Daintree River Crossing (DRC) – Options Assessment Report
My preference: Retain a single ferry with drastically improved visitor management, both
over the ferry and across the entire area of visitation.
Neil Hewett – 14-10-2020
Paramount consideration of this proposal must be given to the treasure it provides almost exclusive access to. After all, the DRC is gateway to the second-most irreplaceable natural and mixed World Heritage site currently included on the World Heritage List and greatly enhancing these outstanding values, the contiguous portion of Great Barrier Reef and the world’s most diverse mangrove community, compound this phenomenal fusion of World Heritage wonders into nature’s masterpiece! The only World Heritage-listed property ranked higher is Canaima National Park in south-eastern Venezuela, along the border between Guyana and Brazil, which covers more than 3-million hectares. As Queensland’s Wet Tropics covers less than one-third the area of Canaima and the Daintree – Cape Tribulation section indisputably contains the richest and most irreplaceable portion, the area of the shire that the DRC provides access to, represents the world’s most irreplaceable World Heritage property per unit area.
These outstanding values constitute the heritage attributes that the citizens of the world are guaranteed Australia will protect, conserve, present, rehabilitate and transmit to future generations. Members of the Douglas Shire are also absolutely dependent on the tourism revenue generated by these superlative values and the quality of their protection, making their irreplaceability even greater and for the Douglas Shire constituents that inhabit this unique environment and the progeny of those that were forcibly evicted after thousands of generations of inhabitancy, the irreplaceability and economic importance is even greater again, for it is also the environmental repository of their collective memories.
Because Australia has sovereignty over and responsibility for this unrivalled environmental treasure and also because it is the second wealthiest nation per adult in the world, its development of a gateway infrastructure and visitor-management regime should aspire to global monumental greatness. However, there are already serious problems within the destination that require urgent amelioration. There are far too many cassowary fatalities from car-strikes and marauding pig-dogs. Indigenous Sacred Sites and World Heritage areas are desecrated and degraded through rampant trespass and vandalism and tourism as a whole makes too inadequate a contribution for too great a number to go anywhere near to world’s best-practice.
A bridge should only be considered when the place that it provides access to is secured with a world-class conservation management regime across the entire area of visitation and visitor-management has achieved a world-leading example of genuine ecotourism. Then and only then, should a bridge be considered, but one befitting the second wealthiest country per adult in the world, with an architectural quality befitting its unrivalled environmental treasury, by drawing from an international design competition in the same manner that led to the design of the Sydney Opera House, with such outstanding success that it became World Heritage-listed in its own right.
Even if DSC resolved to build a bridge in the meantime, I do not believe that it would be permitted. There are already too many unresolved threatening processes occurring in an environment of national significance. The World Heritage-listing ensures Commonwealth lead-agency and there are other regulatory safeguards currently in place to prevent bridge construction. Also, by way of precedent, the Dresden Elbe Valley in Saxony, Germany was struck from the World Heritage-list in 2009, because of the construction of a €182-million, 635-metre bridge across the Elbe River that UNESCO believed would spoil the vista of riverside palaces.
Two-ferries may provide some relief to congestion during peak visitation periods, but already existing unresolved threatening processes would exacerbate, visual amenity would plummet, costs would sky-rocket and permit-requirements for capital works and vegetation removal remains uncertain. Also, the structural engineering requirements to incorporate two anchorages for two ferries on the northern side of the Daintree River, with sufficient distance between the two to avoid danger, makes permit-requirements even less likely. Presuming two-ferries run alternately, to avoid traffic congestion with simultaneous unloading, the danger for water vessels travelling along the Daintree River greatly increases across two-sets of variably submerged cables.
Concern has been expressed for runaway development pressures threatening the irreplaceable World Heritage values that the area is renowned for. Certainly, the residential subdivisions of the early nineteen-eighties caused public concern and provoked intense parliamentary debate, with the Member for Cairns protesting, that the manner in which this development was allowed to proceed is a national disgrace and the rezoning of this vast tract of virgin rain forest as rural residential is one of the sorriest episodes in the whole sorry chapter of land subdivision in Queensland. Whilst the contingent approval of the Queensland Government arguably protected vast areas of rainforest from sugar-cane-cropping, the sheer number of properties and their relatively small size had potential for significant environmental harm in an area of extraordinary environmental importance.
