also to be more socially engaged through swimming clubs and community events, so the redevelopment of the pool will greatly enhance life for locals.

When linked to my hopes of launching a new inter-town public transport network connecting Mossman, Newell, Cooya and Port Douglas via a solar-powered bus service and possible upgrades to Mossman Caravan Park, redeveloping the pool will enhance the Mossman community and bring more of the tourist dollar into the town.


A One-of-a-Kind Outdoor Experience for Locals and Tourists

Vocal in my disappointment at the removal of the iconic Old Mowbray Bridge locals used as a fishing platform, I became heavily involved in the push for the reinstatement of a fishing platform. Unfortunately, at the time this project was vetoed due to the astronomical costs estimated of needing to install car parking dictated by main roads.

So, I was ecstatic when the announcement came through about State government funding for stage one of the Wangetti Trail from Four Mile Beach to Mowbray River. This first stage of the proposed 94-km trail will allow locals and tourists to walk or ride their bicycles to view our local crocs in the wild and river-fish safely away from the water’s edge. I look forward to seeing the completion of this project and as Mayor will assist with its development where able.


Finding Ways to Live Safely With our Prehistoric Locals

Crocs and other deadly wildlife are the simple reality of living in far-north Australia.

Until the early 70s, it was the norm to hunt crocodiles meaning our waterways and beaches were safer and allowing much more in the way of water sports and recreation. Once this hunting ceased and the croc population began growing again, the human population also increased, meaning many water activities were severely hampered over safety concerns.

While, thankfully, the shire death toll due to croc attacks to this point has been low, council still needs to pursue policy that ensures safety without hampering the enjoyment of locals and tourists. Improved water play areas and safe swimming alternatives should be part of this policy to ensure the shire helps provide safe recreational water activity options.

Policy Platform

Strong leadership, a clear economic plan and a brighter more secure future for Douglas

2020 Vision for Douglas

The time has come for new opportunities, ideas and representation to move Douglas to its next stage of progress as a shire.

For many years, our shire has been plagued with issues of division, caught in the grip of historical attitudes and shouted down from being the best it can be by loud minority beliefs.

But this can change. Through ongoing community consultation and transparent and open operations, I believe council can better deliver what the community wants.

Amalgamation and de-amalgamation caused great angst in Douglas and the result of this process was a large financial burden on ratepayers. It’s done and dusted now and we are an individual shire that must continue standing on its own two feet for the sake of the rate base that lives and invests in our relatively small shire.

The goal and direction of the incumbent mayor to be in the black by 2019-20 financial year has been brutal for ratepayers and many also believe economically damaging to the infrastructure of our tourism townships and the locals who live in them. While record capital works may have been undertaken, you have to ask whether the projects delivered have been what you, the ratepayer, are aware of or wanted or needed. With over $11m in losses since de-amalgamation, even as council currently receives more than 28% higher rates revenue income than it did in 2014, this goal of surplus still comes with what appears to be a budget forecast that is unachievable without cuts to services. After years of constantly raising rates to cover the costs of de-amalgamation, as a ratepayer myself, I believe I speak for many when I say that rates in Douglas are no longer a value-for-money proposition. Many roads are in poor shape, parks and gardens are often no better than paddocks and trust in the judgment of investments made by the shire is shaky at best.

With rates and body corporate fees at levels higher than most regions, Douglas is no longer a place where investors want to place their portfolios either. As properties elsewhere attract higher and safer returns, the shire’s gross regional product now sits lower than pre-de-amalgamation, so as other councils have grown, ours continues to decline. This, in turn, has led to near-negative availability of rental properties as owners try to cover their costs through the short-let AirBnB market in the hunt for better returns. And those who haven’t been successful in keeping their investments profitable are part of the 20% plus of owners with properties currently listed on the market desperately trying to get out of what appears to be a worsening situation. Council needs to refocus and turn this dire situation around, retaining residents of all ages through improved housing and employment outcomes rather than face a rising tide of “For Sale” signs as locals and investment property owners of our community leave.

Our local environment is our lifeline. It’s the reason we live here and largely why tourists visit us, so it’s also our responsibility to ensure the environment is preserved for many generations to come. We must have an educated, rational and holistic approach to our environment and its protection, setting out achievable but realistic goals to ensure we are playing a role in both the environment’s and residents’ long-term survival. Council governs for all in the shire but it must act for the benefit of the majority, so we need to consult and gain consensus with ratepayers on our environmental stance so we can commit to how, what and when environmental goals are achieved.

