Celebrating More than 35 Years of Community Engagement

Our association was formed more than thirty years ago when our then councillor Lesley Clark door knocked Stratford and Freshwater to gauge residents’ interest in forming a representative group for our two suburbs. In those days we were part of the Mulgrave Shire, later amalgamating with Cairns City Council (1995) which subsequently became Cairns Regional Council (2008).

The inaugural meeting of the Stratford/Freshwater Ratepayers & Residents Association was held in the Stratford Community Hall on 19 November 1985 with 26 people in attendance. Our first committee comprised Rex Neeley as president, Alan McPherson as vice president, Carol Whiffler as secretary and Mary Mackenzie as treasurer. The first general meeting on 3 December 1985 involved different opinions on the desirability of upgrading the suburbs from septic tank usage to reticulated sewerage.

From that time the association’s presidents have been Rex Neeley, Margaret More, Margaret Marton, Ron Crew, Kevin Mackenzie, Phill Carlon, Julie O’Neill, Paul Matthews and Liz Taylor.

Stratford and Freshwater have been represented on council by Lesley Clark, Ross Parisi, Graham Knell, John Harders, Annette Sheppard, Brian Down, Alan McPherson, Margaret Cochrane, Alan Blake, Jessie Richardson, Linda Cooper and Kristy Vallely.

State government Members for Barron River have been Lesley Clark, Lyn Warwick, Lesley Clark (again), Steve Wettenhall, Michael Trout and Craig Crawford.

The association was incorporated in 2005 and changed its name to Stratford and Freshwater Community Association Inc.

Throughout the life of the association we have maintained regular contact and good relations with our divisional representatives and state members. We have been involved in wide-ranging issues and some challenges. We supply information to the community and provide a forum for residents to raise concerns and receive feedback from council or government. We can claim a number of achievements and wins, as well as a few lost and many continuing battles.

SAFCA’s committee comprises president Liz Taylor, secretary Paul Matthews, and treasurer Patricia Graves
SAFCA’s member contact is email safca.contact@gmail.com
Stratford community hall coordinator is Amber Peters (for enquires and bookings call 0438 247485)
Stratford community garden coordinator is Dee Brown (waterdragonj@aapt.net.au)

For more information about SAFCA:

The Freshwater Railway Station Bus Stop
In January 2020 the beautification project for the car parking area at Freshwater Connection gained some traction with a positive email received from the new Regional Director of the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). The project was delayed due to council elections and COVID.

Pedestrian refuges
SAFCA has lobbied unsuccessfully to reduce the speed limit from 60 to 40kph at the Stratford shopping village for safety reasons. Now that we have successfully achieved a pedestrian refuge in 2020 between the bike track and Freshwater School, near Griffith Street, SAFCA is continuing to lobby Cairns Regional Council (CRC) to intervene with DTMR for a pedestrian a refuge at the Stratford village and Freshwater Railway Station.

Master planning of the Rinks Road, Magazine Street intersection
Regular reports from CRC are provided to SAFCA meetings about the progress of the Rinks Road/Magazine Street reconfiguration. Stage one section of the road adjacent to the Barron River Gym was completed in 2020. Stage two, the intersection works near the Service Station and the Council Stratford Depot will link the completed road upgrade and improve the area.

Aeroglen Drive
Due to continuing concerns about the state of Aeroglen Drive and responsibility shifting between DTMR and CRC, the Director of Cairns Branch of DTMR attended the May 2016 SAFCA meeting and public forum at our request, with assistance from our local State MP. SAFCA was deluged with emails from affected residents and the meeting went well with the Director addressing most issues. The results were rapid with resurfacing of Aeroglen Drive in June 2016 and the Freshwater carpark mostly rectified in July 2017.

Limberlost Nursery Parking
Parking has become an issue with the opening of the very popular café in the retail area at Limberlost Nursery. Further to CRC erecting bollards, SAFCA and residents made submissions about parking and opening hours and suggesting that the raw materials section, that was never approved, be moved to another location and that space then used as a car park. Limberlost have created 10 new carparks on site and trucks enter and leave the raw materials yard in a forward direction only. The opening times on Sunday were agreed to be 9am instead of 8am. CRC have sealed and marked the on-street parking and in 2021 are trialling road reconfigurations with Vallely Street one way.

