As border reopenings appear imminent, Douglas businesses are preparing, so Newsport spoke to a few to see how they feel December (and beyond) might look like for them and the Shire.

Queensland has had its borders bolted shut for most of 2020, with Sydney and Victoria still locked out, and while this has had the positive effect of keeping Queensland virtually COVID-free, it has come at great economic cost.

But this looks set to change, and maybe as soon as December 1, bringing with it a potential influx of interstate travellers and a return to something more like normal for the Shire.

In part three of our businesses and border reopening series we talked the owners of Wavelength Reef Cruises.

With tourism being one of the Shire’s main economic drivers, the travel and tourism sector has been deeply affected by COVID-19,

And local tourism operators particularly have taken one of the biggest hits.

Jenny Edmondson, co-owner with husband John, of Wavelength Reef Cruises, has felt the impact hard, estimating that the year has yielded about 20% of the regular tourist intake.

And unfortunately for Wavelength, the push for locals to holiday locally, leading to some influx of local Queenslanders, has not overly changed things for Wavelength’s numbers because, as Jenny points out, “Queensland visitors can be quite ambivalent about the reef, having often already done a trip to experience it.”

So, it’s been a tough road for the business since the borders closed, and even more so given Wavelength accommodates a lot of Sydney-siders on its tours, while also having a research program it operates with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Even with the prospect of borders opening, while Jenny hopes interstaters will be “desperate for some adventure and flock here in droves,” she isn’t so sure due to the way southern media makes so much of wet weather and tropical lows, which “could nip the enthusiasm in the bud quickly.”

Wavelength is already going above and beyond what is needed to ensure its operations are COVID-safe, including enforcing social distancing, providing sanitiser, ensuring longer soak times for gear, cleaning any other items that customers or staff regularly come into contact with and changing the menu from a buffet to individually wrapped food.

Despite the grim times the business has had to navigate, Jenny is trying to stay positive, seeing a potential December border opening as the chance to bring a little hope to everyone who has been affected by the closures, even if the lack of an exact date is making it hard to forward plan.

She does, however, hold some fears for 2021.

“Besides the one-wheel wonder at Xmas the region usually experiences,” she notes, “it’s a long time till April when we are likely to see proper visitation again.”

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/november/open-borders-how-do-businesses-feel-part-three/

Concept designs for the world’s first Living Coral Biobank, a dedicated coral conservation facility proposed to be built in Port Douglas, have been revealed.

Great Barrier Reef Legacy’s $70 million Living Coral Biobank project aims to secure the long-term future and biodiversity of corals worldwide with the primary goal of the facility to store, keep alive and nurture over 800 species of the world’s hard corals which can be used to rehabilitate reefs in nature in the future.

With the look inspired by the ‘mushroom’ coral, the proposed building, dubbed a ‘living ark’, will be the only dedicated facility of its kind in the world and will be the base for the project which will also use public and home aquarium collectors to hold and maintain backup fragments all over the world, creating the largest collaborative preservation network of corals.

The facility’s innovative design and engineering – by Australian architects Contreras Earl Architecture, and engineering and sustainability consultants Arup and Werner Sobek – will make it a world leader in next-generation renewable energy design, creating optimal conditions for coral storage while minimising energy consumption and solar gain.

Dr Dean Miller, Living Coral Biobank Project Director and Managing Director of the Port Douglas based GBR Legacy said the project will begin collecting coral next week off the Far North Queensland coast, to be temporarily stored at Cairns Marine.

And if all goes to plan he said the Port Douglas facility is hoped to be built and housing coral by 2025.

“The Living Coral Biobank is the only project that can secure the living biodiversity of the world’s coral species immediately,” Dr Miller said.

“To ensure this priceless living collection is held in perpetuity for generations to come we need the world’s most advanced facility that also promises to use only renewable energy sources and function with optimum efficiency, while also creating an unforgettable visitor experience – and that’s exactly what this design delivers.”