The Douglas Shire Planning scheme is complex, constraining and often frustrating. While the essence of the scheme is to protect and limit development, it also creates difficulty for developing projects that our shire needs and wants. It’s time for the scheme to be reassessed with minor changes made as part of our economic recovery growth plan.

Although we live in the wet tropics, water is always a constant issue, with water restrictions imposed on a seemingly constant basis. The economic downturn that this creates is tenfold: Locals live with dust and dead gardens; landscapers, gardeners and horticulturists lose work; and visitors arrive to be disappointed or even critical of the shire as a tourist destination. We need to nip this in the bud and make better water planning a central part of the next council’s agenda.

As our population and the regions around us grow, and as we attempt to revitalise the tourism sector, it’s vital council has a plan to identify ways to improve our road networks so we can all better access areas throughout the region. I will introduce a Road Network Plan that will be used as an important guide when planning for improvements, repairs and future road developments.

Having pride in the way our towns are presented to visitors and residents should be a high priority for council. If we are to grow as an international tourist destination and present our shire as an attractive place for people to move to, we must take more pride in how our region is presented. Major town strips in the shire can be improved and our parks and gardens need to be given the priority they deserve through restoration works, improvements (where necessary) and ongoing care to ensure we remain proud of a shire many of us still believe is a tourist destination jewel in the crown for Far North Queensland. As part of this, we must also ensure we can achieve realistic material and services budgets for maintenance in the shire, which are currently forecasted at below the 2016/2017 actuals.

Finally, I personally feel and am sure it’s a sentiment held by many, that it’s time we as a community and council show our ageing population how important they are to us by finding ways to help them stay in our region during their later years. Despite our shire’s ageing population and being an attractive lifestyle option for retirees, we have little in the way of cost-effective housing options for an older demographic, so the issue of affordable housing must be addressed in areas of Douglas that desperately need it.

These are the ten key items (click on each of the tabs for more detailed information on each) that will be my lead priorities if elected mayor in the 2020 election and that are key to my 2020 vision for the shire.


Towards a Transparent and Consultative Council

The shire boasts a very interactive, tight-knit community. To strengthen this around governance, I will introduce a new community engagement framework via a “Douglas Shire Council Transparency Code”. This code will be created to assist council placing more power into ratepayers’ hands, and in doing so increase democratic accountability, making it easier for residents to contribute to the local decision-making process and help shape the future direction of the shire. Why, because it is the right thing to do.

Three principals will guide the development of this code:

Demand-led. There are growing expectations that new technologies and publication of information should support transparency and accountability. Public bodies like council must recognise the value to the public of data being held by understanding what they hold, acknowledging what their communities want and then releasing it in a legally compliant, approved fashion for use by the public, developers and the media.

Openness. To improve and drive accountability, provision of public information should be an integral component of council’s engagement with local people. The availability of information should be promoted and publicised so that residents know what they can access, how to access it and how it can be used. The presentation of this process should be helpful and accessible to local people and other interested persons.

Timeliness. Timely provision of public information is vital and should be made public as soon as possible even if initially unaccompanied by detailed analysis.

 

This code will ensure local people can see, access and comment on data covering:

How money is spent. For example, all spending and contracts valued over $50,000 to be available for viewing (amounts to be determined).

Use of assets. This code ensures local people can scrutinise how well their local authority manages its assets, giving locals the information needed to ask questions around this and whether best-use of assets is occurring.

Decision making. How decisions are made, who is making them, why they are being made and any information relevant to that decision.

Issues important to local people. These issues include roads, parks and gardens, caring for our environment, tourism and more, and the amount spent on these areas and why. Residents and ratepayers will have the opportunity to take ownership, and make comment of the breakdown in these spending areas.

Consultation results. Will be available for public viewing before continuing with projects

Alongside this, the new Community Engagement Framework guidelines I will enact will ensure the implementation of council’s community engagement policy.

Good community engagement will lead to:

  • Better project and service delivery outcomes
  • Improvement in the quality of policy being developed
  • Building more resilient relationships with the community
  • Enhanced reputation
  • Being a check on council that it is meeting local needs
  • Increased understanding of community issues
  • Better shared partnerships and networks
  • Enhanced ability to deal with complex and emerging issues
  • Opportunities for diverse voices to be heard
  • Communities being able to identify priorities for themselves and own the solutions.

