The current Daintree ferry contract is due to expire 30 June 2021. Following a tender process that drew international attention, Douglas Shire Council resolved to allow the Chief Executive Officer to finalise contractual negotiations with local company, Sirron Enterprises Pty Ltd. The contractors have operated the ferry crossing since 2006.
The proposed 36-vehicle ferry would carry nine extra vehicles and operate in the main channel, while the current 27-vehicle ferry would operate downstream in a second channel to alleviate traffic congestion during peak tourist season.
In April 2020, Council resolved to temporarily suspend the Daintree River Ferry contract negotiations and explore the option of a bridge crossing at various locations along the river. The public consultation will seek feedback on a bridge option alongside details of costs of the proposed two-ferry solution and findings will be brought back to Council for consideration.
You can view details from previous consultations, reports and frequently asked questions below.
Negotiations for a two-ferry contract at the Daintree River crossing can now resume, with a focus on gaining permits and approvals for the works required to create the second crossing. Read more here.
A report entitled Daintree River Crossing – Community Consultation Results will be tabled at the Ordinary Council Meeting on December 15 for Council resolution.
The survey results are in with Douglas Shire preferring a two-ferry crossing over a bridge at the Daintree River.
The detailed results revealed a majority of those who completed the Daintree River Crossing Survey preferred a two-ferry service with 66% of the count, compared to 33% of people who chose a bridge.
The remaining 1% provided no response but did indicate in their comments a preference for the crossing to remain a single ferry.
The Daintree River Crossing Consultation has closed. About 150 people attended one of the seven community meetings.
Compass Research is analysing the results from the survey which will be released to the public in coming weeks.
Council resolved to release the Daintree River Crossing Options Report at its Ordinary Meeting 25 August. The report examines a two-ferry service and bridge option, and compares them against the current single ferry arrangement. At the same meeting Council endorsed a Public Consultation Plan. Consultation opens 14 September and closes 26 October 2020.
With the current Daintree ferry contract due to expire next year, Council has taken steps for continuity of services beyond the current contract’s end date by resolving 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.
Douglas Shire Council resolved to temporarily suspend the Daintree River Ferry contract negotiations and explore the option of a bridge crossing at various locations along the river, as well as identify the possible economic benefits to the region. The public consultation will seek feedback on a bridge option alongside details of costs of the proposed two-ferry solution. Read full media release here.
Douglas Shire Council resolved to allow the Chief Executive Officer to finalise contractual negotiations with local company, Sirron Enterprises Pty Ltd. A hybrid solar-powered vehicle ferry with a greater carrying capacity is a planned addition to the Daintree River Ferry Crossing fleet under the next contract. The proposed 36-vehicle ferry, which would operate on solar power a majority of the time, would carry nine extra vehicles and operate in the main channel, while the current 27-vehicle ferry would operate downstream in a second channel to alleviate traffic congestion during peak tourist season.
Council released the tender for the next Daintree River Ferry Contract to market. Council contacted companies that made initial submissions through the Expressions of Interest (EOI) stage and advertised the tender nation-wide. The tender documents were designed to extract innovative solutions to address key issues at the Daintree River crossing.
A traffic modelling report that assessed four different options for the Daintree River crossing and the ability to reduce wait times for the next 17 years is now publicly available. Douglas Shire Council CEO Mark Stoermer presented the results from the Daintree Ferry traffic report, which analysed congestion and used micro-simulation to assess future traffic conditions, at a public meeting in Cow Bay. Read traffic report here.
Council has invited expressions of interest to gauge market appetite and solicit ideas for managing one of the last cable ferry crossings in tropical Australia. A community engagement report is available for viewing here.
Council has endorsed a community engagement plan that will feature public workshops and written submissions. An extra deck hand will also be trialled to speed up travel across the Daintree River during the peak season. Council approved a trial for an extra person to help receipting at the northern bank of the Daintree River from 1pm to 6pm daily. Read full Council report here
Couldn’t attend a meeting? You can listen to a podcast of the presentation below.
Why is the single ferry not an option?
A single ferry solution was considered during the previous consultation and ruled out through the tender process because it was deemed inadequate for the future of the Daintree River crossing.
The current consultation is comparing the high-level costs between the two-ferry solution put forward by the successful tenderer and a possible bridge crossing.
A bridge crossing was not considered during the first round of consultation.
Previous community consultations were clear in that a single ferry was an inadequate service.
I heard that during previous consultation about the Daintree River crossing, only 5% of people supported a bridge. If this is the case, why are we doing the consultation again?