While the corals will be the primary user of the building, the 6,830 sqm multi-function centre will also host exhibition areas, an auditorium and classrooms as well as advanced research and laboratory facilities over four levels.

The Living Coral Biobank would see visitors get up close to live specimens in aquarium displays, learn about coral ecosystems through exhibitions and events, and observe coral husbandry experts going about their daily work in a protected wet lab environment.

The facility will also have a unique 200-person function space.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said he was blown away by the new, modern design released for the Living Coral Biobank.

“This iconic design will be a recognisable structure which people will automatically relate back to Port Douglas,” he said.

“The unique architecture has the right feel for a globally significant and cutting-edge coral reef conservation facility to be based right here in Port Douglas.”

Mayor Kerr said he believes the proposed state-of-the-art centre will enhance Douglas Shire’s reputation as a leader in reef conservation through innovation and science. 

“With their drive and enthusiasm, the team at Great Barrier Reef Legacy are not only going to deliver a world-class preservation project, but give Port Douglas another special attraction for visitors to enjoy.

“Our community has a real opportunity to own this project while making a really positive difference to the environment and the future of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

The project’s architects and engineers have integrated a holistic sustainable strategy to the design which includes reducing energy consumption by tactically dividing the building into six compatible climate zones over four levels, with adjacencies minimising energy resource use for climatic control. Aspiring to the biosystems of the coral reefs themselves, the building will aim to be self-sufficient and carbon neutral.

Architect Rafael Contreras said this project brings with it a profound responsibility to consider the impact of architecture and the construction industry on the natural world.

“The Living Coral Biobank is an opportunity to set a global benchmark for sustainable outcomes and zero-carbon goals as well as creating a world-leading conservation and education facility.

“The ambition for this project is to create a beacon for environmental awareness – a centre of hope, learning and wonder,” she said.

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/october/designs-revealed-for-living-coral-biobank-in-port-douglas/

Tributes have begun pouring in for a respected Port Douglas fishing boat captain, described as “the kindest man you could meet on the water” after his tragic death at age 46.

TRIBUTES are pouring in for a respected Port Douglas fishing boat captain who lost his brave battle with a terminal illness.

Zulu Game Fishing skipper Casey Dent, 46, died on Friday at the Mossman Hospital after an almost two-year fight with kidney cancer.

The much-loved marine industry skipper was diagnosed with the illness after complaining of severe lower back pain and sciatica symptoms.

He was initially prescribed pain killers before a scan revealed the cancer had spread and was incurable.

His partner, Amanda Haines, has fought bravely by his side and has shared her torment through a series of heartbreaking social media posts.

“I already miss you so so so much. My heart is completely broken, my body feels as heavy as a rock and I don’t know how to do life without you,” she said in one post after his passing. “I just want to talk to you and get a sign that you’re out there somewhere and not in the pain that stopped your heart yesterday. “My pain is only just beginning.”

Friends and colleagues have also taken to social media to pay their respects to the “gentle soul” who would “literally give you the shirt off his back”.
A Zulu Game Fishing spokesman said Mr Dent’s skills, experience and knowledge were “simply irreplaceable”.

“He will forever be ingrained in every aspect of our operations,” one post said. The Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association said he was “the kindest man you could meet on the water”. “It is with deepest sadness and a heavy heart I share the news of the passing of Captain Casey Dent from the Zulu,” the post read. “A true gentle soul and the kindest man you could meet on the water.” “Condolences to Amanda and the Dent family who have been by Casey’s side this whole time.” “If anything this past few weeks prove that life is very fragile and short. RIP Casey.”

Ms Haines, who worked alongside Mr Dent on the Port Douglas-based fishing charter, told her followers she was starting to feel the “after” of a long and courageous fight.
“I would do anything to go back to ‘before’ but that would just be transferring the pain back to you babe Casey Dent – I’ll carry it for you now.”

Source: Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette https://bit.ly/3jO6xvr

Today the community is remembering a true hero and pioneer of Great Barrier Reef conservation, who has left a legacy that will live on forever.