In summary, it is imperative that council is transparent in both its day-to-day business dealings and when dealing with issues that directly involve community members. Deceit or fraud can thrive when decisions are not open to scrutiny and when the details of spending, contracts and service provision are hidden. Greater transparency, and the provisions in this code, can help combat these issues and are the foundation of local accountability – the key that gives people the tools and information they need to enable them to play a bigger role in our region. The availability of data can also open new markets for local businesses, the voluntary and community sectors, and social enterprises to run services or manage public assets.


Water Security for Now and Tomorrow

Water security and council ensuring water needs are met are a must for Douglas.

Currently, the council’s ability to produce water at times barely meets the current needs of the community, which is a precarious position to be in as water restrictions occur more frequently due mostly to a lack of storage rather than a lack of water on an annual basis.

Besides water’s inherent importance in our daily lives, it’s also an essential part of our tourism offering, particularly in terms of presentation of the shire. As a world-class destination, we must look the part or face damage to an integral sector of the local economy. This means having water available to keep our shire green. Without water to ensure gardens are pristine, we put at risk the jobs of important regional workers such as our horticulture, landscaping and gardening tradesmen who we cannot afford to lose.

While planning for quality, quantity and reliability of water supplies is important, the focus on long-term planning to supply ample water to our communities, alongside appropriate water-use education, is paramount. If successful in my run for mayor, I will introduce a Douglas Shire “Desired Water Security Level of Service (LOS)” plan, which is particularly important for long-term water supply planning and already in place in other regions of Queensland.

Water LOS objectives can be viewed as a planning tool that set targets for long-term water supply security for a community. The objectives relate to the bulk water supply system, or in other words, the “bucket” of water available for treatment and distribution to a community. LOS objectives contribute to a community’s understanding of their water security position and guide planners and decision-makers, particularly regarding investment, to ensure there is adequate long-term water supply by investing strategically.

In the past four years, council has invested $30.8m in water infrastructure capital works and yet we have still had strict water restrictions in place. The LOS will ensure we are investing wisely as well as having the ability to discover alternative water possibilities for irrigation and pools, which is currently assumed to make up 2/3 of our water-plant’s processed water that is suitable for human consumption.

LOS objectives commonly include statements about:

  • How much water the water supply system will typically be able to supply
  • How often and for how long water restrictions might occur
  • The possibility of needing an emergency water supply due to a prolonged drought
  • How much water will be required over a certain period
  • How water is being used
  • Alternate methods of supply and storage.

The selection of water security LOS objectives is affected by water demand, supply infrastructure and supply operations, including factors such as:

  • Historical water use, population projections and predicted future demand
  • Infrastructure capacity and hydrological nature of the network
  • Cost (social, environmental and financial) of supply, changes to operations and of additional infrastructure
  • Supply characteristics, water restrictions and community resilience
  • Consequences and likelihood of emergency measures
  • Storage characteristics and climate variability.

Through the LOS, council will be able to estimate how much more treated water we require and plan accordingly to investigate and install further water supply inlets, larger water-holding areas and possible access to underground aquifers.

Greywater treatment and usage must also be further investigated to ensure local parks and gardens remain pristine year-round, with education programs and possible incentives for households to be water smart, garden savvy and to utilise recycled water systems collecting water from sinks, baths and showers for garden usage. I will also introduce smart water meters (example) to the shire so that residents can constantly monitor their water usage.

Water infrastructure is a top-level priority for Douglas and more infrastructure is needed to provide higher water-supply performance. This extra infrastructure will also provide the benefits of reducing the risk and associated costs of water restrictions or of not having sufficient water supply that will ultimately restrict Douglas from continuing to grow.


Strong, Steady, Sustainable Economic Growth

FACT: Over the past six years, our economy has shrunk meaning that since de-amalgamation, the Douglas Shire economy has gone backwards. At de-amalgamation in 2014, our Gross Regional Product was at $793,000,000. As of today, it sits at around $710,000,000. So, rather than growing like the rest of Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, Douglas has declined by $83,000,000, or a 10.5% drop from 2014.

FACT: 2018 saw the first negative population growth in Douglas. Alongside a shrinking population is a contraction in our full-time equivalent employment which has dropped from 6,147 in the 2013/2014 year to 5,473 in 2018 or around 11%.