On 16 June 1994, the Commonwealth and Queensland Environment Ministers agreed to jointly fund the $23.162-million Daintree Rescue Package (DRP), with the stated objective of encouraging the use of the combined resources of the three levels of Government to address the most critically important threats to the World Heritage values and to ensure the ecological sustainability of ecotourism in the Daintree.
Without explicitly stating what these most critically important threats were, it certainly seemed to me (and I’m sure a great many others from the local community at that time) that the freehold subdivisions were the primary target. However, counteracting what was belaboured as an unfortunate and ill-considered land-development decision ex post facto, is an entirely different thing to dismantling an authorised community on a property-by-property basis. Even if the pursuit of such an intent was a paragon of voluntarism and every landholder within the targeted area was invited to willingly sell their land to the State for conversion to National Park, the ever-diminishing rate-base would place the burden of loss onto remaining land-holders, weakening democratic influence, along with the prospects of improved services. Declining student numbers would lead to reduced teacher allocations and parental perceptions of bleeding educational disadvantage would prompt re-location to better-resourced communities, compounding the disadvantages of diminution.
As it was, four-hundred-and-eighty-five freehold landowners, representing forty-four percent of both the total number of properties and also the representative area, expressed formal interest in selling for conversion to National Park. However, only eighty-three properties were acquired under the DRP, despite holding almost twice the funds to achieve this forty-four percent reduction, leaving ninety-two percent of the freehold allotments and eighty-percent of the representative area unacquired.
Post-DRP, a rather desperate crusade was pursued to minimise potential environmental harm from increasing settlement, with a succession of economic, regulatory and administrative imposts and particularly via the mis-management of the single-ferry. These historical excises were inflicted under the intergovernmental policy that has applied, since 1995, to only one portion of the Douglas Shire, which re-directs future growth, beyond the sustainable level of visitor-use in the Daintree-Cape Tribulation area, to appropriate areas south of the Daintree River.
This policy is admittedly ambiguous, but as a World Heritage land-manager and ecotourism operator within the area to which this re-direction policy applies, I verily deny that patronage upon our portion has ever run anywhere near to the limits of sustainability and I believe the same applies to almost every other non-government tourism business within the specified area. However, when the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service (QPWS) over-allocated Commercial Activity Permits (CAPs) to Cairns and Port Douglas day-tour operators in the early nineteen-nineties, with a latent capacity of some 770,000 day-visitors per-year, this clearly exceeded the carrying capacity of both the ferry and the roads and yet the formal adoption of this re-direction policy by the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) extended beyond the boundaries of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) into adjacent jurisdictions and across the trade boundaries of privately-held lands.
Tourism crossing the ferry was profoundly influenced through DSC and the affiliated Daintree Planning Coordination Group (DPCG) and also as the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology Management (CRC-TREM), in compliance with this policy. The DPCG directed the $23.162-million Daintree Rescue Package (DRP) and the CRC-TREM undertook the Daintree Futures Study (DFS).
Subject to this formal policy of re-directing tourism growth to appropriate areas south of the Daintree River:
· The area over which the policy applies has been denied a formal identity and is rather referred to as North of the Daintree River (which incidentally encompasses more than half the planet).
· On the reported basis that the subdivisions North of the Daintree River had been approved without the requirement to provide civic infrastructure, DSC resolved to implement differential ratings, to restrict the burden of this unfulfilled expense specifically onto the ratepayers of residential properties north of the Daintree River, at around two-hundred-and-thirty-four percent more than ratepayers of equivalent-sized properties south of the Daintree River.
· In 1993, CAPs into the area were frozen under Ministerial moratorium.
