Monday 6 April 2009

FODS writes to Anna Bligh

The Friends of Douglas Shire are still campaigning to overturn the amalgamation with Cairns, and despite the recent election result, have sent the following letter to the Premier.

  • Dear Premier,

    As a resident of the former Douglas Shire I would firstly like to congratulate you on your recent election victory and in becoming Queensland’s, and indeed, Australia's first elected female Premier.

    Now that you have been elected in your own right I wish to, once again, bring to your attention the plight of the residents of the former Douglas Shire.

    The election result in Cook, and more importantly, in the former Douglas Shire area, conveyed a resounding swing against State representative, Jason O'Brien. Whilst he held on to the seat, his margin was significantly reduced. This result clearly reflects the concern amongst electors in the former Douglas Shire regarding the amalgamation of Douglas with Cairns City.

    Even local residents who supported the amalgamation are now totally dismayed with the continual lack of consideration to the needs of this community by the majority of Cairns Regional Council. Our rates and other charges have increased disproportionately to those in other areas, local contractors are suffering due to the "Cairns-centric" awarding of contract works and local jobs have been lost as a direct result of this amalgamation.

    One of the main policies of your campaign was maintaining jobs. Below is a list of some of the issues we, as a community, are having to contend with as a consequence of the amalgamation:
    • Substantially increased general rates, many properties of between 30% to 50%;
    • Water rate increases of up to 300%, including retrospectively charging for water consumed under the former DSC;
    • Increased charges for services;
    • Introduction of new charges;
    • Reduction in services;
    • Reduced ability to access council staff;
    • Reduced representation in the council;
    • Little or no effective community consultation/engagement;Lack of commitment to preserve our state of the art water supply system;
    • Reported deliberate disenfranchisement of the Division 10 (former Douglas Shire area) elected representative by other councillors and executive staff;
    • Erosion of the fabric of the Douglas community;
    • A contemptuous and obstructionist attitude displayed towards Douglas residents by many Cairns based Council staff, including senior staff.

    The majority of these issues you were made aware of when you visited Mossman in November promising to listen. But nothing has changed. Instead, it gets worse everyday.

    According to your own Government’s criteria, the Douglas Shire was a model of strong, financially sound and cost efficient local government. The Douglas Shire met all terms of reference set out by the Local Government Reform Commission at the commencement of the reform process. Despite these facts, the Beattie Government forcibly amalgamated Douglas Shire with Cairns City.

    In recent years The Douglas Shire Council, with the overwhelming support of the community, introduced and implemented some of the most innovative environmental policies and practices. In terms of sustainability, we were years in front of Cairns City.

    The residents of Douglas now have to pay again so that Cairns can catch up! The Cairns Regional Council, (elected Councillors and executive) need to admit that this merger is not working and request that the State Government take immediate steps to restore the former Douglas Shire.

    It is essential that the duty of care to provide good governance be observed.

    I call on you, as a Premier elected in your own right, to listen to the people of Douglas and to reconsider the decision to amalgamate Douglas with Cairns City, acknowledge that the newly formed Cairns Regional Council is not performing for this area and is unlikely to do so in the future in any equitable manner.


    Robert Hanan
    Friends of Douglas Shire

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