FACT: Housing building approvals in 2014/15 were at $31,607,000. In 2018/19, this had dropped to $16,507,000, effectively nearly halved. These stats point to either a lack of need or availability and have negative flow-on effects to our economy given only 258 ratepayer properties have been added to our rate base since de-amalgamation

FACTAustralian CPI has consistently been below 2% but our Shire rates increases have been far higher. With recent general rate increases of 5.2%, 3.9%, 3.9%, 3.9%, 3.9% and 1.8%, and with forecasted rate increases of 2.9% each year, the current economic strategy from de-amalgamation is not working for ratepayers.

Douglas needs an “Economic Stimulation and Recovery Plan” to reverse the broader economic and population decline caused by a lack of economic drivers in the current council’s policies.

This can be done in several ways.

Developing New Revenue Streams

Firstly, council can begin formulating a range of alternative revenue streams to reduce pressure on rates increases by utilising more effectively the standout professional skills of our highly qualified CEO and managers. Together, our team can also create and deliver a confident marketing plan that includes KPI’s and performance outcomes for a new Tourism and Economic Development Officer who will work with both the Tourism Body and Chamber of Commerce.

Encouraging Appropriate Development

As a team, the mayor, councillors, CEO and development officer should also be encouraging and inviting developers to the shire who we feel will serve our economic needs, while planning ways to inspire future developments that are suitable for and benefit our location. We must create a change in mindset by improving confidence for investment so that we can once again join other traditional councils of FNQROC in moving in a positive direction.

Reducing the Need for State & Federal Assistance

While council has been very successful in gaining grant funding for various projects since de-amalgamation, the growing gross debt of both the Federal (Dec 2019, $561B) and State governments (2019 May Budget, $71.4B) means that future assistance to tourism townships is likely to diminish, particularly as more funding is required for disaster relief or to account for changing global economic headwinds.

As a council, we need to position ourselves strongly for a future where we will more often need to stand on our own feet without higher-level governmental funding. To do this, we must work on stimulating local job growth by increasing our share in the regional tourism market and securing Douglas as a thriving holiday destination, but also across other job sectors that offer year-round employment opportunities in various trade and non-trade industries. Council must also encourage year-round businesses to the region through incentives and initiatives that will make them confident investing in our region. This will bring back more permanent residents to the area, further stimulating local businesses and growth opportunities in affordable rateable properties, which will, in turn, allow increased council infrastructure to cater for residents and tourists needs.

Through this plan, and after hearing the results of the selected members of the Economic Development Group discussion panels – which will help flesh out the plan further – I believe we can work together to enter a new decade full of confidence, productivity and prosperity for our region.


A Shire Connected by Safe and Sound Roads

Council should recognise that keeping the shire’s road network flowing – in good repair and available – is a social and economic driver.

As our population grows, the shire must have a plan to identify ways to improve its road networks and continue to offer better access to areas throughout the region. I will introduce a Road Network Plan to be used as an important guide when planning for road improvements, repairs and future developments. This plan will include supporting the implementation of sealing gravelled roads throughout the shire, reducing flood-affected roads that block residents from their homes and a regular maintenance program of current roads.

During the consultation process, the Road Network Plan will receive valuable input from key stakeholders, including the Department of Transport and Main Roads, council staff, the SES, RACQ, residents and current contractors. It will also recognise the need for State and Federal governments to uphold their financial commitments around continuing to better roads within our shire.

The delivery of this plan will be guided by a very simple principle – that the shire delivers road projects that are cost-effective and which represent value for money for ratepayers. We will achieve this by focusing on enhancing existing road infrastructure, ensuring accessibility on all roads and, only where needed, building new roads.

The Road Network Plan has four priority actions:

  1. Develop a targeted strategy to reduce roads affected by flooding.
  2. Undertake a targeted road upgrade program across the gravel road network.
  3. Advocate for state and federal roads to be regularly maintained at appropriate times throughout the year.
  4. Introduce a regular road maintenance program for council roads throughout the shire.

In addition to these priorities, this plan focuses on working collaboratively with the State Government to ensure a more reliable, safer road network.


A Green, Lush Region Proudly Protective of its Parks, Gardens, Streetscapes and Natural Beauty

We are an international tourist destination that prides itself on being a tourism icon, so also having pride in the way our towns are presented to both residents and visitors should be a high priority for council.  While we have the Reef and the Rainforest available to tourists, Port Douglas, Mossman and Daintree Village are also destinations in and of themselves, with tourists spending time during their holiday wandering around our towns, which means that in beautifying our parks, gardens, streetscapes and suburbs, council adds further value to tourist stays in our region as they spend time in these public open spaces.