· In 1995 Mossman Gorge NP, Dagmar Ranges NP & Cape Tribulation NP, were all re-gazetted (collectively) as Daintree National Park, but only the latter-most portion was subject to the re-direction policy.
· Freehold properties within the area were strategically acquired for construction of publicly-funded boardwalks and picnic facilities to accommodate the full carrying capacity of the existing permit allocation and then added to surrounding National Park.
· Tens of millions of dollars were invested into the development of competing Wet Tropics experiences, including the $12-million-dollar Ma:Mu Canopy Walkway, the Misty Mountain Trails and Great Green Way, pulling tourism away, not just from North of the Daintree River, but from the Douglas Shire as a whole,
· Ferry-fees were substantially increased, under agreement with the regional tourism industry and on the assurance that the revenue raised would be separately accounted for, with an annual budget spent exclusively on management of infrastructure and the environment north of the river and that the people who paid (tourism industry) would have input into the budget, but after the first year of collecting, these over-charges were absorbed into general revenue without separate accounting and almost none of the money was spent on the environment north of the river.
· The Queensland Government’s clear policy position of opposing the extension of mains power north of the Daintree River was supported by the decision of the Regulator to amend the distribution authority under the provisions of the Electricity Act.
· In November 2000, the Wet Tropics Ministerial Council endorsed the Daintree Futures Study, which promoted the Daintree Ferry as an attractive gateway experience for visitors to the area, recommending that ferry-fees be increased from $7 to $10 per crossing, to deflect an additional fifteen-percent of travellers from crossing the Daintree River, on top of the fifteen-percent already identified as having turned away at the ferry because of existing charges.
· Ferry-fees were further increased in 2003 with the introduction of a Conservation & Infrastructure Management Levy. The presiding Justice of the Supreme Court noted, that the operating surplus in respect of the ferry (including the conservation component) exceeds fifty-percent of the costs of the ferry’s operation and maintenance.
· In 2008, the Queensland Government amalgamated the Douglas Shire into an expanded Cairns Region and the new Regional Government subsequently increased ferry charges, which were increased yet again, subject to de-amalgamation after 1 January 2014.
This is by no means a full accounting of historical hardship imposed solely onto a portion of the Douglas Shire that never asked for such a burden. Nevertheless, the profound magnitude of injurious affect can be reconsidered, in the context of this DRC consultation, as the DSC’s greatest scope for Tourism recovery and Economic Development potential. Indeed, the greatest prospect for rectifying the depth of damage and restoring the destination’s outstanding potential and also to drastically and most cost-effectively resolve outstanding visitor mis-management, both on the ferry and throughout the entire area of visitation, is through a dedicated compensation of manipulations via a single-ferry. Put another way, these devastating historical damages would be irrevocably swept under the carpet of history, with either two ferries or a bridge, robbing the destination of its outstanding recovery potential. The complex extent to which this ill-disposition has been woven into the administrative fabric of society, requires a keen understanding of the full history of its embroidery to successfully negotiate its unpicking, but in as much as the people and communities are legislated components of the definition of environment, anything that was done to harm the local communities was definitively harmful to the local environment.
The Far North Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031, stipulates that rural residential developments north of the Daintree River are not intended to grow or increase in density and tourist development north of the Daintree River should be small-scale, nature-based and protect the unique ecological values and local character. The Plan states that the car ferry crossing on the Daintree River will continue to limit development north of the river, while the road between the Daintree and Bloomfield Rivers will continue to be a scenic/adventure drive. The ferry crossing at the Daintree River is maintained to protect the World Heritage and scenic values of the area north of the Daintree River. The Plan explains that the existing access configuration and lack of mains power are two major reasons why the area north of the Daintree River has remained in a relatively undeveloped state and maintained its heritage status and attractiveness to tourists. The Plan supports the elements of the DSC Planning Scheme that provide for limited infrastructure provision north of the Daintree River, with a strong preference for self-sufficiency using sustainable technologies, explaining that the Daintree River ferry crossing is an important element of the tourist experience and tourism economy, creating a sense of destination and emphasising the isolation and significance of the area. The ferry limits the number of vehicles that can travel into the area during peak periods, which serves to limit undesirable crowding on roads and at visitor facilities. In this regard, maintaining a car ferry, as opposed to constructing a bridge crossing, remains a Queensland policy for the region.