The consultation report for Round One said:
“Very few people [5%] proposed the ferry be replaced with a bridge and half of these said a bridge should only be an option if the ferry operations could not be improved.”
It may be useful to understand where the 5 percent came from. In Round 1, there were 117 responses to the ferry survey. 97 respondents lived north of the Daintree River, 13 lived elsewhere in the shire, one lived outside the shire and six did not respond to location.
There were four questions:
1. How often do you use the Daintree Ferry?
2. How would you rate the ferry service in general?
3. Please tell us why you believe the service is not satisfactory?
4. What enhancements to the ferry service would you like Council to consider under a new ferry contract commencing in July 2021?
In the analysis of responses to question 4, the number of people who mentioned a bridge were tallied up. Six respondents said build a bridge and three of these suggested a bridge only if ferry issues could not be resolved.
In summary, the Round One consultation does not enable us to know with any accuracy the percentage of people who do, or do not, support a bridge across the Daintree River.
- 117 responses is not a sufficient sample size to determine definitively what the Douglas Shire community thinks.
- Just 13 people from the rest of Douglas Shire responded. With a resident population of 11,000 people not living north of Daintree River, 13 is not a representative sample
- The questions were focussed on enhancing ferry services, and did not ask people’s preference between a bridge or improved ferry service.
How is Council ensuring the validity of survey results and maintaining confidentiality?
Council has engaged an external market research company called Compass Research.
Compass Research is a long-standing member of the Australian Market and Social Research Society and adheres to the Society’s code of conduct including maintaining strict confidentiality of individual responses received and confidentiality of results to the client.
Recent clients have included North Queensland Airports, Monash University, North Queensland Primary Health, Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Mareeba Shire Council, Cairns Regional Council and Cairns Convention Centre. The firm has carried out numerous previous surveying involving online response, mail response and QR Code Mobile response.
What’s the approximate cost for capital finance on a loan to build the bridge and across what time-frame?
If a loan is required, interest payments would be in line with current rates on offer by Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC).
What is the net revenue from the ferry to Council for previous financial years?
The net revenue received from the ferry has been:
- 2016/17 – $1.12M (no extraordinary issues in 16/17)
- 2017/18 – $0.82M (note Ferry closure lost revenue & additional costs)
- 2018/19 – $0.20M (additional dredging due to flooding events)
- 2019/20 – $0.36M (reduction due to Covid19)
What plans does Council have in place if there is outrage or protesting against the final decision?
In this case, Douglas Shire Council is seeking the community’s preference and will use the findings to guide it’s decision making. The plan is to listen to what the local community says and this approach is designed to minimise angst.
Have the financials considered the costs of running one ferry while the bridge is being built or are the financials independent of the build time?
The financials are based on the cost to build and maintain a bridge or operate two ferries, the cost of (or revenue obtained from) operating the current ferry operations during the construction period has not been included in the financial comparison.
What is the cost associated with testing visitor opinion about toll costs?
If a bridge was the preferred option, Council would then determine the need to test visitor opinion regarding a toll. In the past, Council has not tested visitor opinion about ferry fees.
Until it is determined that visitor research is required and what form it would take, we do not have a cost.
What is the likely cost to undertake thorough environmental, social, economic or cultural heritage assessments related to building the bridge?
If a bridge was the preferred option, Council would then need to determine what studies were required and prepare a scope of works. Until that is done, the likely cost is unknown. The
Options Report includes some typical assessment costs for developments of this nature at the usual industry standard of consideration.
Why was a contract not signed when the previous Council resolved to do so in December, 2019?
At its meeting of 3 December 2019, Council resolved the following:
“That Council resolves to:
1. enter into contract 2019 – 084 Daintree River Ferry Contract 2021 with Sirron Enterprises (QLD) Pty Ltd, ABN 36 325 937 550;
2. delegates authority under section 257 of the Local Government Act 2009 to the Chief Executive Officer to negotiate, finalise and execute any and all matters associated with the contract; and
3. allocates $250,000 from the Daintree River Reserve for the design of the landside infrastructure in preparation for the new service in 2021.”
Following the resolution, Council commenced negotiations and by the end of February, while much progress was made, the contract was not ready for signing. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Council’s experience for complicated and long term contracts
As the election approached, it was clear that the Daintree Ferry contract had become a key topic of conversation and candidates had opposing views.
Council staff received detailed legal advice stating that no action of a significant nature either deemed political or to have significant consequences for the next council should be undertaken during caretaker period.
