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The Daintree River Ferry
The Daintree community's only practical access to
the outside world is an old fashioned cable ferry across the Daintree
river, the only other altternative road access is the Bloomfield
Track going north from Cape Tribulation which DSC stubbornly maintains
as an unsealed road against wished from councils to the north and
they even dug out Emmagen Creek crossing deeper to discourage tourists
Resident ratepayers have to buy cards and tickets
to get across the ferry each year, and tourists are charged $27.-
per car return fare. Back in the days when Mike Berwick was still
Mayor he called this the traffic limiter that the area needed (in
his opinion), and it is still designated in varioius planning schemes
like this today, to be a choke on the Daintree region.
Just another day at the Daintree river....
In the morning the queues build up to go north, from mid afternoon
the traffic starts piling up on the north side
Even though the ferry runs at a profit, the price
is raised every year to maximise the effectiveness of this traffic
limiter, and nobody has been allowed to sell food or drinks to people
in the queue, to ensure the wait remains an unpleasant waste of
Tourists often get told in Port Douglas and Cairns during busy seasons
not to bother going up to the Daintree as they'll be wasting half
their day in the queues.
Ferry Closure !
As if the year round inconveniences of the single
ferry aren't enough, council decided to take it to the next level!
On Thursday 1 February 2018 everyone in the Daintree
thought that it was 1 April instead of 1 February when it was posted
on Facebook that the ferry was going to be shut down for five days,
with only a small passenger boat to replace it.
Council claimed that all stake holders had been consulted (a lie,
nobody knew until it came out on Facebook) and that arrangements
had been made to minimise inconvenience.
Total nonsense, there is little notice given as it had been kept
secret for some time, there is no vehicle ferry, and the shuttle
bus they organised will only go to Cow Bay, so what do residents
and tourists do who want to get to Cape Tribulation?
Council hides behind the fact that it is a mandatory inspection
from Australian Marine Safety Authority and that they have no choice.
Nobody in the Daintree disputes the imprtance of safety and inspections,
but then put a decent alternative plan in place!
It was discovered that council had become aware of the closure on
18 December, and chose to keep this a secret for another six weeks
until the Daintree tourism businesses found out through a Facebook
post. Port Douglas Tourism had been notified earlier, as well as
the local newspaper.
When local businesses ask questions they get told to email Gaye
Scott, council's "liaison officer" who is also the Chair
for the Daintree Marketing Committee. Incensed Daintree business
owners demanded to know why she had not told them earlier, a clear
conflict of interest.
It shows the lack of understanding at council of the
Daintree community and economy, and the total disregard and contempt
council has for the people that live north of the river.
While it may be low season, the accommodation places
still have bookngs, so they have already started cancelling and
refunding thousands of dollars, and get on the blacklist with travel
agents and inbound tourism operators. For some it might have been
their only good booking for this slow month.
Council seems to think that tourists will pay for a hire car in
Cairns, drive one hour to Mossman, park it, wait for a shuttle bus
to the river, carry their luggage on to a small boat, wait for a
shuttle bus on the other side, get dumped in Cow Bay, hitch hike
up to Cape Tribulation, have no transport for a couple of days,
and then do the same thing to go back. Sounds like a great holiday,
Restaurants and tour operators that rely on the day
tour buses from Cairns and the self drive tourists will have to
close, as they are not going to see any business. No income but
the diesel generator will still be roaring and sucking up $200.-
a day. Local people that work in these places will not be paid for
Fruit farms in the area are busy picking at this time
of year, and need to drive their fruit to markets and transport,
thousands of kilos per day.
Many North Douglas residents need to travel to medical
appointments, some to specialists they have been on the waitinglist
for a long time.
Tradies won't be able to cross the river with their
tools, emergency services can't bring their vehicles across, and
in case a cyclone hits during this time evacuation options are more
This is yet another man made disaster courtesy of
Douglas Shire Council, if they are finding it too hard now with
more than a month's notice to organise another vehicle ferry then
what is the back up plan should the current ferry ever go out of
action through some major calamity? They have four million in their
ferry reserve but where can you rent or buy a cable ferry with that
at a day's notice?
On Sunday 4 February a community meeting was held
in the Daintree, with a reasonable attendance. Although the meeting
was for affected residents also the mayor, one councillor and Mike
Berwick turned up.
was sent to council as a result of this meeting, which led to council
inviting some community members to the DSC office the following
week on 14 February for a meeting. This proved to be a waste of
travel time and money for the Daintree residents with council and
CEO insisting they had done all they could, and that was it.
The financial side of the ferry
The ferry is the second most expensive cable ferry
in Australia and earns the local council a nice profit, over the
years amounts of $450k to $600k per year have built up in a bank
account titled the ferry reserve.