Nevertheless, within these Regional Planning constraints there is tremendous scope for the DSC to grow Tourism and Economic Development to achieve the status of world’s leading sustainable tropical shire. The problem with the ferry is too many vehicles are arriving at the same time. The solution obviously requires redistribution of visitors across a broader portion of the day and indeed, the year.
The Daintree Futures Study (DFS) recommends:
Self-drive vehicles be given a 30-day non-transferable pass, and
Ferry-fee changes that effect higher yielding expenditure and increased visitor nights north of the Daintree River.
A priority access lane was also recommended, but only for local residents and business traffic and only at peak times and directions. DSC’s original decision to increase the ferry fees and introduce the priority lane was justified by recommendations within the DFS.
The DFS states in section 188.8.131.52 Ferry operations (p.118) that:
The key issues at the ferry are that its pricing structure and management have a substantial effect on the convenience and cost of access for local residents and for the different categories of tourists. Conversely, varying prices and management can influence the equity to local residents and businesses and also provide a means of influencing visitation types.
Indeed, the DFS acknowledged in section 184.108.40.206 Visitor fees and charges (p.129) that:
There is a significant issue of competitive equity between the local community’s provision and maintenance of nature-based tourism facilities and those on private lands. As discussed in section 2.6, there is a need to adjust ferry charges to achieve a better balance between the costs paid by public site users and those who visit private destinations.
The DFS states in section 220.127.116.11 Ferry operations (p.118) that:
It is important to provide priority to local residents through pricing and ticketing. Further, this can influence activities that contribute to sustainable nature-based tourist activities by influencing private vehicle movements, commercial tours and bus operations. For example, it is possible to give priority to overnight stays and group tours through pricing and ticketing.
In July, September and November of 1999, under DSC-funding, CSIRO carried out extensive surveying of self-drive visitors at the Daintree River Ferry to determine visitor willingness to pay additional costs on the ferry for the value of the experience beyond its actual cost. The survey report (DFS Appendix 8, A208) theorised that price elasticity could be translated into policy for managing the Free and Independent Travellers (FITs) traffic volume to the destination by varying the price for a ferry crossing. The survey report concluded that the mean response to visitor willingness to pay higher fees on the ferry, was equivalent to the expectation that FITs bear a substantial consumer rent obligation for their trip to the Daintree rainforest, of an average $40 per vehicle. An estimated 110,000 full-paying car ferry crossings in 1998/99 (DSC data) represented in excess of $2-million annual consumer surplus and the DFS stated (p.132):
If some of this consumer surplus could be captured and added to the region’s rent from its natural resources, significant efforts into managing and preserving the heritage and environmental attributes of the destination could be funded.
The CSIRO survey data indicated that if ferry fees were increased from $7 per crossing to $10, that 15% of respondents would not be prepared to pay this amount. The DFS subsequently recommended that ferry charges should be changed for:
increasing the resource rent which the DSC can draw from tourism and thereby generating revenue for the management of this area, and
managing the volume of self-drive traffic into the area.
As DSC has advised that the Queensland and Commonwealth Government-funded DFS establishes the appropriate policy framework for decision-making in respect to the management of the ferry, it is appropriate (particularly in this current debate) to consider the relevant implementation requirements of the DFS:
DSC will revise both ferry fees and its Development Control Plan to increase the opportunities for local landowners to engage in tourism accommodation and commercial service provision.
DSC will construct a (ferry) priority lane for local residential and business traffic. This would only be necessary in peak times and directions.