Renowned conservationist, John Rumney passed away peacefully on the weekend aged 70, after suffering a stroke in early September.

Few names are as synonymous with reef protection as that of the Port Douglas-based conservationist who for more than three decades dedicated his life to safeguarding the reef.

John was awarded Australian Geographic’s Lifetime Conservation Award in 2019, in recognition of his life’s work and was named Douglas Shire’s citizen of the year in 2017.

Originally from the United States, and a nature lover, John came to Australia because he had to see the Great Barrier Reef. Once he arrived in Port Douglas he knew this was home. He and wife Linda built a boat and started a commercial fishing business and soon he became increasingly aware of the negative effects human activities were having on the fragile environment.

From there, John’s passion grew, and he founded the scientific research and dive vessel, Undersea Explorer, and Eye to Eye Marine Encounters research and eco-tourism operations, advancing research and understanding of the reef that resulted in greater protection and conservation.

Most recently, John founded the Great Barrier Reef Legacy in 2016 of which he described as the evolution of his life’s work, building on all his previous endeavours to create a foundation that brings together the best scientific minds, educators, and multimedia specialists to create positive and lasting outcomes for the environment.

In its first four years, GBR Legacy has raised over $1 million, ran five major reef expeditions, and supported research projects from major universities and government organisations, as well as educated our regions school students through their unique multi-media content like the Virtual Reality experiences many of us have enjoyed.

GBR Legacy co-founder and friend, Dr Dean Miller, said John was selfless beyond measure and “had the unique ability to fuel the fires in you that made you want to do great things.”

“John loved the natural world. Every little detail was fascinating beyond belief, and he inherently understood the processes that drive the systems we take for granted from local to global,” Dr Miller said.

“John started, was part of, or chaired countless committees, attended meetings at every level, lobbied our politicians, appeared in and coordinated countless documentaries, and most importantly was a leader and a trusted voice in all reef-related matters.”

Dr Miller said his mentor was a “pioneer in thought and actions”, creating the first ecotourism venture before the word had meaning, expertly mixing science, tourism and adventure to benefit the reef and the communities that rely on it.

“So today we celebrate a humble man who achieved larger than life goals – a loving family man, great colleague, inspiring mentor, and the most loyal and genuine friend anyone could hope for. An adventurer at heart, a conservationist by nature, and one of the worlds’ great leaders who valued those around him,” Dr Miller said.

Recently GBR Legacy launched the world’s first Living Coral Biobank Project, which will see hard-coral species stored and kept alive in a state of the art holding facility in Port Douglas in perpetuity to aid in all reef research, restoration and recovery projects.

John was extremely excited about this project that would help secure a better future for the reef’s survival and leave a true legacy for future generations.

Overall John’s work, endeavours, and organisations have helped increase reef research as well as raise the standards surrounding fishing, tourism, and diving on the reef, and has accelerated actions vital to the future survival of coral reefs around the world and ensure community resilience for his beloved Port Douglas and the Far Northern region.

John is survived by wife Linda, three daughters, Shannon, Jenna, and Nikki and his grandchildren, who all share his passion and love for the environment. 

There are no Barriers too Great to save our Reefs – GBR Legacy

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/september/vale-john-rumney-true-pioneer-and-champion-of-the-reef/?fbclid=IwAR2Qf7781lDqMaS00FVzn6-VgfYWkMddooAhRHjG8eXC_vkLTEV9izh4v28

A fruitful marina restaurant is luring foodies in with quality produce and exceptional service.

This year it has been anything but predictable on the culinary landscape with restaurants forced to chop and change how they do business.

However, amongst all this ambiguity Lure Restaurant at the Crystalbrook Marina remains a favourite for locals and visitors, by getting the basics right, still finding success during uncertain times opening for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

Owner, Kelly Caughey, said their family run restaurant continues to offer outstanding value for money and amazing coffee.