Of course, it’s not only tourists who enjoy our green spaces. When locals leave their homes or offices, they find themselves surrounded by tall trees, wide lawns, flowers, birds, bees, butterflies—and something positive happens to them. People respond to beautiful, well-planted surroundings, which all add value to our residents who should feel proud of where they live. Having beautifully maintained public spaces helps provide a sense of place, improves community wellbeing, increases property values, enhances shade and temperature moderation, and provides further habitat for local fauna.

As a range of benefits is progressively identified, understood and measured, street trees are also increasingly being recognised and managed throughout Australia as important community assets.

The beautification of our parks, gardens and streetscapes will include:

  • The preservation of our million-dollar oil palms lining the entrance to Port Douglas. A report given to council over ten years ago stated these Palms are at high risk of dying due to not being provided with mulch or fertiliser and constantly being underwatered.
  • Parks and gardens will be assessed, with proposals put forward as to how best to beautify a range of locations such as possible sporting areas, public gathering areas, off-leash dog areas, wildlife reserves, outdoor fitness equipment etc.
  • Introduction of beautification grants. Individuals and community groups will be able to apply for funds for landscape enhancement projects throughout the shire.
  • Footpaths, walking trails and cycling paths will continue to be considered as part of this strategy.

Community Consultation on Climate Change and Carbon Emissions Policy

It’s time our shire has a frank and open discussion about climate change so that a community-led and agreed-upon policy based on a sensible approach is taken by council around this very complex issue.

With council elected to be the voice for local ratepayers, while we must establish policy that adheres to State and Federal regulation, it must also importantly be crafted after listening to the needs, concerns and opinions of all but ultimately the will of the majority. This is particularly important given I’m reminded regularly that many in the community had no idea what council was doing in this area until the recent public outcry over the Qantas / Green Collar deal.

This outcry and wider community confusion come from what I perceive as a lack of strong leadership on climate change and carbon emissions policy, with poorly communicated and ad-hoc ideas thrown around rather than a focused, coherent plan put together. I want to bring clarity and transparency to this important issue and take ratepayers on the journey with council as we develop policy that is in lockstep with community attitudes to climate change. And because this policy might in many ways affect so many other policy areas, I’m keen to get moving on it soon after taking office.

This will not change the current focus council has on protecting our immediate environment through sensible planning scheme decisions and holistic measures and protections throughout our pristine region as was requested through the community consultation completed for the 2019-24 Corporate Plan.


Accountable and Responsible Yearly Rates’ Revision

During the de-amalgamation debates, the Friends of Douglas presented strong statements around rate changes:

“There will no additional impact upon rates and charges beyond what might be considered normal CPI movements imposed by the New Douglas Shire. That is, the status quo in terms of a financial impost on the ratepayers of the New Douglas Shire will be maintained when compared to the current Cairns Regional Council rates burden. In that respect, the model demonstrates that the costs of de-amalgamation can be absorbed”.

And…

“The FODS financial model proposes no rates and charges increases are required over and above CPI (or its local government equivalents) to cover the costs of de-amalgamation and that those costs can be effectively absorbed with no adverse impact on the other services and financial obligations of NDS.”

Sadly, the reality of actual rates increases following de-amalgamation tells a very different story. Ratepayers have taken the brunt of the de-amalgamation, with rate increases more than double CPI over the past six years.

2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 2018/2019 2019/2020 TOTAL
DSC 5.2 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.9 1.8 22.6
CRC 1.5 1.5 2.5 2.3 2.6 1.7 12.1
CPI 1.7 1 1.9 2.1 1.6 1.7 10

These yearly increases have not matched the grand statements previously made by the Friends of Douglas or been in line with community expectations. To get increases in check, with the aim of aligning them more to the CPI, council must start increasing other revenue sources and expand its broader rates base.

Addressing rates and how rates are calculated across the shire to bring back fairness and balance to ratepayers will be one of my first priorities if elected mayor, and going forward I will ensure council exhausts all possibilities around revenue-raising before considering increasing future rates above CPI.


Becoming Australia’s leading Tourism Destination

With tourism recognised as one of the four pillars of the Queensland economy and a significant contributor to employment and the future economic prosperity of our region, developing a sustainable tourism growth plan is key to driving regional economic development for our region.