DSC will change the ferry pricing structure to:
Self-drive: $20 per vehicle (30-day non-transferable pass)
Transfer buses: $4 per person
Tour buses: $4 per person
Residents: Current pricing retained
As DFS Recommendation 2 requires ferry-fee changes that effect higher yielding expenditure and increased visitor nights north of the Daintree River and DFS Recommendation 24 specifies pricing, the only feasible scope for variation will be on an affirmative action per vehicle basis. Visitors contracted to overnight accommodation houses and providers of nature-based tourism facilities on private lands, should receive substantial discounts to their ferry-fee and also access to the priority lane. In respect to competitive neutrality (DFS 18.104.22.168 Visitor fees and charges p.129), visitors that have contracted to providers of nature-based tourism facilities on private lands should also be relieved of the conservation and infrastructure component of the ferry-fee. The effects of these two ferry-fee changes should achieve substantial increases in occupancy rates and visitor numbers at respective facilities, otherwise the magnitude of the discounts will require further increase.
Varying ferry charges has an effect on visitor willingness to pay for entry. According to CSIRO survey data, increasing the ferry charge to $50 for a two-way crossing would reduce current numbers by 57%. It stands to reason that establishing penalty rates at peak times would discourage visitation for the respective periods, which would have effects on overall patterns of expenditure and visitation. If increasing ferry-fees at peak times were accompanied by decreasing fees for contracted clients of designated businesses within the area, changes to the style of tourism would follow.
Co-ordinated conservation management
The DFS recommended management arrangements that are critical to achieving the goals set out in the Terms of Reference, which are:
• conservation of the Daintree’s outstanding biodiversity, natural and cultural values (especially World Heritage values) for current and future generations
• provision of appropriate services for residents
• provision of appropriate management regimes and infrastructure to support a high-quality tourism industry which maximises returns to the local community.
In addition, the model must:
• empower the community in its role of preserving and managing the Daintree for its World Heritage Values
• be a model of management which will be an example for the world in the management of a sensitive area for conservation and tourism.
The Daintree Coast community forum held in April 2000, reached a high-level of agreement with the following statement:
• Develop an institutional arrangement that allows the local community to determine its own management priorities, through funds accumulated from tourism cost-recovery.
Three-decades of heedless and sacrilegious desecration of the Blue Pools Declared Indigenous Sacred Site and all its surrounding World Heritage values, was utterly disgraceful. For all of the succession of responsible officials who were dutifully paid for protective services, not one intervened to halt the degradation and allow rehabilitation, as the site’s declared conservation status requires. To one extent or another, they all skirted responsibility by blaming jurisdictional limitations or tenure complexities for their frustrations.
For the greater importance and binding responsibilities of World Heritage-listing and Cultural Heritage registration, why were these statutory weaknesses not resolved when first revealed and reported upon and why was the greater portion of the area that is not Crown Land and declared for conservation purposes, denied even the most fundamental provisions of protection for addressing these critical threats? Withholding the tools and authority that would otherwise allow for protection, robs the people and communities within the area of the support they are entitled to expect under the policy provisions of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment 1992 and leaves them vulnerable to environmental criticism and further deprivation of rights to subsist.
To avoid any repetition of this wanton damage, an overlay of regulatory protection must be declared for the entire area. As decades of imposed disadvantage will have forged a legacy of mistrust, freehold landowners must be free to exclude their own properties, but all those that accept inclusion and all other managers of tenures that are currently unprotected, should never again be informed that nothing can be done to intervene and halt degradation on the grounds of jurisdiction or tenure weakness. Rate-relief could provide an incentive for increased inclusion and inclusiveness should remain open for freehold property owners into the future.
Visitor-management unquestionably needs improvement. Rampant and desecrating trespass into sacred sites is not entirely the fault of visitor insensitivity. Encouraged by unfettered referrals and the evidence of well-worn pathways, the immediate rewards of access and the absence of any serious consequence, tends to override any appeals to desist, from either signage or rebuking land-owners. The provision of an area-wide protection and management authority should supply all the requisite tools for comprehensive management. Offences against the area should be punishable by on-the-spot fines or referral to court for contended infringements or more serious violations, such that any penalties would derive income for fulfilment of the authority’s duties.
