A PROPOSAL by James Cook University to build its own accommodation at a research facility in the Daintree has been labelled as “short-sighted” by Federal MP Warren Entsch.
The Queensland Government wrote to Mr Entsch this week to outline a Proposed Ministerial Designation of Land for Community Infrastructure at JCU’s Daintree Rainforest Observatory.
“While I totally support the proposal to develop the research facility, I do have a major issue with one element of it,” Mr Entsch said today.
“That is the paragraph where the Community Infrastructure is described as including ‘student/researcher residential accommodation and foot trails’.
“It’s a fact that businesses in the Daintree community are heavily reliant on visitors and have for a long time struggled to maintain viability because of this.
“It beggars belief that JCU would want government funding to establish foot trails and accommodation when within five minutes of the Observatory there are a number of accommodation businesses that are struggling to remain open due to lack of patronage. There are also a number of interpretative walking trails that have been established and paid for by the private sector and – I have no doubt – could be adapted for use by the university.”
Mr Entsch has submitted his concerns regarding elements of the proposal to the State Government’s Project Services Department, and has suggested that JCU enter into an arrangement with businesses to contract accommodation and the use of existing trails on a long-term basis.
“This way, JCU won’t be sacrificing a significant amount of Federal Government funding in replicating these services and directly competing with local businesses.”
Mr Entsch raised as an example the boardwalks, which were constructed at public expense through Daintree Rescue Program funding. This was in direct competition with local private sector businesses that had been established through the mortgaging of family homes – with no support from government.
“The government now struggles to effectively maintain those boardwalks and unfortunately it’s at an ongoing cost to taxpayers,” he said.
“There needs to be a common-sense approach here. The university can continue to provide world-class tropical research and education while at the same time being a good social citizen and a much-appreciated patron of existing services.
“At the end of the day, it could mean the difference between survival or failure for some of these businesses, who because of their location in the heart of World Heritage rainforest are restricted in the options available to them.”