Our reef and the rainforest attractions consistently appear in “Top Ten Places to visit in Queensland”, but as many locals know, we are so much more. This is why I will introduce a Strategic Tourism Plan spearheaded by a tourism body to represent the entire shire to help showcase our many world-class offerings while also shining a light on new and innovative experiences we have in the region. With a 2025 target, I want Douglas Shire’s townships to become more involved in and benefit from an improved visitor economy. Well-developed tourism products supported by effective marketing will enhance the overall visitor experience, improve regional dispersal and increase length-of-stay, benefitting all. Eco-tourism will remain a key part of this, but the plan will also identify the authentic Douglas brand that encapsulates the entire community. Each Douglas township should be recognised for its specific importance in tourism and events and for its economic ability. My new Strategic Tourism Plan will articulate our shared vision and provide links for growing the visitor economy while positioning our region, both domestically and internationally, as a must-visit tourist destination.

The Role of the Strategic Tourism Plan

The plan will rely on the experiences and knowledge of the broad range of stakeholders throughout our community and across the shire to identify future objectives and opportunities. It will incorporate the development, management and marketing of the entire Douglas Shire and identify the initiatives, big and small, across the region aimed at growing tourism.

The strategy will provide a framework for council to plan and prioritise projects and make decisions relating primarily to:

  • Facilitating a range of tourism infrastructure projects for the commercial sector.
  • Infrastructure design, development and maintenance.
  • Linkages to strategic regional projects derived from the Douglas Shire Development Plan.
  • Providing linkages to local stakeholders who manage the local waterways and forests.
  • Assisting tourism and hospitality businesses via initiatives such as industry training and the adoption of new technologies.
  • Allocating funds and assistance towards community-based projects and events.
  • Advocating State and Federal government for funding for local and regional projects.

Working with the CEO and senior management team, a plan will be developed that includes KPI’s and performance outcomes for a new Tourism and Economic Development Officer who will work with both the Tourism Body and Chamber of Commerce.


Action a Whole-of-Council Cohesive Strategic Planning Process

The upcoming election offers an unparalleled opportunity to launch into a new decade of prosperity, growth and improved outcomes for residents of Douglas. To help enable such a positive future, council needs an integrated, cohesive, strategic planning process.

My 2020 strategic planning process will consider, clarify and synthesise a range of documents already created by council – including the Corporate Plan, the Operational Plan and the Corporate Sustainability Strategy – to reassess how viable and relevant each plan remains, particularly when integrated and viewed in a whole-of-council way with the addition of the new 2020 Economic Development Strategy. Where required, council will amend plans to suit a more progressive, overarching new look for us heading into the next decade.

This process will confirm and state core aspects of council, including:

  • A Vision Statement. Simply put, if we want to be a visionary council preparing the shire for the future, stating our vision is critical for strategic thinking. Having a clear image of what the shire’s future could or should look like, expressed through a succinct declaration that is realistic, yet inspired, provides clarity of purpose in a big-picture way, telling the world (and reminding ourselves) what we want our shire to be.
  • A Mission Statement. This defines why council exists – what it is formed to do and why – and is the starting point for recognising issues and setting broad goals and objectives. Acting as a concise, solid foundation for policy and governance, a well-crafted mission statement serves as a filter to separate what is important from what is not, while communicating a sense of intended direction to the wider organisation.
  • Core Values. These are the guiding principles by which staff make decisions and conduct themselves. Unlike vision or mission statements, which help define goals/objectives and strategies and can thus change over time, core values are constant. They are the foundation of an organisation’s culture, in turn guiding overall strategy.

Examples of what Council’s core values might look like include:

    • Customer Focus: Council will strive to understand community needs and build this understanding into policy and service provision;
    • Responsive Service Delivery: Council will provide customer-focused services and facilities promptly;
    • Good Governance: Council will act with honesty and integrity in the best interest of the community while fulfilling its ethical and statutory obligations;
    • Cost-effective Management: Council will apply sound financial management principles and prudent management practices to ensure efficient and effective use of its resources;
    • Effective Communication: Council will use frequent and varied communication methods to inform the community, seek input/engagement and demonstrate transparent decision making;
    • Responsible Custodianship: Council recognises its responsibility to future generations in its use of resources and protection of the environment;
    • Accountability and Transparency: Council will communicate honestly and openly with its stakeholders, displaying responsible business ethics in fulfilling its governance and statutory obligations.