Many times the locals in the Daintree asked for some of this money
to be used for much needed infrastructure in the Daintree but council
always insisted that the rules were that this money could only be
used directly for the ferry in case of a mishap, which is what normal
councils would take out insurance for.
They hired a consultant to calculate how much money would be needed
to run this service should they suddenly lose the ferry and the
figure was set at $4 million.
So the excess $459,904 in the reserve in 2017-2018 immediately disappeared
and in the next budget the ferry reserve is stablised at $4 million.
Daintree residents have been asking for some time where the interest
on "their" $4 million used to go but now they wanted to
know where the ferry profits go now, especially since the price
went up again on 5 July 2017.
Their suspicions were confirmed that the ferry profits now go in
to consolidated revenue, meaning the big pot, so the Daintree is
now paying for infrastructure in South Douglas!
Screenshot from DSC budget on website
The ferry with its high price and waiting times has
an obvious negative impact on the flow of tourists in to the Daintree,
and as the business community north of the Daintree river suffers
the financial losses of that it is only fair that the profits of
the ferry stay in the north too, and are not used to replace old
water infrastructure in Port Douglas.
The ferry queues are amazing sometimes, up to several
hours, and on the south side it is not even possible for locals
to get to the priority lane, on the north side the priority lane
that has been talked about for many years has never been built.
One year when the queues stretched far down the road the response
from the authorities was not to help locals pass with an extra traffic
controller but to place pastic barriers to stop cars overtaking
and police were fining Daintree residents hundreds of dollars for
overtaking on double white lines. Tour buses on schedules have to
break the law to get their passnegers to booked tours on time.
The council has maintained this traffic limiter for
years and rakes in a tidy profit at the expense of the Daintree
economy, which sees a reduction in customers as a percentage of
tourists will decide not to pay this high fee for a short crossing.
Some say it makes no difference but would an entry fee to Macrossan
Street or Daintree village be helpful for visitor numbers or be
accepted by the business community?
Council has been approached by businesss, Tourism Daintree Coast,
Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, Daintree Marketing Cooperative
and many others to keep the price down and all have been ignored
and the price keeps rising, despite millions in profits sitting
in the bank account doing nothing.
The screenshots of the Far North Queensland Regional
Plan below show that this inadequate ferry is not there by coincidence,
it is a designated traffic limiter to throttle traffic flow to the
Daintree and sabotage the Daintree economy.
The word traffic limiter was used by Mike Berwick in his Mayor days
and it is still in the FNQ Regional Plan.
The plan claims to aim for a stronger, more liveable and sustainable
How does the Daintree community become stronger with restricted
access, sitting in a queue for ages, and running expensive diesel
How does the Daintree become more liveable with the noise and pollution
of diesel generators and sitting in a ferry queue to get home?
How does the community become more sustainable relying on diesel
deliveries in an area where 4.5 metre annual rainfall and a rain
forest canopy make solar unviable?
Why is there no second ferry?
The Douglas Shire Council paid
for a study in 2004 , the Daintree River Ferry Crossing Future Options,
which concluded that a larger ferry was needed now, a second ferry
would be needed by 2011, and later on a bridge.
As with just about every other study done on the Daintree, the recommendations
were ignored and in 2018 there is still only one ferry, resulting
in long queues of unhappy tourists, and there is no back up should
disaster ever strike at this ferry.
The study that was conducted in 2004 recommended a
second ferry. RIght now council insists on only one ferry, to operate
continuously for 10 to 15 years until it has been run in to the
ground and then to be replaced with a new ferry.
Of course the sensible solution would be for a new ferry to be bought
when the first ferry is still in a decent condition and to be installed
next to the first ferry.
Having two ferries enables two ferries to be run in busy times to
reduce the queues and only one in the slow times to save money.
WIth two ferries there is also the security of a back up in case
there is ever a catastrophic event.
Right now there is no back up, should the ferry ever "blow
up" or have some disaster then the entire North Douglas area
will be cut off, which would cause complete mayhem and devastate
the Daintree tourism industry.
How would you get all the cars and buses stuck in North Douglas
back to South Douglas if you would lose the ferry in the middle
of the day in peak season?
How would everyone get home and how would people get to and from
their destinations the following days?
Council thinks that having four million in a reserve will fix this
scenario, but where do you get another ferry from that day or the
next day? Or even in the next week?
There may be some unsued barges sitting around in north Queensland
shipping yards but how long would it take to locate them, negotiate
contracts, get them operational, transport them and get them in
place to ferry passengers and vehicles safely?
What would their carrying capacity be? Could they handle the big
fuel trucks that deliver the three million litres of fuel the Daintree
generators need each year? Could they safely load all the rental
cars and buses and keep up with traffic flow?