There are currently too many visitors making too inadequate a contribution to cover the full-costs of their management. Admittedly, there will always be some travellers determined to harvest as much value as they can possibly derive from the least amount of expenditure, but in an absence of any other economy, the destination’s formal conservation land-use constrains the resident community to ecotourism for its sole economy and yet the overwhelming dominance of visitation is currently subsidised to not contribute.
In 2002, the International Year of Ecotourism, the Executive Director of the Wet Tropics Management Authority proposed a Wet Tropics rainforest tax in his keynote presentation at the International Ecotourism Conference in Cairns. This presentation summarised that the annual costs of providing tourism with public access throughout the Wet Tropics was around $13.5-million, whilst the only cost-recovery was from CAP-fees, accruing around $325,000 per annum. Under such terms, the taxpayer effectively subsidises tourism in the Wet Tropics by more than ninety-seven cents in the dollar. Under such generous subsidisation, the string of publicly-funded, free-entry boardwalks and picnic facilities north of the Daintree River attract so many day-trippers that the ferry is often unable to cope, causing queues to develop and sometimes horrendously so. During peak visitation periods, the subsidised clients of the CAP-holders are provided with priority access onto the ferry, whilst independent travellers that have pre-booked onto scheduled tours on unsubsidised, privately-held lands within the same locality, are denied priority and actually have to queue longer to allow for the priority access of the subsidised day-trippers. This discriminatory treatment undermines ecotourism within the destination.
Another disturbing outcome of this International Ecotourism Conference, was the strategic re-purposing of ecotourism in Australia. From early on in the proceedings, industry leaders seemed to have already resolved that ecotourism would be undergoing a definitive paradigm shift. Aspiring to drive the tourism industry as a whole towards a more sustainable future, rather than merely representing an elite subset of nature-based tourism that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people, delegates were asked to consider the greater global benefits of a major international accommodation chain being persuaded to replace their toilet tissue with unbleached, re-cycled products, over the relatively local influence of even the purest practitioner of genuine ecotourism.
Fearful that this surrendering of principle would lead to the validating of CAP-day-tours with formal ecotourism accreditation, when the well-being of local people is by-passed and conservation costs are almost entirely tax-payer subsidised, I lent my voice of opposition to the fight for ecotourism not to compromise its definitive principles. Through the formality of a plenary session, I contended that genuine ecotourism transcends nature-based tourism by providing a medium through which travellers express their willingness to pay for what economists define as non-use values. Benefits derived from knowing particular environmental values exist and valuing their bequest to one’s descendants and future generations, including ecosystem health, bio-diversity, rarity, endemicity, scenic amenity and continuity of human habitation. I explained that off-reserve ecotourism particularly relies upon visitor-willingness to pay for these non-use values. With alternate economies in such short supply and so much relatively undamaged landscape enriched with the intellectual and interpretive expertise of Indigenous and other local inhabitants just begging to be cultivated, Australia possesses a remarkable ecotourism potential and the responsibility to nurture as much as possible towards fruition. Articulating respectability through the principle of sustainability and encouraging participation through a culture of altruism, Australia’s tremendous ecotourism potential, to supplement and moderate the fluctuations of fickle rural economies and provide recompense and dignity to Australians living in remote parts of the country, should be pursued as a matter of national significance.
Alas, the proportion of members whose income derived benefit from the subsidisation of public-facilities was overwhelming and at the conclusion of the conference, despite impassioned counter-argument for protecting the integrity of genuine ecotourism, the majority of votes gave Australian ecotourism a re-purposing mandate. However, the almost complete subsidisation of nature-based tourism upon public-reserves, which contributes so very little to conservation costs and by-passes the well-being of local people, under the assurance of a nationally moderated ecotourism accreditation scheme, should be very carefully considered for its exclusionary influences to fair-trade across tenure, as both off-reserve conservation and also the socio-economic support of Australia’s Indigenous and other remote communities, are very much at stake.