The successful aspects of Lure include a casual yet inviting environment, a menu stamped with personality, passion about coffee and using fresh locally forged ingredients.  

These factors are suiting our population right now as people seek more connection to the food they eat, more space to relax and tune out and more experience from dinning out.

It also doesn’t hurt when your restaurant is on the right side of the tracks with gorgeous rainforest and marina water views.

The secret sauce to Lure’s success is Kelly’s team. Many of them have been with her since she took over the marina hotspot six years ago – This is something refreshing in a place where high staff turnover runs rampant and a true testament to Kelly’s ability to cultivate a positive culture in the restaurant.

“Some of the team here are part of the furniture. I love them to bits and can’t thank them enough for all their efforts, they are my second family,” said Kelly.

Kelly has effectively blended creative artistry to her products while running an optimistic business which is vital to keeping a good team and being an employer of choice.  

There is a pride among the staff to cover all the details making Lure the kind of spot that is a blueprint for the perfect day date – Ideal for settling into panoramic mountain views, sipping something bubbly while rediscovering something incredible, the simple pleasures in life that make moments magic – much like their menu, it is a playful twist on classics.

“With cold beer on tap and the best views in Port Douglas, you know you’re in for a perfect afternoon,” said Kelly.

Easy dining for all dietary requirements such as vegan and celiac – seasonal produce takes centre stage, delivering a polished, evolving menu that reflects the best of the region and surrounds – think bugs, oysters, tiger prawns, barramundi, coral trout, calamari, whiting and scallops.

It may seem obvious, but the foundations of a thriving restaurant during these times need to be rock solid. The clear vision for your staff culture that is stirred you into action, a deep-rooted passion for service, an excellent understanding of value to your guests and fresh local produce.

Kelly and her team give a masterclass in these fundamentals. 

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/september/marina-restaurant-is-luring-in-the-foodies/

Local businesses are continuing to call on the public to ‘Do It In Douglas’ as part of the Buy Douglas: Build Douglas campaign, including the operators of the Lady Douglas River Cruise and the Shaolin Chinese Junk, who recently used their downtime to give a bit of love to the old ladies of Port Douglas.

In what is a family affair, Lady Douglas has been owned and operated by locals Kate and Lucas Agrums for the past six years, while Kate and brother, Flynn Bickford, have owned the Shaolin for the last year and a half.

Like many small businesses, the tours had to shut up shop during the height of COVID restrictions earlier this year with both boats out of action for 80 days.

There was no downtime for the small business operators, however, who got busy lovingly restoring the vessels’ unique charms.

“We actually haven’t had many days off at all, we have spent the time focussing on getting the boats sparkling and in their best shape,” Kate said.

It was all hands on deck, with the whole family joining in the refurb as well as lending a helping hand when the tours restarted.

“Our families all come and work during the school holidays, we get all of the kids helping out wherever possible. The kids love it and guests think it is fantastic to see a local family running their business firsthand,” said Kate.

Over the last couple of months, business has slowly been building back up and Kate said it has been a long road.

“There have been many hurdles to overcome, endless hours of reading ever-changing guidelines and many frustrating moments trying to decipher exactly what we are and aren’t allowed to do.

“Not to mention the many changes that we have had to make on both our boats and tours to keep in line with the COVID safe restrictions and regulations.

“And despite the circumstances we are always trying to growing our businesses and have introduced a new Shaolin Seafood Lunch Sail on market days, Wednesdays and Sundays,” she said.

The Lady Douglas River Cruise has been operating out of Port Douglas for over 30 years.

The 1.5-hour river cruise meanders along the unspoiled mangrove channels of Dickson’s Inlet, spotting estuarine crocodiles, sea eagles, Brahminy Kites, several varieties of crabs and much more local wildlife along the way.

The Shaolin is a 50-year-old traditional Chinese junk ship taking guests on a unique sunset sail, or for those looking to venture further, a snorkelling trip out to Low Isles.

