Leigh continued:

“Back in the day (circa 1988), the southern key to fully pedestrianising the esplanade required the creation of the Oliva St to Veivers Rd link.  This wasn’t easy.  The owners of what is now Drift and Eclipse Apartments were encouraged to permit the creation of this critical link.  This was essential to getting buses and conventional traffic off the esplanade.

It is critical that there is vehicular access to Caryota Close and French St from Lot 100 on SP332595

At the northern end of Palm Cove the critical property is what used to be the melaleuca forest. This is the block owned by Palm Cove Nominees Pty Ltd.  Oliva St passes through the middle of this block.  At this time (Editor Note: March 2022), it is my understanding that the subdivision on the western side of Oliva St has been approved and work is underway to create residential blocks in accordance with that approval.

On the eastern side of the block there is a proposal before Council for a hotel and shopping precinct which includes an eight storey tower block.  This is, of course, contrary to everything that we’ve worked towards at Palm Cove over the past 50 years.”

(Editor Note: Just a reminder that this conversation took place in March 2022.  Since then the height of the towers was reduced from 8 to 6 storeys in the most recent submission before Council. There are no Cairns Regional Council approvals in place as at 25 October 2023 for this Lot.  The proponents have until 6 December 2023 in accordance with the 25 October 2023 Council Notification.  The current Title Reference is Lot 100 on SP332595.  Lot 1 on RP722991 was subdivided and Lot 100 on SP332595 created on 19 October 2022. )

“A critical element in the final pedestrianising of the esplanade is to allow vehicular access to French St and Caryota Close from the west.

This block needs to be compulsorily acquired by Council so that there is western access for vehicles into Caryota Close and French St.  Or if the block is not compulsorily acquired then conditions on development should stipulate public vehicle access to Caryota Close and French St.

This will mean cars and other service vehicles for Palm Cove Village, Palm Cove Post Office and adjacent resorts do not have to use the esplanade.   It also means that vehicles can access the car parks of Villa Paradiso, Paradise on the Beach and The Reef House without having to travel along the promenade.

As we know, parking is an issue now and more so into the future.  Some of this block could be for parking and it could be a transit hub for tour operators picking up passengers for example.

So, I guess just quickly addressing, how do you make the esplanade a promenade? You move the cars off there and find alternate spaces and increase the numbers. So I’m not just suggesting we move the 70 odd parking spaces currently on the esplanade back. I’m suggesting we turn 70 into 200 and that will make everybody happy.

You still need some access along the front. You still need some. I don’t have a problem if it is very carefully managed so that properties which only have esplanade frontage, have a pass which gives them access. It’s done all over the world. Whether it’s just a tap pass to come through or whatever it is.

But those properties that only have front access, they can come along the promenade driving slowly. First thing is the speed limit should be 10 kms per hour, absolute maximum. I find it just absurd that we’re sitting here in Palm Cove with a 40 km/hr speed limit and this is a disaster waiting to happen.

The day a kid gets killed here it’ll be front page news and some of us will ask the question, “why the bloody hell didn’t anyone drop the speed limit?” You could have cars, a very reduced number of cars, coming in to access some properties. I don’t mind if you have some drop-off delivery vehicles coming in to access properties just as it happens in other places in the world.

You’ve just got to stop the people cruising through, who have got no purpose, or who are looking for a car park.  We’ll get pushback. You’ll get people saying, “yeah, but I like parking out the front of Vivo in the morning to have my coffee”.  I know that there may be some pushback from some shops and restaurants or bars to say that they need people to be able to drive past and see.

Zermatt Switzerland – Photo: Zermatt Tourismus

They don’t. The world has proven it and Zermatt is a great example, up in the Swiss ski fields. Look at all the ski villages that work. The great villages that work are those that have a pedestrian promenade and you turn the whole village back to the people and bikes and scooters and whatever.

And then you get the opportunity to further improve that public realm with your landscaping. People get to use it for more events, the festivals, the markets, that’s what will make Palm Cove even better.  And that’s what I’m driving. You could have this amazing village with pop-ups and activities. So we’ve got an opportunity. We have an opportunity together, collectively right now today to make this space one of the best, the best in Australia, one of the best in the world and that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.

Quite honestly, if we don’t grab this, all of us, we will have lost one of the greatest opportunities to create one of the best public spaces in Australia. We should all be doing this and nailing it and getting it right. Council has the opportunity right now to leave a legacy that will stand for the next hundred years, and that’s what’s critical to me.”