Le Grande Park and CWA Park (renamed Richmond Park)
In 2017 the masterplan was opened to public feedback and terrain and poor drainage meant redevelopment work needed to be completed before the new playground and equipment was installed in March 2019. Council has erected signage for Richmond Park at Freshwater that further advances our local history.

Ulysses Development
In 2017 an extension was granted on a ‘use it or lose it’ principle for the Ulysses Development originally approved under the old Cairns Plan. In 2020 council refused an application to extend the period again for the Ulysses development on Stratford hillslopes. The landowner has appealed council’s refusal in the Planning and Environment Court. SAFCA maintains a watching brief on the outcome.

Aeroglen to Redlynch Bike path
Since 2016 a multitude of cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and families have taken to the bike path, with the Freshwater to Redlynch stage opening in October 2018 after the bridge was funded to cross Freshwater Creek and land tenure issues resolved. This is a real community asset that adds value to the liveability of our local area and increases safety of all users.

In August 2018 and August 2019, the bike track has been used for the Let’s Chalk About It initiative seeking to reduce the stigma of mental health issues faced by so many people and is championed by local residents.

Strooper’s Park
In 2016 a small CRC owned freehold piece of land was identified and SAFCA made a submission to have the reserve’s drainage tenure changed to park purposes to protect the parcel of land. With Gerald’s permission, SAFCA proposed it be named Gerald Strooper Park. With support from our local councillor, in 2017 the Maree Street drainage reserve was declared Strooper’s Park and officially opened by Gerald and Denise Strooper.

In 2016 SAFCA website and Facebook were established by an active member. Since 2020 a local website development company has been working on a new SAFCA website and improved profile on social media.

Stratford Shopping Village Upgrade
Ongoing discussions since 2002 with council re improvements to Stratford shopping village, including parking and traffic calming, culminated in the long-awaited makeover in 2013. Council works were preceded by meetings after Cairns Regional Council initially proposed to remove the existing trees with no prior consultation with residents. However, after a period of unrest for residents and traders, the result has been welcomed.

Stratford Village Street Parties
On 17 October 2015 the successful inaugural street party celebrated the makeover of the Stratford Shopping Precinct in 2014 and celebrated SAFCA’s 30th year. More than 50 stalls, SAFCA’s historical display in the library function room and the sausage sizzle raised more than $700 for the association. Permits for road closures, and public liability insurance were obtained by SAFCA for the Stratford street parties held in October 2016 and June 2017 and traders, stall holders and party goers appreciate these community events. A $500 contribution from the Mayor’s Discretionary Fund was used towards entertainment.

Moule Cottage, 233 Kamerunga Road Freshwater
The owner of this property initially intended in 2015 to demolish the cottage in order to develop the land for units. SAFCA was alarmed that not only was an early residence in Freshwater (identified by Council as a building of historical significance and also listed on the Freshwater Heritage Trail) under threat but the development proposed for the land was not in keeping with the general character of the suburb. Our divisional councillor endeavoured unsuccessfully to find a home for the cottage before the project was put on hold by the developer. An article in the Cairns Post in July 2015 highlights SAFCA’s concern and provides the history of the cottage.

In late June 2020 an application to demolish Moule Cottage at Freshwater was lodged with council. An emergency meeting at SAFCA was held on 8 July 2020 given the short timeframes to make submissions. Approximately 28 residents and Moule family descendants lodged submissions justifying why Moule Cottage should not be demolished, with only one or two submitters supporting demolition. The owner has also lodged an application to extend the life of the development application on the site for unit development, adding further complexity to the planning process. Although the owner withdrew the extension application in January 2021, this significant planning issue is being closely monitored by SAFCA and residents.

Drainage issues in Stratford and Freshwater
Drainage issues have been ongoing for the life of the association but has become an increasing problem as a result of inappropriate hillside development, and earthworks and interference with creeks by developers. After heavy rain in February 2015, a number of residents reported flooding of their properties to the association’s February meeting.

For some residents this followed other flooding events in March 2012 and subsequent years, on properties that had never previously flooded. The councillor advised that council was preparing a comprehensive plan of Stratford and Freshwater drainage problems but would attend to urgent short term works in the meantime. Residents were requested to email their issues to council.