After the election, the new Council made a decision to temporarily suspend contract negotiations, explore the option of a bridge crossing and conduct further community consultation.
How did Council pause negotiations? Was it legal?
At an Ordinary Council Meeting on Tuesday 28 April 2020, Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr tabled a motion to:
1. Temporarily suspend contract negotiations for contract 2019 – 084 Daintree Ferry Contract 2021 while it:
2. Explores the option of a bridge crossing at various locations and the possible economic benefits to the region;
3. Conducts further community consultation including the bridge option and details of the costs of the two ferry solution provided for in the currently negotiated contract; and
4. Brings the results of the community consultation back to an Ordinary Council Meeting for further discussion and resolution.
The motion was supported by a majority of Councillors.
A complaint about the use of the Mayoral Minute was lodged to the Office of Independent Assessor earlier this year.
The report doesn’t address environmental, social, economic or cultural heritage implications. When will these be addressed and compared?
The options report focuses on the financial and service aspects of a bridge or two ferries. During the consultation process, views will be gathered from the community on the environmental, social, economic and cultural heritage issues raised and will be included in the report presented to Council.
Is Council’s focus only on gathering support for the bridge?
Council wants to know whether people prefer a bridge or a two-ferry service – there is no focus on gathering support for either option.
What is the time frame across which the loss or gain has been calculated for the two ferry and bridge options?
Is the cost of land acquisition included in the bridge costs? If not, what is the likely cost of the land?
The cost of land acquisition has been included in the bridge options, however the cost of significant legal or court fees related to the land acquisition has not been allowed for.
What is the contingency plan and the related cost if the bridge is wiped out by flood or cyclone?
A bridge would be constructed to the suitable design standards that would make the destruction of the bridge unlikely. In the event of significant damage/loss from a declared event such as a cyclone, then the Disaster Relief Funding Arrangements would apply whereby State and Federal governments contribute almost all of the repair/replacement costs for a un-tolled bridge. Insurance or other similar mechanisms would have to be acquired for a tolled bridge.
How does Council intend to compensate the loss of 30 local jobs if the bridge were to be built?
Council has not at this stage considered the loss of jobs implications.
Will the speed of the ferry be controlled?
Council has not at this stage considered variation in travel time across the river between drivers. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be set up as part of the contractual negotiations.
Is there any contractual obligation to run a second ferry at certain times? Or is just up to the operator?
The contract for the two ferry arrangement has not been finalised, however it has been proposed that a KPI related to wait times will influence the operation of one or two ferries, similar to the opening of the priority lane of the current setup.
Generally speaking will the contract be secret, or can we access the non-remuneration sections?
The tender documents (including the proposed contract) were already issued to a number of interested parties and are, therefore, not confidential.
Current contract negotiations were paused pending upcoming community consultation. If the ferry is a preferred solution, the final contract will be confidential as it is a commercial in-confidence.
Will emergency services be included in the consultation?
Council has requested a response from emergency services as part of the consultation.
Does the figure include the Daintree River permit fees to the state?
The Ferry figures include a permit for Environmental Relevant Activity (dredging) and the Marine Park permit which is valid for 10 years.
I have a different opinion to the other ratepayer in my home. How do we have two different options calculated?
Where there are two or more respondents living in the same household, individual opinions will be counted separately.
Survey results will be broken down as follows:
(1) total respondents
(2) individuals living in the shire (ratepayers and residents)
(3) individuals who are ratepayers but do not live in the shire.
(4) all other respondents i.e. those who do not live in the Shire, or pay rates. These results will be presented to Councillors – officers will not apply any weighting to a particular group.
Councillors may or may not give more weight to one or more of the groups in their consideration.
Do the figures include the cost of dredging nearly a million dollars last year?
The net revenue for the ferry option includes a typical value for dredging on a ‘normal’ year, i.e. one dredge event.
Before preparing tender documents, Council sought feedback from the community with regard to any enhancements to the ferry service they would like Council to consider.
A full report on the Round One Community Consultation is available HERE
Detailed submissions are available below
In the News
- DEC – Two Ferry Option Preferred
- SEP – Dates announced for Daintree River Crossing Community Meetings
- SEP – Mayor to Back Community’s Call on Daintree River Crossing
- AUG – Bridge or No Bridge Over the Daintree River?
- APRIL -Daintree Ferry Negotiations Paused To Assess Financial Impact
- DEC – Plans for Solar-Powered Ferry to Boost Ranks at Daintree River
- JULY – Daintree Ferry tender released to market
- JUNE – Traffic modelling report released
- MARCH – Interest in Daintree Ferry rolling in
- FEB – EOI to spark market excitement for Daintree tourism icon
Relevant Plans & Studies
Below you’ll find a useful list of relevant plans and studies on the region.