As a small business owner, Kate believes locals supporting local business will be vital to helping the economy through this tough period.

“I think it is very important for our community to buy local and support our fellow local businesses.

“If we all spend our money locally, it will definitely have a domino effect and I believe what goes around should come around.”

Building on that community spirit, the boats are currently offering local discounted rates of $30 on Lady Douglas and $40 on the Shaolin for a limited time.

“This has proven very popular with our local’s, we have had loads of positive responses and great feedback, which is always nice to hear,” said Kate.

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/august/two-douglas-icons-get-a-little-bit-of-love/

Choo Choos at the Marina has recently reopened its doors for the first time since March and is sporting a fresh new look.

Like many Douglas businesses Choo Choos was forced to close due to COVID restrictions and manager, Rebecca Stemp, said the team, who have been part of the Choo Choos family for many years, were extremely excited to finally get back to work.

“It’s been a really good start,” she said.

“We were probably one of the last places to reopen because we are on the marina, so when the boats weren’t running we didn’t get the foot traffic, so it was hard.”

Now with more visitors in town, Choo Choos is raring to go.

The Choo Choos team were certainly not twiddling their thumbs during the closure, using their downtime to give the place a freshen up.

“We have been repainting all the outside, we have re-varnished all the floors, and have just been getting everything looking fresh and nice again.”

Greenery is now a big feature of the café with plants donning the walls and bar along with beautiful hand drawn artworks.

However, Rebecca said one of the best parts about the café is the beautiful location overlooking the marina and the great atmosphere, which can be enjoyed from the sun deck under the large new weatherproof umbrellas.

“I think we are very lucky in that regard,” she said.

In reopening, Choo Choos also launched a new menu, sporting an all-day breakfast as well as lunch from 11:30am.

“We are also planning to add a dinner service in the near future,” Rebecca said.

And for the dog lovers out there, Choo Choos welcomes furry customers as well.

Choo Choos is open seven days from 7:00am to 2:00pm.

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/august/choo-choos-reopens-with-fresh-new-look/

Businesses are rejoicing as stage three of Queensland’s roadmap to easing restrictions came into effect at midday today, including one of Port Douglas biggest venues, Hemingway’s Brewery, who will reopen its doors tonight.

Pubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes will be afforded greater freedoms under stage three making it easier to operate with capacity limits risen.

The maximum number of patrons at any one time will now be determined by the four square metre rule, with divided areas no longer required.

For smaller venues below 200 square metres, businesses can have one person per two square metres up to 50 persons at a time.

For large venues such as Hemingway’s the previous capacity limits had made it difficult to open, but today’s easing, as well as the announcement that borders will reopen on 10 July, has prompted the brewery to throw open its doors.

Hemingway’s Marketing Manager, Kim Logan, said the team was extremely excited to welcome everyone back to the Port Douglas brewery.

“The easing of restrictions allows us to open for three days a week to gauge patronage,” she said.

“We truly hope that Port Douglas sees enough of an upsurge in visitors so we can once again return to something close to ‘business as usual.’ Only time will tell.”

The Port Douglas venue will be open Fridays and Saturdays 4:00pm to late and Sundays 12:00pm to 4:00pm.

And for those who loved the taste of Hemingway’s recent special FNQ Resilience Lager, which was sold in cans during the closure, you’re in luck, it will be available on tap.

“Finally, you can enjoy drinks on the marina again,” Ms Logan said.

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/june/hemingways-opens-as-restrictions-ease-today/

Sailaway Port Douglas has returned to the seas this week resuming tour operations to the reef, Low Isles, and sunset sailing.

After having to suspend tours in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, Owner Steve Edmondson said it’s a great feeling seeing customers walk aboard the catamaran again for the first time in 80 days.

“It’s fantastic, we had two separate private family charters to start with last week and from Saturday we began our scheduled trips,” he said.

“It was a good start in difficult times. We were delighted to see the immediate support from two family charters who were overseas tourists who had been stuck here due to COVID, and as soon as it was allowed, they wanted to get out on the water.”