If tourists are being told now to skip the Daintree because they'll
waste half a day in the queues then just imagine this scenario,
the North Douglas tourism industry would be devasted. And not because
of bad luck, but because DSC's failure to adquately plan a back
Waiting times at the ferry can be over two hours, and locals can't
get to the priority lane
In Noosa the council has a bit more brains and organisational
skills, and does not run a conspiracy against the north part of
They have two ferries running side by side, at only half the price
of the Daintree ferry, there are no queues and always a back up
available during maintenance or breakdowns, and guess what? It has
not destroyed the North Shore with insane traffic volumes and over-development.
And this North Shore also has skip bins for residents to put their
garbage in (that Cape Trib has wanted for years) and they have reticulated
power instead of diesel generators, despite being surrounded by
Why is there no bridge?
In the Far North Queensland Regional Plan it 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, adjacent
to the Wet Tropics World Heritage area." and "2.1.C 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."
So instead of keeping up with demand like every other piece
of infrastructure in Australia, this ferry through its price and the delays
it causes, is an intentionally designed handbrake on the local economy,
meant to sabotage economic progress.
This sign is already out of date, the price went up again on 5 July
And while there is no money for a bridge over the
Daintree river, the Australian government did build the 1170 metre
long Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos
at a cost of $32 million to the Australian tax payer.
They just give away the bridge above to a foreign country while
their own taxpayers struggle with a third world ferry.
Why is there a charge for the Daintree river ferry?
Understandably it costs money to run this ferry, but
every bridge and road in the shire costs money too to build and
Why is the Daintree river ferry the only piece of infrastructure
in the shire, or north Queensland, that has to have a user pays
system, and even make a profit?
Just imagine if the road in to Port Douglas had a toll booth to
collect money for a Road Maintenance Reserve and an Oil Palm Maintenance
Reserve, and the bridge in to Daintree Village had a toll booth
for a Bridge Reserve.
It would make travel very expensive and slow, local businesses and
tourists would not be happy, and it would just be complicated.
Why is the Daintree river ferry the only piece of infrastructure
that operates like this?
Why is the ferry so expensive?
The price of the ferry goes up every year on 1 July. It
makes a good profit and there is $4 million in the bank, so the
reason is clearly to maximise its efffectiveness as a traffic limiter.
This means that a certain part of the time and money spent by Daintree
businesses on marketing their area is wasted because their customers
attracted by this advertising are unable to reach them, or just
find it too hard.
Below is a list of cable ferries in Australia, copied from
and their fares.
It clearly shows what a joke the $27.- return fare at the Daintree
river ferry is, compared to the rest of Australia, there is only
one other ferry that charges $10.-, one that charges $6.60 , one
that charges $3.70 and all others are free.
Only one ferry is more expensive in the Jardine river near the top
of Cape York but $10 million has been allocated by federal government
for a bridge to be built there.
These are prices from research in 2014 when the Daintree
river ferry still cost $24.-
Berowra Waters Ferry, at Berowra Waters in New South Wales,
Blanchetown Punt NO FARES FOUND
Cadell Ferry, across the Murray River at Cadell, South Australia, FREE
Daintree River Ferry, across the Daintree River in Queensland, $24
Hibbard Ferry, across the Hastings River near Port Macquarie, New South
Lawrence Ferry, across the Clarence River in New South Wales, FREE
Lower Portland Ferry, across Hawkesbury River near Lower Portland, NSW,
Lyrup Ferry, across the Murray River at Lyrup, South Australia, FREE
Mannum Ferry, across Murray River at Mannum, SA, (two parallel ferries),
Moggill Ferry, across the Brisbane River near Ipswich, Queensland, $3.70
Morgan Ferry, across the Murray River in Morgan, South Australia, FREE
Mortlake Ferry, across the Parramatta River in Sydney, New South Wales,
Narrung Ferry, across the Murray River at Narrung, South Australia, FREE
Noosa River Ferry, across the Noosa River in Queensland, NO FARES FOUND
Purnong Ferry, across the Murray River in Purnong, South Australia, FREE
Raymond Island Ferry, from Paynesville to Raymond Island in Victoria,
Sackville Ferry, across the Hawkesbury River near the village of Sackville,
Settlement Point Ferry, across the Hastings River near Port Macquarie,
Speewa Ferry, across the Murray River between NSW and Victoria at Speewa,
Swan Reach Ferry, across the Murray River in Swan Reach, South Australia,
Tailem Bend Ferry, across the Murray River in Tailem Bend, South Australia,
Ulmarra Ferry, across the Clarence River in New South Wales, FREE
Waikerie Ferry, across the Murray River in Waikerie, South Australia,
Walker Flat Ferry, across the Murray River in Walker Flat, South Australia,
Webbs Creek Ferry, across Hawkesbury River in the village of Wisemans
Ferry, NSW, FREE
Wellington Ferry, across the Murray River in Wellington, South Australia,
Wisemans Ferry, across the Hawkesbury River in the village of Wisemans
Ferry, NSW, FREE
Wymah Ferry, across the Murray River between New South Wales and Victoria,
Ferry profits subsidising South Douglas infrastructure
The final insult to the Daintree community came in
July 2017 when it was discovered that DSC now no longer held the
ferry profits in the Ferry Reserve but usesd it in consolidated
revenue, in breach of their own regulations!
