They paved paradise & put up a parking lot

Port Douglas Coconuts

Outrage after palm trees cut down on Far North's iconic Four Mile Beach

Daniel Strudwick

Thursday, March 8, 2012

© The Cairns Post


PORT Douglas residents are fuming after an idyllic stretch of Four Mile Beach was left scarred by council workers' chainsaws.

Cairns Regional Council yesterday ordered its workers to stop clearing century-old coconut palms on south Four Mile Beach, but only after 49 of the trees were removed from the popular tourist spot.

The palms were cut down and turned into mulch on Tuesday along a stretch of the beach regularly used in advertisements to promote Port Douglas as a holiday destination.

The area was to be replanted with native coastal plants.

"For them to go in and destroy iconic vegetation in an iconic town is just utterly destructive," local resident and horticulturalist John Sullivan said.

"Somebody’s head needs to roll for this."

Divisional councillor Julia Leu was disappointed work began before a compromise could be reached with stakeholders and residents who wanted the coconut palms to stay.

Cr Leu said the decision to clear the trees was made by council officers, and she did not know the felling was going to occur on Tuesday morning.

"There’s been a complete underestimation of the Port Douglas community’s opinion over this," Cr Leu said at a council meeting yesterday.

"The coconut palms contribute so much to the tropical ambience and the local heritage of Port Douglas and people’s passions are running high.

"This is a part of the beach that’s used on the front page of Tourism Port Douglas’ website to promote this area all around the world."

The council planned to cut down 55 trees, but Cr Leu intervened before the final six palms were felled.

The trees were cleared to make way for 3000 native coastal plants under a revegetation program in the area.

The council’s Natural Areas Management co-ordinator Russell Wild said three lines of trees had been preserved on the beachfront, and residents were more accepting of the works when they knew about the revegetation plans.

"We believe that given the fullness of time, once the plants have been allowed the time to be established and grow, that’s when we should be judged on the works," Mr Wild said.

But Mr Sullivan insists revegetation schemes only work when the local community is on side. "We’ve got (people) in council who have very little understanding of the broader landscape and who we are as a township," he said.

"All they understand is revegetation."

A spokeswoman for the town’s Waterfront Protection Association described the clearing as a "warzone".

"I am standing where the 49 trees used to stand and I am devastated by what I see," she told The Cairns Post. "We need to speak to the council and find out why they have done this. Why?"

Further work will be halted on the site to allow the council to consult Port Douglas residents about the revegetation program under way.