Thursday, 26 August 2010

Review of controversial 'iconc' legislation still enrages former Douglas Shire

Cairns Regional Council will look to protect the iconic values of Douglas as part of the creation of the new Cairns Regional Council Planning Scheme, however the anti-amalgamation lobby in the tourist town of Port Douglas has not gone away.

The State Government developed Queensland Iconic Places legislation in 2008 following wides spread angry from some unique communities, including Port Douglas, that resisting the amalgamation with neighbouring Councils. Under the legislation, the Douglas Iconic Places Panel was created to review and advise on new development applications in the region.

“Council has been particularly sensitive to safeguarding the distinct characteristics of the communities of our region when considering new planning applications to date,” Mayor Val Schier said today. “We are now in the process of developing the new Planning Scheme, and the iconic values of the former Douglas Shire will be embedded in the new plan.”

A submission will be made to the State review of the Iconic Places legislation by March next year, however public submissions to Council close on September 5th.

“Council will recommend that once the new regional planning scheme is finished and accepted by the State, we can review the need for the panel,” Mayor Schier says.
Councillor Julia Leu, who represents the northern most division of Cairns Regional Council, extending from Clifton Beach, to Wuju Wuju, encapsulating the former Port Douglas Shire.

"We fought very hard for this as a community with the State Government to have this legislation, because we wanted protection, about our iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics," Julia Leu told CairnsBlog. "It was always a fear, once we became part of a large amalgamated Council, inventively,m the fact we would have to eventually amalgamate our scheme, our iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics, would be diluted and eroded over time."

"Now we've got this review. What I wanted the Council to do is to actually make a statement, that they support the retention of the Douglas Iconic Assessment Panel, however only [Councillor] Rob Pyne supported this," Julia Leu says. "The reason why I put forward that alternative recommendation, so that the iconic values and our distinguishing characteristics will be integrated into the planning scheme, because the new scheme won't be ready to go until 2014."

"I will certainly be pushing to have local areas, can retain what is important to those areas. It's really important as the community have fought hard for this, and there were big concerns when we amalgamated. The scheme should have a strong environmental focus. It's why people come to Port Douglas for a reason. They come because we are green, we have tress all around, we have nothing higher than a coconut tree," Julia Leu said.

However, the Friends of Douglas Shire says it is still lobbying vigorously. The vocal lobby group, formed prior to the last State election, hasn't lost any of it's focus, according to spokesperson Michael Gabour.

"This last statement [by Council] is just spin, spin, spin," Gabour told CairnsBlog. "I don't think it actually reflects what happened today."

"I will be asking the Mayor about this on Monday," says Gabour, who has a morning talk show on Radio Port Douglas. "I will be grilling her and also [Councillor] Julia Leu, who put up an alternative motion, but it was not supported by any other Councillor, other than Robert Pyne."

The gist of what happened today appears to me, to be abandoning Douglas Shire completely, ignoring all our aspirations, all our determined efforts to maintain the values of this community."

"I'm really incensed quite frankly," Michael Gabour said.

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