daintree conspiracy
Daintree Conspiracy
Devoted to equal rights for the Daintree Community and lifting the electricity embargo and other unfair economic sanctions.

Prepare to be amazed! Read about discrimination, hypocrisy, pollution, misfeasance and conspiracy!

INTRODUCTION - THE LATEST POWER FIGHT - THE DAINTREE CONSPIRACY MUSEUM - EXCLUSION FROM THE GRID - BUILDING BAN - ACCESS RESTRICTIONS / THE DAINTREE FERRY - BLOOMFIELD TRACK - DAINTREE GATEWAY - GREAT BARRIER REEF DRIVE - DIVERSION TACTICS - BUYBACK - LOCAL COUNCIL - FNQ REGIONAL PLAN - FAIR GO - SERVICES - IMPORTANCE OF ELECTRICITY - RENEWABLE ENERGY - MONEY - DISCRIMINATION - HYPOCRISY - POLLUTION - SISTER REGION: NORTH AND SOUTH DOUGLAS

The ARENA Powering Daintree Report - The AUSTROP response - The response to the AUSTROP response

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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 going through.

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 time.
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!

ferry shut down

ferry closure on facebiik

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, doesn't it?

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 five days.

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 limited too.

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?

All this has drama would have been avoided if DSC had followed up on the recommendation in the Daintree River Ferry Crossing Future Options study they spent hard earned rate payers dollars on in 2004.

Meetings and protests

daintree residents mad as hell

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.
A letter 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!

DSC ferry profits
Screenshot from DSC budget on website

2017 budget

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 community...
How does the Daintree community become stronger with restricted access, sitting in a queue for ages, and running expensive diesel generators?
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.

Daintree ferry study

Daintree ferry study

Daintree ferry future options

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 up.

ferry queue
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 their shire.
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 National Park.

noosa ferriesnoosa ferry price list

noosa ferry landings

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 2017

bridge

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 maintain.
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 Wikipedia 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, FREE
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 Wales, $6.60
Lawrence Ferry, across the Clarence River in New South Wales, FREE
Lower Portland Ferry, across Hawkesbury River near Lower Portland, NSW, FREE
Lyrup Ferry, across the Murray River at Lyrup, South Australia, FREE
Mannum Ferry, across Murray River at Mannum, SA, (two parallel ferries), BOTH FREE
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, FREE
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, $10.-
Sackville Ferry, across the Hawkesbury River near the village of Sackville, NSW, FREE
Settlement Point Ferry, across the Hastings River near Port Macquarie, NSW $6.60
Speewa Ferry, across the Murray River between NSW and Victoria at Speewa, FREE
Swan Reach Ferry, across the Murray River in Swan Reach, South Australia, FREE
Tailem Bend Ferry, across the Murray River in Tailem Bend, South Australia, FREE
Ulmarra Ferry, across the Clarence River in New South Wales, FREE
Waikerie Ferry, across the Murray River in Waikerie, South Australia, FREE
Walker Flat Ferry, across the Murray River in Walker Flat, South Australia, FREE
Webbs Creek Ferry, across Hawkesbury River in the village of Wisemans Ferry, NSW, FREE
Wellington Ferry, across the Murray River in Wellington, South Australia, FREE
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, FREE

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 at that.
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.

But that is not what the Daintree Ferry Revenue Policy says, it states that:

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 excess?

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 resorts.
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.

 

rescue equipment on the daintree river ferry

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.



INTRODUCTION - THE LATEST POWER FIGHT - THE DAINTREE CONSPIRACY MUSEUM - EXCLUSION FROM THE GRID - BUILDING BAN - ACCESS RESTRICTIONS / THE DAINTREE FERRY - BLOOMFIELD TRACK - DAINTREE GATEWAY - GREAT BARRIER REEF DRIVE - DIVERSION TACTICS - BUYBACK - LOCAL COUNCIL - FNQ REGIONAL PLAN - FAIR GO - SERVICES - IMPORTANCE OF ELECTRICITY - RENEWABLE ENERGY - MONEY - DISCRIMINATION - HYPOCRISY - POLLUTION - SISTER REGION: NORTH AND SOUTH DOUGLAS