Douglas Shire Council has a Biosecurity Management Plan, which outlines the key responsibilities, roles and desired outcomes required under the Biosecurity Act 2014 for the the Douglas Shire region.
Council’s Corporate Plan 2019-2024 includes a goal to review and adopt an updated Biosecurity Management Plan 2021-2025 and ensure that it targets the Shire’s flora and fauna invasive species problems.
Biosecurity Management Plan 2017-2021 (8.5 MiB)
Cook Shire Council and Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council commissioned an economic and social impact assessment and benefit cost analysis of upgrading the last 28km section of unsealed road between Cape Tribulation and Wujal Wujal. This is the last unsealed section of the Bloomfield Track.
It is estimated that approximately 600 residents live in an off-grid area in the Daintree region, with up to an additional 500 overnight visitors during peak Winter months.
The Daintree / Cape Tribulation Electricity Survey was produced by Compass Research in March, 2017 at the instigation of the Far North Queensland Electricity Users Network, with funding support from Energy Consumers Australia Ltd.
The survey results were obtained from a sample of 100 households and businesses in the off grid area. The aim of the survey was to gather information about people’s attitudes to not having grid power available, their current source of power, the cost, reliability and safety.
Currently, a 27-vehicle ferry operates from 5:30am to midnight every day, with restricted hours Christmas Day.
A new, 15-year ferry contract will commence 1 July 2021, which includes the option to extend for a further term of 5 years and a second further term of 5 years, at Council’s discretion. If the extensions are granted, the ferry would operate in its current capacity until 2046.
The new contract supports a two-ferry option. The primary, 36-vehicle ferry will operate all year round, while the existing ferry will be utilised during peak season to support the additional load. The main ferry will operate slightly upstream from its current location on the Southern side of the river and use the same ramp on the northern side.
This discussion paper was prepared by the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) and released publicly in September 2019. In brief, the paper says that the ecological importance of the Daintree Coast demands the respect of the various levels of Government to commit to a long term strategy to further rationalize the settlement levels into the future.
It proposes two main strategies which are:
- No net increase in permanent settlement levels from current levels; and
- Targeted conservation land acquisitions.
DSSG’s aim is to start the conversation towards a long term strategy for the Daintree Coast and welcomes constructive comments on its content.
The report proposed a future for the Daintree coastal region, which was based on protecting the environmental values and building a sustainable rainforest community north of the Daintree River.
It anticipated the ultimate settled community would number between 1200-1400 people, they would have a high quality of life based on the natural forest values and would be actively involved in protecting the natural values on their land.
The study also suggests that residents will have employment opportunities in nature based tourism and may host visitors to the area through a variety of small business opportunities. Tropical horticultural businesses will export high value organic produce and local food enterprises will use this produce to develop a unique local cuisine.
This plan provides the framework for joint management of the park by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Kuku Yalanji Bama. It builds on the provisions for cooperative management agreed to in the 2007 Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Land Use Agreements.
Joint management will include a greater role for Traditional Owners in decision-making for the park, as well as increased employment opportunities for Kuku Yalanji Bama in park management.
Compendium designed as a resource for people working in the tourism industry to assist with visitor information. It lists all tours and attractions, walks, shops, restaurants, ferry times and costs, driving times and lists all accommodation.
It is an initiative of the Daintree Marketing Cooperative, is updated annually by members and available free.
This was a feasibility study into the creation of a 52.2 km walking track to be done over five days and four nights.
The business model was for a fully guided and fully catered walk with walkers carrying a day pack, and supplies stored at each camp site. It will have an start and finish point at Wujal Wujal and an start and finish point at Cape Kimberly. Walkers will be able to travel in either direction.
Starting at Wujal Wujal, the track travels in a southerly direction for 13.3 km to the first camp site located near Duncan’s Flat. The second camp site at China Camp provides walkers with the opportunity to see Roaring Meg Falls. Day three the route then turns in a southbound direction and roughly follows the CREB Track for two days and nights after which walkers will reach the Daintree River. Walkers would then board water transportation near the CREB Track crossing and continue down-stream in an easterly direction. Walkers would disembark near Daintree River ferry ramps and walk the last leg to Cape Kimberly beach.