In 2015 Aurecon was engaged to work with council and residents on the Mt Whitfield North Drainage Management Plan. Extensive consultation was undertaken with residents asked to tell their stories and in October 2016 Aurecon and CRC representative attended SAFCA’s monthly meeting to discuss what was planned and how they intended to do it. The study was completed with recommendations and strategies that included short term remediations and long-term solutions. CRC have implemented the plan and continues to budget and lobby for funds for the major works. In January 2017, two and half years after the Aurecon recommendations resulted in many plans for remediation, SAFCA invited CRC Engineers to address the meeting to detail improvement works.

Proposed changes to council divisional boundaries
In September 2015, SAFCA discovered the changes proposed by the Qld Electoral Commission to the Cairns Regional Council divisional boundaries for the March 2016 local government election. The intended changes would remove Stratford and Freshwater from Division 8 and place them in Divisions 5 and 6 respectively. This would mean that not only our closely aligned suburbs would be moved to separate divisions with which we have no direct geographical link and few common interests and issues, but also that we would lose our long-established links with the three closest beach communities in Division 8. SAFCA lodged an objection in the very short timeframe available and is pleasing that many Stratford and Freshwater residents responded to SAFCA’s call to lodge individual objections by the due date. SAFCA lobbied through media and a submission to the Electoral Commission of Qld that separating our historically aligned suburbs into different divisions would have negative impacts on the community, and that we have different issues to the divisions being suggested. Reason prevailed and Freshwater and Stratford are now tighter in Division 6.

Stratford Community Garden
After meeting Council’s requirements, a small community garden was established in 2014 behind the Stratford hall. A number of raised gardens can be rented by members, and the operation and maintenance of the garden is enthusiastically overseen by one of our members. SAFCA appreciates the donated materials it has received from hardware and raw materials businesses, particularly during establishment of the garden.

Neighbourhood Character Precincts and Cairns Planning Scheme
The wish to preserve the history and character of Stratford was first raised at a meeting in 1986. In 1988 the association prepared a submission, signed by some 70 residents, to the Mulgrave Shire Council (MSC) for a development control plan (precursor to neighbourhood character precinct). The association continued to urge progress on the draft document, but this was not achieved by the time MSC amalgamated with Cairns City Council in 1995.

A fresh process was commenced by the new council and after the association hosted information meetings about the new planning scheme for Cairns, members submitted responses to the proposed Cairns Plan and attained a character precinct for Stratford. Freshwater residents, alarmed at the intrusion of units into their suburb at the expense of many of the older houses, had also been lobbying for a character precinct. Cairns Regional Council embarked on an extensive review and public consultation into character precincts in 2009, resulting in the creation of the Freshwater Character Precinct and its incorporation in the new Cairns Plan in 2010.

In December 2014 SAFCA lodged a submission to the Cairns Draft Plan against council’s proposal to reduce (by about 60%) Freshwater’s Character Precinct, as well as a small section of Stratford’s. This was followed in early 2015 by a SAFCA deputation to inform CRC councillors and planners of our concerns and re-emphasise our desire to maintain the integrity of the Freshwater precinct.
In September 2015, SAFCA was dismayed to find Council had dismissed SAFCA’s representations and continued with their proposed changes to excise large swathes from the character precinct. SAFCA involved state MPs to advocate for us but in the end were not successful.

SAFCA is very concerned over the increasing number of development applications and approvals for reconfiguration (subdivision) of large allotments in both suburbs, and the construction of unit blocks and residences, with little regard to zoning, character precincts or amenity of the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Lot reconfigurations continue and concerned residents attend SAFCA meeting to air their worries. Where the Cairns Plan appears inadequate SAFCA continues to voice our concerns and lobby for ‘appropriate development’.

In 2015 SAFCA formed a Planning and Development subcommittee that has been very active due to the number of proposed subdivisions, now called ‘reconfigurations’ of existing single dwelling house lots in both suburbs.

