21 May, 2021
Open Letter to Douglas Shire Residents
The Douglas Shire Council's Mayor has penned an open letter to all residents explaining Council's decision regarding the purchase of the Daintree Ferry and infrastructure.
Dear Douglas Shire,
I am writing to you to talk about the significant investment made by Douglas Shire Council to lock in the continuation of the Daintree Ferry service, ensuring about 100,000 vehicles can continue to travel north of the Daintree River each year.
More importantly, the investment ensures Daintree Coast businesses have confidence heading into the peak tourism season from July to September. We will see carloads of visitors crossing the river and spending their money at the about 80 cafes, stores, farms, and accommodation providers in the area.
Numerous tour bus companies can also continue to bring large groups of visitors into the World Heritage-listed rainforest, and essential access to the south for residents of Wujal Wujal and surrounds is maintained.
Pre-COVID, more than 700,000 visitors would come to Douglas Shire each year, spending $611 million and supporting 2,546 jobs in our region.
Tourism market research suggests Cape Tribulation and the Daintree are the two top motivators for return travel and play a significant role in the reason people to travel to Douglas Shire.
That is why Council paid $4.5 million for the Daintree Ferry vessel.
While the purchase price is significantly higher than the independent valuation of about $800,000, Councillors and I decided we were not willing to sacrifice the livelihoods of local business owners and residents.
This decision followed many months of unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a contract extension and asset sale agreement with Sirron Enterprises (QLD) Pty Ltd at a lower price. In the end, we agreed to the higher price to prevent any further economic damage to our battle-hardened tourism sector north of the Daintree River, which was effectively shut down last year due to COVID-19.
Looking forward, we have awarded a multi-year ferry services tender to Great Barrier Reef tour company, Divers Den – a Cairns-based tourism company owned by the Entrada Travel Group. The company will bring knowledge and expertise gained through running New Zealand’s largest passenger transport network and a variety of vessels for tourism experiences.
We are really excited by the prospect of working with such a reputable company that has been delivering world-class tourism experiences in Far North Queensland since 1974.
As well as operating the vessel, their multi-million-dollar proposal featured customer service improvements over the first year of the contract including online ticketing, free public Wi-Fi, publishing real-time information and social media updates.
The single-ferry services contract will be divided into multiple increments to give Council flexibility while staff obtain permits for a two-ferry crossing. It is designed to give us an ability to switch to a two-ferry crossing when the time is right.
We are moving forward with plans to build land-based infrastructure for a two-ferry crossing.
Council recently hired a project manager to co-ordinate upgrades required for a two-ferry system and a concept design is nearing completion.
As always, we will keep everyone informed as we work on making the Daintree River Crossing a fantastic gateway experience for locals and visitors.