As usual the price of the ferry had been raised again
on 1 July, but the Ferry Reserve that normally grew by an average
half a million a year had stabilised at $4 milliion, and to remain
Daintree residents wanted to know where the profits were going now
and were told that ferry profits would from now on just end up in
general revenue so there was potential for this to be spent on infrastructure
in North Douglas, like we had been asking for for decades. Of course
we do not want this to be "potentially available" but
we want to be ensured that every cent of profit from this ferry
that reduces our incomes in North Douglas stays in North Douglas
and is not spent in South Douglas which already has infrastructure
light years ahead of us.
Council came up with some excuse that regulations dictated that
money in the Ferry Reserve could only be used directly for the ferry,
that's why much needed infrastructure projects in North Douglas
could never use this, but they had found a little book keeping trick
that if you don't actually put this money in the reserve but hang
on to it then you get around this requirement.
The revenue obtained from ferry operations will be
used to fund operational costs and ongoing capital works associated
with the provision of ferry services on the Daintree River.
But ambiguously it also states that:
Revenue derived from the Daintree Ferry operations
that is surplus to annual operating expenditure shall be constrained
for the purposes of funding whole of life costs required to sustain
this essential service. The maximum level of funds constrained in
this reserve will be four million dollars. At the end of each financial
year the required transfers, to and from, the reserve will be made.
Cash representing this reserve will be held in Council’s operating
bank account or authorised investments.
This creates a situation where a maximum level of
funds is set but with regular unneeded price rises a profit is created
that causes the funds to exceed this maximum, so how to fix this
Solutions to this dilemma;
1. Decrease the price of the ferry to only cover costs and not make
a profit, (Not convenient for the Conspiracy as it would reduce
the effectiveness of the traffic limited.)
2. Use the excess profits that do not fit in the reserve to fill
holes in the council budget and use for infrastructure in South
Douglas (The chosen current unethical scenario).
3. Use the excess profits for badly needed infrastructure in North
Douglas ( The fairest and most ethical solution to the Daintree
community, but inconvenient for the Conspiracy agenda.)
Daintree river ferry contract gap
The ferry fiasco at the top of this page is
not the only time Douglas Shire Council stuffed up with the ferry
and caused the Daintree commmunity a lot of stress and headaches.
The council had a ten year contract with a ferry owner to run the
ferry service, and they forgot to renew the contract!
Yes, even though they had known for the past ten years that the
ferry contract would expire on 21 March 2006, they signed
a new contract with another ferry company that would start on 1
July 2006 !!! Around mid January the council tried to calm the Daintree
community and hotel operators with the news that they were making
arrangements to ensure this MASSIVE BLUNDER would not cut off people's
acccess to the outside world for over three months, and cost tourism
businesses in the area millions of dollars in lost earnings. However,
in early March with less than two weeks to go, still nothing was
finalized, by now it had been announced that council would buy the
old ferry from the operator for $540 000.- but by 9 March still
nothing had happened, causing great concern amongst residents and
The council blamed this ginormous blunder on "an administrative
oversight", but current ferry owner Colin Andreassen said he
had notified council well in advance that tenders should be called
for the contract.
When 21 March arrived the ferry kept running, to the relief of business
owners and community, thanks to the council having spent a big amount
of ratepayers dollars buying the ferry for a good deal more than
it is worth only a few days before the cutoff date.
A few months later the cost of this huge blunder beccame evident,
the local newspaper reported that council has started advertising
their $540 000.- ferry as they expect the new one to take over soon.
Their ad brought in one offer; Foreshore Marine offered $10 000.-
No word yet on whether the person responsible for this costly blunder
will be sacked or not.
When you're on the ferry you may wonder what the above
thing is all about. The orange block pictured above is lifesaving
gear rated for 18 persons, obviously they can not sit on this block
but the way this resque equipment is supposed to save people is
that they swim next to it while holding on to the ropes on the side.
This makes some real good sense on a river where a dozen tour operators
make a living out of crocodile spotting tours. It appears even the
Titanic was better equipped for an emergency than this ferry.