Camera Traps – May 2023 accrued 91-cassowary sightings, 47-dingoes and 153-feral pigs. Against the cumulative monthly average, cassowary numbers dropped by 18%, dingoes increased by 26% and feral-pig numbers also rosed by 23%. Against May 2022, cassowaries were 20% higher, dingo numbers sky-rocketed by 1,075% and feral-pigs also soared by 918%.
Common sense and the 1999 Douglas Shire (Council)-funded CSIRO Tourism Simulator Project acknowledge the inverse-relationship between increased ferry-fees and visitor willingness to pay for both the ferry-service and also support ecotourism in the rainforest area north of the Daintree River. Only 54% of survey-respondents indicated their willingness to pay $40 per two-way crossing and as of 1 July 2023, this cost will rise to $47 per conventional vehicle.
On 17 May 2021, Council resolved to acquire the outgoing contractor’s second-hand ferry for $4.3-million. The full purchase-price was drawn from the Daintree Ferry Reserve ($4-million) and the balance from Council’s operational fund, which is progressively bolstered by ferry-revenue that Council regards as an ‘alternate revenue stream’.
On 1 July 2021, Council increased ferry-fees by 25.8%, specifically to cover the costs of acquiring this ferry and also to reportedly protect ratepayers from additional impost. A year later, Council increased ferry-fees by another 15.4% for standard vehicles.
If the full price of purchasing the second-hand ferry was drawn entirely from funds already accrued through ferry-over-charging, why did the fees have to be increased at all and if the rate-payers were protected from increased rates payments specifically to cover the costs of the ferry acquisition, why did Council claim that they needed such protection?
On 30 August 2022, Council resolved to replace the existing ($4.3-million) ferry with a new single-ferry capable of increased loading capability and associated landside infrastructure upgrades on both riverbanks. We have been informed that a significant capital expenditure, estimated at this time to be in the vicinity of $6.5-million, will be required to build this replacement boat and undertake north and south bank road, concrete ramp, cable and pylon works. This expenditure will occur over approximately four-years and likely need to be sourced from Council funds. Ongoing expenditure for the maintenance of the ferry infrastructure is estimated to exceed $400,000 per annum, allowing for planned major maintenance, cable replacement, dredging, insurances and inspections. These are similar costs as are occurring under the current arrangements with the current ferry, but it does not include the operational costs of running the ferry, which are anticipated to be covered by ticket sales.
Will these ever-increasing expenses be put onto travellers crossing the ferry? The 2005 QLD Supreme Court Ruling in Douglas Shire Council v Queensland Ombudsman, held that a local government authority cannot impose an additional fee on a service or facility with the specific intention of directing funds towards a particular purpose, unrelated to the service or facility. That is, ferry-charges must be ‘for’ the service, being Ferry transportation only and not for other things, like bolstering Council’c operational fund or protecting ratepayers from rate hikes.
Now, a Notice of Motion has been deferred to the next Ordinary General Meeting of Council, to wit:
- Council rescinds the motion to:“Replace the existing Daintree Ferry, with a single ferry capable of four lanes of road vehicles and dual road vehicle loading capability and associated landside infrastructure upgrades on both riverbanks”;
- Council invite Expressions of Interest from private enterprise to own and operate the Daintree River Ferry.
- Notes it is in the public interest to invite expressions of interest before inviting written tenders for the following reasons:
- To understand Early Market Engagement with potential Suppliers;
- To understand the scope potential and what the market may be able to
- To enable the market to better understand potential compliance issues
with the project and environmental controls due to the location of the site;
- To enable the market to better understand the logistics of working in Far
North Queensland, particularly within the Wet Tropics.”
The motion’s intent is to prevent further financial burden upon ratepayers, by restoring the ferry service provision onto a suitably-qualified private contractor with expertise in marine transport, but what of the rate-payers’ right to expect a return on investment from the $4.3-million ferry-purchase?
Daintree Rainforest Foundation has lost one of its founding Board Directors with the passing of Ron Shoppee. Ron lived a rich and varied life, working in executive and management positions with a number of multi-national corporations, taking him into the outback and overseas and working with Indigenous peoples in several countries. He was a student and practitioner of creative arts & made several documentaries for Australian Adventure and Tourism, including ‘The Stockman’s Hall of Fame’.
Ron was a unique and wonderful friend who supported the values of the Daintree Rainforest Foundation through his co-founding directorship. Providing artistic support and marketing strategies, his opinions were greatly valued and we worked harmoniously together, weathering challenging communications.
In the spirit of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Ron dedicated his labours towards a Daintree Rainforest extravaganza in Sydney, aiming to produce a mixture of large, medium and small artworks to project a diversity of rainforest culture, with additional works and other tactile antiquities to extend the impact and ultimate effect. These art items were to cover works of fossils from Gondwanan ferns, gymnosperms and relictual angiosperms, via a mix that would accentuate the realism, the truth and the believability of the rainforest proper … The Daintree; its origins and inherent existence and particularly the original human inhabitants – the Kuku Yalanji.
Ron estimated approximately 35 separate works embracing Gondwana and a myriad of Rainforest artistic impressions, showcasing what is held in reverence by a privileged few to the greater inspiration of the many. Ron was also working enthusiastically within the growing alliance between art and science, crafting artistic interpretations of micro-magnified photographic images, via artistic exaggeration and disciplined precision in dramatic form and colour. Some images would merge both Science and Art, to create a remarkable contrast to the treatment of rainforest ancestry shown within the Gondwana interpretations particularly in ancient rainforest flora.
Alas, all that talent and inspiration and productivity was overtaken by Ron’s passing, but what a noble and generous end to a life livid with passion for Australia and the people that live within it. Our memories of Ron are grand and heart-warming and he has left a lasting impression.
Daintree Rainforest Foundation Ltd has been registered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and successfully entered onto the Register of Environmental Organisations. Donations made to the Daintree Rainforest Fund support the Daintree Rainforest community custodianship and are eligible for a tax deduction under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.