Replacing the ferry service with a bridge over the Daintree River has been debated passionately in the community for many years.

There are people who believe the ferry service needs to be retained and those who think a bridge is the only practical solution.  There is also a section of the community who want to know more about each option before deciding.

Douglas Shire Council has paused negotiations for a two-ferry solution to go back out to the community with more information about a bridge, potential sites, expected costs and the forecast  costs for the proposed two-ferry service.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said the Daintree River Crossing Options Report examines a two-ferry service and bridge option, and compares them against the current single ferry arrangement.

“The two ferry option is based on the preferred tenderer’s proposal, and includes estimated costs for the land based infrastructure such as new ramp, mooring pylons and new road on southern bank, to support the improved service.”

“The bridge options were developed in-house by two Council engineers with bridge construction experience.  It involved a desktop review of possible locations and estimated construction costs and associated infrastructure including approach roads.”

“I want to encourage people to read the report. It will be available for viewing and download on Council’s website and hard copies will be at Council’s administration building, both libraries and at various other locations around the shire. “

“All ratepayers will receive a survey either in the mail for absentee landowners, or dropped into letter boxes of all households in the Shire. People will have the choice of completing the survey online, or filling in the survey and popping it in the mail,” Mayor Kerr said.

The engagement process is designed to find out where the community sits on the issue and what their concerns and aspirations are.

“Armed with this information, Councillors will make the final decision on the Daintree River Crossing, guided by community sentiment,” Mayor Kerr  said.

With the current Daintree ferry contract due to expire 30 June 2021, Mayor Kerr said Council has taken steps for continuity of services beyond the current contract’s end date.

“It is expected feedback from the community will be brought back to Council in November 2020 and regardless of the final decision, it is unlikely that any option, other than the existing service provided by the current contractor, would be ready on 1 July 2021.”

“If a two-ferry solution is preferred, the time frame to obtain approvals, build a new ferry and associated land-based infrastructure, is expected to be over one year. If a bridge option is the preferred option, it is expected that design, approvals and construction of a bridge and associated roadworks could take over five years to complete,” the Mayor said.

To remove the time pressure on the consultation, at its meeting 28 July, Council resolved to negotiate an initial one year extension with the current ferry operators, with options for a further three, two-year periods to be activated if required by Council. These small increments allow for flexibility depending on the option chosen and reduce the likelihood having to go back and request further extensions.