In accordance with its presentation requirement as defined within the meaning of the World Heritage Convention, my family business opened up its freehold World Heritage property to the general-public, for limited-access, guided and interpreted rainforest walking-tours. In an absence of any other permissible form of income, cost-recovery had to be derived from the land itself and through user-fees as a basis for the management of public-access and other World Heritage responsibilities. We have subsequently acquired the greatest respect and gratitude for our genuine ecotourism customers, whom we think of as partners-in-protection, for their willingness and enthusiasm to pay for the privilege of guided-entry, under the rewarding expertise of a long-term World Heritage inhabitant. It irks us, however, that so many of our pre-booked clients have missed their scheduled tours over the years, waiting in a ferry-queue so that travellers on tours that don’t necessarily contribute to the well-being of the local people can have priority access to competing facilities that are taxpayer-subsidised by more than ninety-seven-cents-in-the-dollar. We take even more offence from that subset of travellers that seem determined to pay for as little as possible and yet, under the pretence of being lost or confused, trespass onto our unsubsidised, privately-held property, for a sneaking glimpse. After three-decades, even the most creative and well-rehearsed of excuses have long surpassed our amusement, but when those interlopers steal into the Indigenous sacred site that we promised to forever protect from entry, then they also intrude into our minds’ custodial centre of protective sensitivity and we think of them in an entirely different light.
With the advantage of a ferry-entrance, great conservation and ecotourism advancements could be achieved through a world-class management. Cassowary fatalities could be drastically reduced, if dogs without a dedicated transit license were prohibited from ferry-travel and licensing was strictly limited to bona fide residents and owners of dogs for disability assistance.
Despite arguments to the contrary and the rationalising contortions of even the most eccentric theoretical accounting, overcharging on the ferry has long been an established practice and so too has the provision of priority access, at least for some of the northbound traffic during peak visitation periods. If variable charging and priority entitlements were reconfigured to deliver ecotourism improvements within the destination, redress could be made for past impairments and great strides could be taken towards a much more sustainable ecotourism future. Through a relatively simple pre-booking system, travellers who have pre-paid for activities that satisfactorily contribute to both conservation and also improvement of the well-being of the residents within the destination, could be rewarded with priority access and ferry-fee relief. Tour-operators that contract with dedicated ecotourism service-providers within the destination, could regain priority access, if they satisfy an acceptable level of ecotourism contribution, however, to ensure the sustainability of ecotourism, travellers that are predisposed to avoiding payment wherever possible, could be compelled to contribute through substantially increased ferry-fees, on the proviso that the surplus funds go to the protection and management authority within the destination and not into DSC’s consolidated fund, which currently accrues some $1,150,000 p.a. beyond the $4-million reserve.
Now is the time for DSC to aim for top of the world and claim the prestige of world’s leading sustainable tropical shire, just as its strategic investment in the TEDO position intended. To this end, the DRC has tremendous potential to be a powerful catalyst project of the utmost universal importance; just as it should!
 Legislative Assembly Record of Proceedings (Hansard) 19 September 1984 – Matters of public interest – Daintree Rainforest – http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/hansard/1984/1984_09_19.pdf
 Daintree Rescue Package – Deed of Agreement between the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth of Australia, 15 December 1995.
 Cairns, Rainforest CRC. “Daintree Futures Study.” (2000).
 Wet Tropics Management Authority – Protection Through Partnerships – http://www.wettropics.gov.au/site/user-assets/docs/ProtectionThroughPartnerships.pdf
 Douglas Shire Council – Notice to Ratepayer pursuant to Section 579(1) of the “Local Government Act of 1993” concerning differential general rates, 1995.
 Douglas Shire Council – Finance, Environment, Community & Library Services Committee Meeting – Discussion Paper – Specific purpose conservation levy to provide funding for implementation of the Daintree Futures Study, January 2002.
 Cairns, Rainforest CRC. “Daintree Futures Study.” (2000).
 Supreme Court of Queensland – Citation: Douglas Shire Council v Queensland Ombudsman  QSC 207 https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2005/QSC05-207.pdf