Identifies risks and hazards in the Shire’s coastline and identifies mitigation and resilience strategies. Communities within the Daintree region identified as being at risk include Cape Kimberley, Cape Tribulation, Cow Bay and Thornton Beach.
Resilient Coast Strategic Plan (22.2 MiB)
Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation holds native title, land and cultural heritage rights and interest in trust on behalf of Eastern Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners. EKY land and sea country stretches along the coast from the Mowbray Valley to the Annan River south of Cooktown – therefore includes the Daintree region.
The strategic plan sets out Jabalbina’s vision, mission and goals to support Traditional Owner aspirations for this area.
Master Plan for Queensland Parks & Forests 2025 - Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport & Racing (NPRSR)
This Master Plan is a living document that will guide the next decade of park and forest management in Queensland.
Power Supply Policy Position - Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) & Daintree Coast Environment Network (DCEN)
This paper was prepared jointly by the DSSG and the Daintree Coast Environment Network (DCEN). It puts forward the viewpoint that given the exceptional ecological values of the Daintree Coast, all levels of Government must adopt the position that any form of subsidised power provision should have a conservation dividend that delivers a net gain to the environment.
The writers are of the view that the installation of a single reticulated system for the whole area would cause substantial environmental damage, both through the installation process and arising from the subsequent development encouraged by access to reticulated power.
The preferred approach is to uniformly upgrade individual Remote Area Power Supply systems at private residences and that owners be financially assisted to do this in return for a conservation dividend.
This road is 31 kilometres in length. It is primarily unsealed. The current vision is:
- Link to remain 4WD only access;
- Reduce the environmental impacts along the link;
- Maintain the road as an iconic Australian tourist route;
- Maintain road surface at a sufficient width and pavement strength to cater for the traffic types and a surface condition that is at a level adequate for the road function;
- Limited concrete surface improvements along flood prone sections and at steep sections;
- Discourage traffic volume increases.
This road is 40kms in length, covering the localities of Kimberley, Cow Bay, Diwan, Thornton Beach and Cape Tribulation.
The current vision is to maintain the sealed pavement from Mossman Daintree Road to Cape Tribulation and control traffic volumes at the current level. There are no plans to replace the Daintree Ferry with a bridge.
Sets out the direction and major activities for TNRM for the next 5 years. It sets out the foundation for negotiating Terrain’s responsibilities in delivering the organisation’s Wet Tropics Plan for People and Country has three top priorities which are:
- To ensure strong community cohesion and effective collective action to protect and enhance the natural assets of the Daintree. This includes forming a Daintree Community Taskforce to steer a planning process based on a common community vision; developing a community-based environmental action group to manage natural assets and coordinate with other agencies and to
develop a plan to empower Traditional Owners to live independently on country.
- Sustainable industries – The Daintree has a reputation of being a totally protected environment and this can be used to showcase the area. Sustainable tourism, incorporating education of visitors, providing a unique visitor experience, having a commitment to protect the area and adding infrastructure enabling access, can contribute to the long term sustainability of the area. Actions include developing a strong brand and marketing campaign to highlight sustainability and eco-tourism, true sustainable living and to expand the range of tourist activities to attract more visitors for longer periods.
- Biosecurity – Minimise the threat of pests and weeds on natural and agricultural landscapes through planning and action.
Daintree Ferry Fast Facts
Operating Days and Hours
The Daintree Ferry operates continuously across the river from 5am through to midnight every day except Christmas Day when hours are restricted to 7.30am to 10.00am and 2.30pm to 5pm although this can vary slightly from year to year.
The current capacity of the ferry is 27 standard vehicles.
It is 43 metres long and can carry up to 450 tonnes.
There is a priority lane for locals on the southern side of the river and this operates between 9am and 4.30pm from the first Sunday in June through to early November each year. Council sets the start and finish dates of the priority lane.
Disruption to normal ferry services
The current contract allows for the ferry to be out of service for up to six days each year for repairs and maintenance. The contractor must provide reasonable notice to Council of any pending closure. During the closure, the operator must provide a passenger vessel service capable of taking at least 30 passengers.
Douglas Shire Council pays the contractor to deliver the ferry service. All aspects of operating the ferry are the responsibility of the contractor. This includes the ferry driver, traffic controllers to load and unload vehicles, and staffing of the ticket booths. The fees charged to cross the river are set by Douglas Shire Council and all revenue collected goes to Council.
EFTPOS is available at the ferry at all times with machines at the booth and on the ferry. Payment arrangements are managed by Douglas Shire Council.
Douglas Shire Council is responsible maintaining the channel across the Daintree River to accommodate the ferry.