8 January 2024

Catch me if you can: Premier proves elusive in Far North visit

| Matt Nicholls
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Premier Steven Miles on the ground in the Far North last Friday.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles has drawn criticism from two Far North councils after his whirlwind trip to the region on Friday, which saw locals miss the opportunity to voice their concerns about the state government’s flood response.

Both Cook Shire Council and Douglas Shire Council were caught with their tails between their legs as the Premier dodged them like he was Frank Abagnale Jnr in Catch Me If You Can.

Douglas Shire mayor Michael Kerr wasn’t officially told of the visit until the last minute, however, he arranged helicopter transport to Degarra to meet with Mr Miles.

When he arrived, the schedule had changed and the Premier was actually at Cape Tribulation.

Cr Kerr then flew south to Cape Tribulation, only to find that Mr Miles had already moved on.

“As the mayor of the area, it was disappointing that I didn’t get to see the Premier when he was up in our shire,” a diplomatic Cr Kerr told Cape York Weekly.

“It would have been beneficial to discuss some of the challenges we are facing up here.”

Cook Shire Council had similar issues.

It is understood that the Premier’s team had wanted him to fly to Cooktown to meet with locals.

However, the council informed Mr Miles’ staff that it would be more appropriate for him to visit Rossville or Ayton residents.

Plans were put in motion for the Premier to be in Ayton on Friday afternoon, but he cancelled at the last minute, leaving locals frustrated.

“So many people had stopped working for the afternoon to come in and meet him so they could voice their concerns,” a Cook Shire Council staff member said.

“This was a big deal for a lot of people because they feel like they are not being heard by the government.

“The council copped criticism when he cancelled but it wasn’t our fault. We moved mountains to accommodate the Premier and fit in with his schedule.”

Residents have been frustrated at the lack of on-the-ground help from emergency services and the Australian Defence Force.

“We see the news from the Gold Coast and they’ve got a lot more help than we do,” said Wendy Rowlands, who has been volunteering out of The Tin Shed at Ayton.

“The help is starting to come now but it’s been too late for a lot of people. They are worn out.”

Cape York Weekly made several requests to interview the Premier, but he was not forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has also drawn criticism for her response to the floods.

The MP wasn’t seen in the region until after Christmas and Cape York Weekly understands that she failed to turn up to a scheduled meeting with Douglas Shire Council last week.

Ms Lui was in the firing line of Cape Tribulation residents, who said they had been unable to reach her office throughout the disaster.

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