Mr Edmondson said Sailaway was eager to welcome back customers and for locals looking to get out for a spin now is the time to do so with big specials and locals discounts on offer.

“Those who book a full day reef trip will also receive a complimentary Sunset Sail. That’s only $283 for a full day reef trip and a Sunset Sail. Valid to travel until 30 November 2020.”

The downtime hasn’t been a holiday for Sailaway however, with Mr Edmondson saying they have been active on the boat, training and preparing for the return.

“We have had complete training days to make sure we are all ready. It’s not just a re-start but a rethink. We are reinventing how we do everything with the right practices, total safety and adapting to suit current circumstances.”

They have adopted a number of COVID Safe measures including temperature checks before boarding.

“We also kindly ask that customers have the COVID Safe app loaded and enabled on their phones. We think that is a simple and positive way of contact tracing should the need arise. The good thing is we don’t have to change our space and tour numbers as we already comply because we offer a spacious luxury catamaran with small groups,” he said.

Sailaway has also been busy with its environmental initiatives including the Eco Shamba Tree Farm.

“We’re planting another 650 hardwood cabinet timber trees (Spotted Gum and African Mahogany) on Eco Shamba Tree Farm in June, supported by every passenger who travels on Sailaway, contributing to our Carbon Offset Program,” Mr Edmondson said.

They have also been working on the Coral Nurture Program, installing coral frames and out planting fragment corals at their sites to enhance the coral cover.

“This is a new approach for the Great Barrier Reef that is initiated by a partnership between tourism and science,” Mr Edmondson said. “A core objective of this program is to introduce coral planting into localised stewardship and adaptation. This is to help ensure sustainable reef ecotourism and promote education on the major threats to coral reefs and possible future solutions. This involves nursery frames with opportunity coral fragments, then out-planting corals with an innovative ‘coral clip’ in order to boost live resilient coral growth at reefs that have experienced a fall in cover and also helps ensure reef sites with existing high coral cover that are economically valuable stay healthy.”

Over recent month’s Mr Edmondson has been heavily advocating for the state border to reopen and said he is pleased to see 10 July put forward as a likely open date.

“There hasn’t been much uptake in bookings for July and August because of a lack of confidence in the timeline due to the government’s mixed messages.”

Mr Edmondson hopes now some consumer confidence may return allowing visitors to start booking flights, tours, and accommodation.

Source:https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/june/sailaway-sets-sail/

Slowly but surely businesses are starting to re-emerge and one local favourite set to make an appearance this weekend is Calypso Snorkel and Drive.

For the first time since 21 March, Calypso will dip its toes back in the water venturing out to the outer reef this Saturday, 13 June.

Operations Manager, Chris Jones, said it’s a great feeling.

“We are very excited. Our crew is really happy to be back in the water and I think everyone around town is happy to see boats return to the ocean,” he said.

“It’s been extremely difficult, not just for our staff but the whole town.”

Locals looking to revisit the reef are in for a treat with Calypso offering a huge locals discount of 50 per cent for a limited time.

Mr Jones said the weekend’s weather will be perfect so it’s a great time to take advantage of the offer.

“We saw an opportunity to get out and see the reef and hopefully with the easing of restrictions in Queensland we will see more tourists start to come up.”

Calypso will operate under a COVID Safe plan with social distancing and extra hygiene measures in place.

With few tourists currently in town, Mr Jones said they will use Saturday as a trial run.

“This is our first run; we haven’t got a scheduled date for a second run yet; we will see how this one goes and take it from there.

“We will see who’s in town and how many people take up the locals offer.”

Mr Jones said he was eager for business to return to pre-COVID levels.

“I would like to see the borders open, the sooner the better but when it is safe to do so,” he said.

Currently, the state borders are still closed with the Queensland Government set to review matters at the end of the month.

Source: https://www.newsport.com.au/2020/june/calypso-returns-to-the-outer-reef/