by Mat Churchill
- Doug Ryan supports Gary Hunt's comments
- Proposed lagoon pool too small
- Community must be heard
The passing of the date for the community to have their say on the Council's lagoon proposal has not stopped dozens of people commenting on The Newsport article 'Gary Hunt slams lagoon process' (Wednesday, 27 April).
With debate raging, we thought it was time to hear from the head of our local tourism body, Doug Ryan of Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree, to get his views on Mr Hunt's concerns, and what the impact of the proposed lagoon would have on tourism in Port Douglas.
"My personal opinion is I support Gary's comments, certainly in relation to the size of the pool, the location of the pool, the look of the pool. I strongly believe there is a better location than that (proposed) for the benefit of the region," Mr Ryan said.
"My concerns are we are doing it quickly and simply to get a lagoon pool. To have a puddle in a park is not what we want."
Mr Ryan said he'd spoken to the Whitsunday's tourism body on Wednesday regarding visitation to Airlie Beach, a key figure used by the consultants when calculating potential lagoon pool users in Port Duoglas.
"It would appear that probably one third of the visitor numbers that they quote actually go to the islands and don't visit Airlie Beach...the figures are skewed in that way."
Mr Ryan said that the population figures used were also irrelevant, saying that some of the destinations included in the Airlie Beach project were up to 90 minutes drive away.
"If they use the same idea here on how many people would use the pool, an hour and a half drive includes Cairns. I think we have to, as Gary stated, compare apples with apples."
Mr Ryan said the size of the proposed Port Douglas lagoon, which has been identified as catering for between around 250 to 500 people per day, will not deliver a good experience to those who would use it.
"I put forward at the meetings I've been at that I would suggest that at any one time we could have as much as 600 people around that lagoon. Airlie has over 1,000 people at it...I was probably being conservative saying 600.
"We're probably our own worst enemy here. We've put pressure on Council to get a lagoon pool as quickly as we can because it's going to help the economy. That's all very good, but it's no good putting it in if it doesn't do the job.
"I honestly believe talking to both State and Federal politicians, that if they take a little longer and get it right and get it where we want it and where the community wants it, then I think we'll get support from the State and Federal Governments. I think we'll get it through no matter what and we'll get the funding," he said.
"My thoughts are if we do it between where the Police Station is and Rex Smeal Park, off in that area, it's not going to take up any of our park space...markets aren't affected, St Mary's isn't affected. With 900 weddings a year in the Douglas region the wedding market is huge for us.
"It can be done, basically now. They could start work on it once the approvals are through."
Mr Ryan said that momentum for the project would not be lost by going back to the community for further input.
"The process is there, it's in motion. It's probably a matter of going back to the community again, and I hate to say this as we've been to the community over the last five years that I know of...I think they've reaffirmed that in what the Council has done so far, I believe it's three to one against the site they've chosen.
"If they go back and look at that and put the two options up, let's just look at two options. Sure it's going to take a bit more time and unfortunately a bit more money, when that money should be going to already developing the new lagoon."
Mr Ryan said it was difficult to tell what the effect on tourism numbers would be should the proposed project go ahead.
"I would hope that common sense and due course and the pressure of the community and where we want it would prevail. If they did build it there (in the proposed location) my concern would be that it would be way too small and if it's overcrowded, if it affect St Mary's, if it creates a negative vibe for that region then we're going against what we're trying to do.
"Unfortunately we'll only see that when it's built. If you've got a pool that's which is about a third of the size of the Airlie Beach lagoon, and you've got the same number of people around it that Airlie Beach has then that would be detrimental to our region, not a positive."