Cold water thrown on lagoon...story by Newsport

The Port Douglas lagoon continues to be a thorn in Council's side with Cook MP Jason O'Brien saying the project should be delayed while its merits are examined further.

Mr O'Brien said community consultation remains a key to the success of projects in Port Douglas, and those who force their agenda on to the community will run into trouble.

"I've been involved in the waterfront project for a long time. The thing with that project is getting the planning right and getting some community agreement about what needed to be done.

"In a town like Port Douglas you've got to take the time to talk to people because they've got a lot of ownership of their community.

"If you barnstorm in you get in trouble and I've got in trouble by taking that approach."

He said Council should delay the project and concentrate on aspects which have a general consensus such as landscaping and "tidying up that everyone agrees needs doing."

"I think there is division in the community on the lagoon. I'm trying to get Council money so they can do the waterfront, but I think if they were smart they'd park the lagoon in at Stage 2."

Mr O'Brien went one step further saying a question mark remained over the need for the lagoon.

"Quite honestly the more people I'm talking to, I'm not convinced there is a need for one at all.

"I'm confident I can come up with the money to do the work that everybody agrees on - to tidy up the park, to put in some playground equipment, to fix the Sugar Wharf.

"These should be the priorities and they should go back to the community on the lagoon in two or three years’ time."

Council has come under fire from many within the community since the decision was made to position the lagoon pool in the area between St Mary's By The Sea and the Comined Clubs.

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Tony Purves, who was on the original waterfront consultative group to Council, wrote to The Newsport to outline what he describes as Council's "dash for cash."

I'd just like to give you a basic outline of all that has happened regarding this whole situation, recently and over the past few years.

Some five years ago a group was formed called the "Heritage Group" it was made up of 26 organisations, associations, groups and companies from the local community.

The Council then came along and asked us to be the conduit and consultants between the community, the Council and State Government. We all agreed, being renamed by the Council as the PAG (Project Advisory Group) and for the following four years we worked closely with the Cairns Regional Council and the State Government to finally come up with a Waterfront Master Plan conducive to all for the redevelopment of both waterfronts and many parts of the town.

This Master Plan was approved and signed off on by both the State Government and the Cairns Regional Council in September 2009 (documented).

In 2011 the Cairns Regional Council in their dash for cash chasing Simon Crean’s Federal money, decided to relocate the planned swimming lagoons location directly onto our only heritage area we have in Port Douglas. This being between the Combined Club and St Mary's Church as it would be a cheaper and quicker proposition than that of the original Master Plan.

This Council has given no consideration to the impact of doing such a thing on the community and now we are seeing the results of this irresponsible decision.

The flow on effect from this decision changes the original concept of the Master Plan and is seriously detrimentally affecting a number of key important businesses operating from our waterfront. St Mary's Church by The Sea, The Slipway and the entire Port Douglas Fishing Fleet.

The first stage of the waterfront project was recently overlooked for federal funding by the Regional Development Australia Fund, but Mayor Val Schier remains committed to the project.

Council were criticised over a perceived lack of community consultation but defended the process saying they received more than 85 formal written submissions in response to the proposals to implement the Master Plan.

In addition, 200 telephone surveys and 84 face-to-face surveys were conducted while over 200 people attending the Macrossan Street Shopfront, Port Douglas Markets Council stall and various information sessions. People also provided comments into the Shopfront Visitors Book. Story by Mathew Churchill Newsport