 

  • Goals & Objectives. These are higher-level statements formed from the bedrock of our vision and mission statements that can be reasonably achieved within a defined timeframe and with available resources, providing the foundation for the development of relevant and effective strategies.
  • Strategies. These are detailed plans directed towards the achievement of a goal or objective, with any number of strategies able to be assigned to a goal or objective.
  • Key Performance Indicators. KPIs help organisations understand how well they are performing in relation to their strategic goals or objectives in both a financial and non-financial sense. They provide crucial performance information that enables council and its stakeholders to understand whether the organisation is on track to achieve goals and objectives. Given this, care must be taken to design appropriate KPIs that assess the aspects of performance which matter most, as while it is tempting to set KPIs to measure what is easy to collect and calculate, this won’t necessarily lead to meaningful information about achievements.
  • Outcomes, performance measures and targets. These provide the basis for performance measurement, which must accompany a Strategic Plan to gauge and report on progress to key stakeholders, specifically ratepayers and local businesses. Outcomes are generally set at the goal/objective level and contain a longer-term vision of what successful strategies seek to achieve, with potentially numerous outcome statements attached to a single goal/objective. Outcome statements can also be accompanied by targets describing how success will be measured. Targets can be useful in providing further insight into the desired outcome, the activity necessary to achieve it and the measure of its success. Given measurement and reporting are internal council functions, targets should be outlined during the implementation phase and later in report documentation on outcomes rather than in the published plan.

The intention of this process in drawing together many of the plans already available is to ensure that these plans fit with community expectations of council’s performance and are cohesive when viewed as a whole. Confirmation of these documents will go towards advancing the shire in an actionable, accountable and achievable way, and importantly in a direction that the majority of the community wants to see us take.


Caring for Our Ageing Population

As our population ages, it has become clear that Douglas Shire currently lacks enough facilities to care for its ageing community.

Suitable affordable housing is minimal, with many of our elderly forced to move away from the much-loved region they’ve called home for many years and where they’ve spent most of their working lives. Rather than see out their later years surrounded by families, friends and a community they’ve helped build, retirees in Douglas find themselves with little choice but to leave, or in some dire circumstances are even forced into homelessness, another issue that also affects other groups in our community and for which we are ill-equipped.

The introduction of land within the planning scheme to allow for the construction of suitable and safe retirement accommodation and assisting the local Douglas Shire Aged Persons Inc with developing such can help alleviate this pressing issue.

Our wonderful weather, beautiful environment and well-thought-out townships also position Douglas as an ideal location for non-locals to retire to. Increasing our stock of aged-care accommodation in a considered and responsible way will permanently boost our local economy, while also facilitating a much-needed increase in the availability of non-seasonal, permanent employment.


A Journey Beyond 2020

The mayor and councillors of Douglas have it in their power to unite the various communities of our shire, but this is impossible if council operates under the weight of a specific agenda or the strong opinions of only certain individuals or communities rather than in the broad interest of all.

Over the past few decades, disunity due to factionalism, legal battles and what might now be viewed as the semi-disastrous (and pointless) amalgamation (then de-amalgamation), have resulted in increased monetary outflows from council, leading in turn to higher rates and diminished services. Balance needs to be restored in the way council operates so that residents feel a just return from the rates they pay, which can only occur by council servicing the communities they live in more efficiently, effectively and fairly.

I pledge that I will be a mayor who unites our communities with inspired, energised positivity, which combined with my fresh eyes and new vision for Douglas, will ensure the fruition of so much of the policy agenda I’ve laid out.

I can’t do this alone, but if voted in as mayor of a unified council I would hope to work with councillors whose beliefs and wants for the shire mostly align with mine. I urge you to thoroughly research your future councillors and vote for those who also believe a visionary council can help our shire be so much more.

I look forward to the challenge and ask you to join me on this exciting journey.

Myths, Lies and Gossip

I Agreed to Everything I Now Say I Want to Change or Fix

I can understand why some people might say, “Well, you’ve been on council for four years, so you’re part of some of the problems you reckon you’re trying to fix.”

Fair point on some level, even if in reality I didn’t actually agree to everything. I’m not going to run away from the criticism but I’d say this: As a first-term councillor, I was on a pretty steep learning curve. Working alongside a much more experienced mayor and councillors, I felt I should defer to them both to show I could collaborate but also because I was still learning the ropes and didn’t want to seem like I was trying to be counterproductive by disagreeing with everything.

Well, after four years, I’ve learned a lot and come to understand that speaking out, even knowing this will rock the boat, is really important so that ideas that come out of council, which then become policy and affect everyone in the shire, have been really thought through.

