Contrary to the intent of the outgoing Douglas Shire Council’s resolution to not allow Council staff to participate in the process of preparing submissions to Queensland’s Draft Iconic legislation, the Queensland Department of Infrastructure and Planning has contracted the Planning Consultant primarily involved in developing the Douglas Shire’s Planning Scheme, to prepare a Draft Iconic Values Statement for Douglas Shire.
Having previously thought that one-month public consultation for Queensland’s Draft Iconic legislation was inadequate, the six days offered this afternoon, for the Draft Iconic Values Statement, is remarkably challenging. We are advised, “Unfortunately any submissions received after 6pm on Monday the 17th March 2008, will be unable to be considered.”
Two days before this deadline, the inaugural Cairns Regional Council elections will be held, leaving the successful candidates with only one working day to respond within this window of eligibility.
One might be excused for assuming that a Draft Iconic Values Statement for Douglas Shire would be a relatively simple descriptor, given that 82% of the Shire is bedded in World Heritage legislation. The adjacent Great Barrier Reef WH area ensures another binding level of iconic constraint and at a lower level, the Integrated Planning Act ensures the preservation of Good Quality Agricultural Lands.
But no; the Draft Iconic Values Statement for Douglas Shire is unexpectedly more definitive, even down to the level of unsealed roads, oil palms that line the entrance to Port Douglas and the waterfront markets that are valued not only by tourists but also by local residents. It details iconic WH values, biodiversity values (including a new species of fish found in Cooper Creek), the Irrawaddy and Indo Pacific humpback dolphins, migrating birds, waders, flying fox, southern cassowary, stream-inhabiting frog species, Bennett’s tree kangaroo, estuarine crocodile and spotted quoll, among many others.
These ecological values are already protected under the various provisions of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and World Heritage legislation, but with this new layer of Iconic legislation, it would seem that the forced amalgamations are merely a smokescreen for a de facto dissolution of local governance in the former Shire of Douglas and the expansion of bureaucracy.