This is why I am running on a platform of transparency and consultation.


He Never Contributes to Meetings

This one really made me laugh. I was told that I don’t contribute at meetings and just sit there playing with my phone.

It’s important to understand that council runs on the principle of “majority rules”, which was pointed out to me at a workshop once when I was told, “majority rules, get over it!” And yet if I rejected everything I disagreed with, I would be known as the councillor who complains about everything.

The reality is, I often said my piece at workshops but whenever I knew what the outcome was going to be, I sometimes made the decision to not create more animosity by objecting.

We’ve all seen how that works out…


The Retirement Village Developers Never Applied for Development Approval

The developer involved in the retirement village proposed for Ferrero Rd previously applied for a development approval when we were with the Cairns Regional Council but was refused it. This refusal was moved by the current mayor of Douglas and a Cairns councillor at the time based on the 2006 Douglas Shire Planning Scheme.

The massive costs involved in a project like this deterred the developer from making a second attempt at gaining approval without a change in the planning scheme. And so the truth is, even with overwhelming support for the project during the public consultation period for the new planning scheme, no adjustments were forthcoming in the new scheme, leading the investor to withdraw the project, sell the property and exit the region completely.

The new owner is keen to progress with this development and as mayor, and with councillors who would hopefully see the benefit in a project like this, I would support the required changes to allow this development to proceed.


Shutting Down the Mill

There is no truth that my intentions are to shut down the mill in Mossman.

The Mill has been an integral part of Mossman’s history, employment and stability for residents of the township. I absolutely support the Mill’s attempt to convert into a bio-production facility, and if successful, council must be 100% behind the Mill to ensure it can function at peak performance.


Development, Development

While I absolutely believe we need progress and sensible development based on need, not greed, I have no desire to take away the essence of  this region. I love that you can walk down Four Mile Beach and not see buildings towering over the trees. I love that we are a green shire. And I honestly believe that we all decided to live here for these reasons. But we can also have sensible and controlled development in the right areas to ensure our local economy continues to grow.


Bridge Over the Daintree

Access to the Daintree via the ferry has been a contentious issue for years. The recent announcement of an attempt to secure permissions for a second ferry would assist in alleviating some access issues but the inevitable cost factor of installing and operating a second ferry has yet to be disclosed or the consideration of the possibility of a bridge. I love catching the ferry and have never stated otherwise but at the end of the day it should be up to the majority of ratepayers of the shire to decide how to proceed, not me.


He Doesn’t Care About Climate Change

Firstly, let me state that our climate is clearly changing, with weather patterns altering all the time. I am, however, like a majority of people in this shire 100% behind policy that clearly benefits the environment and everything on this planet in a sensible and realistic way but which is also in line with our requirements, needs, economy and community views.

My issue has always been and will continue to be with council monies generated by ratepayers not being used to benefit the majority and support its views. If that majority want us to utilise rate money for a particular cause, council should listen to the voice of the people. Councillors should not tell ratepayers, “This is what we are doing because it’s the right thing to do” if it goes against what the majority want when council has been entrusted with that money through the collection of rates to get things done for the benefits of that majority.


Sealing the Bloomfield Track

The Bloomfield Track is an amazing four-wheel drive adventure families and campers can enjoy. The track runs through one of the most pristine rainforests in the world and traversing it is an enjoyable adventure. As such, I have no want and have been given no reason why I would encourage council to spend money sealing the track when there are many other roads in our shire that should take priority and desperately need sealing.


He’s Part of the LNP

Independent and proud – that’s who I am. But I’m also a 100% independent councillor who praises other politicians who support our shire. I have the utmost respect for the Hon. Warren Entsch who for over 20 years has proven himself as a leader in this region. Most recently, he has contributed financially to numerous projects in our shire, which needs to be recognised, particularly his contribution to Paws and Claws. But guess what? We have also had our disagreements, like when his LNP decided to have a popularity poll to determine whether I was to have the legal right to marry my partner! So, let’s set the record straight – it’s independent all the way for me.


Leader of an Angry Mob…

I am not and have never been the leader of a Daintree pro-development group that intentionally creates torment and anger for DSSG. I have never rallied, talked to or encouraged anyone to treat anyone else with disrespect, rudeness or hatred. Yes, I have attended a couple of the meetings for people who live in the Daintree wanting an environmentally better power supply, but despite what some people who like to exaggerate have said, no pitchforks were brought out!