A delegation from SAFCA expressed these concerns at a meeting in October 2015 with council’s town planning staff and divisional councillor. Whilst not resolving our issues it did provide a pathway and a submission to the Cairns Plan that undergoes regular reviews was submitted in August 2016. Apart from an ‘acknowledgment of receipt’ there was no response from CRC after a year, and SAFCA made representations to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning, Local Government and Infrastructure while cabinet was in town and was able to raise appropriate penalties for illegal demolition of old Queenslanders in Neighbourhood Character Precincts.

With no response to SAFCA’s 2016 submission, in March 2019 Councillor Cooper tabled a motion at the council meeting to review and report back on whether planning provisions are sufficient to continue to protect the character and amenity of Stratford and Freshwater areas. The result was a Town Planning Survey conducted between 22 July and 12 August 2019. SAFCA was involved in reviewing the draft survey and actively promoting residents to ‘have your say’. A good response from a potential of 1700 residents, council received 742 responses (not all local residents) to the Survey.

At the November 2019 SAFCA meeting, council provided feedback on the survey. 78% of respondents prefer lot size of between 600m2 to 800m2, identifying the protection of the streetscapes and older style character and heritage buildings as a high priority.

Th findings of the Survey, in addition to SAFCA’s 2016 submission to council, informed the amendments to the Cairns Plan 2016. The draft amended Cairns Plan 2016 underwent the State interest check in 2020 and was publicly notified by council for submissions, with SAFCA lodging a submission in January 2021 to strengthen the existing heritage character and amenity of Freshwater and Stratford.

Management of the Stratford Community Hall
In 2009 council reversed its earlier decision to sell the Stratford community hall and land after the opening of the new library building and instead used Commonwealth Government funds to re-roof the hall, refurbish the interior and install improved drainage in the grounds. To ensure an open process for management of the hall, SAFCA lobbied that the expression of interest process be reopened by council and we explored the possibility of managing the hall ourselves. SAFCA was successful and commenced management in August 2010. Through the dedication of our long-term hall coordinators the hall is being used by a range of community groups. In 2016 curtains were installed and improvements are continuing with the most recent additions of framed historic maps and heritage signs displayed along the walls.

Freshwater Heritage Trail
In 2007, Friends of Freshwater, led by Angela Murphy and then SAFCA president Paul Matthews, initiated, researched, developed and obtained Cairns Regional Council funding and sponsorship from local families for the Freshwater Heritage Trail which was opened on 20 June 2009 by Mayor Val Schier. This has been a boon for Freshwater State School students who do a tour of the trail each year, as an assignement, to engage them with and improve their knowledge of some local history.

Stratford Heritage Trail
With funding assistance through Qld Government Q150, CRC and sponsorship of local businesses and residents, the Stratford Heritage Trail was launched on 21 November 2009 at the Stratford library. Over 100 people participated in workshops and the launch with photos, historical information and heritage trail brochure. Both the Freshwater and Stratford Heritage Trail brochures are available on the Cairns Regional Council site – about our region. http://www.cairns.qld.gov.au/about-our-region/cairns-heritage/drives,-trails-and-walks

SAFCA members conduct regular inspections of both heritage trails to clean the signs and monitor any damage or deterioration. The harsh climate impacted a number of signs that, commencing in 2015, have progressively been replaced with more protective UV-resistant 2 pack covering.

The new Stratford library building, which was championed by SAFCA and local residents, celebrated its 10-year anniversary in May 2019. SAFCA liaised with council staff to install 14 images of Stratford and Freshwater heritage trails in the large meeting room to further highlight our rich local history. In 2021 images of some of the heritage trail signs have been mounted on the walls of the Stratford community hall.

Stratford Library
After amalgamation of Mulgrave and Cairns City Shire Councils in 1995, a review found that the Stratford library did not meet prevailing State Library of Queensland regulations and also that the building was structurally unsound. Council was considering whether to replace the existing building or build in Redlynch, while the association strongly supported a larger new building in Stratford.

The association led the fight to keep the Stratford library open when it seemed in doubt; one of the association’s “standing room only” meetings (January 2001) was in response to the threat to the library. The association put strong arguments to Council’s review of its library services, and in late 2006 welcomed Council’s decision to build a new state-of-the-art Stratford Library and Meeting Room with public toilet facilities. In July 2008 Cairns Regional Council awarded a contract for this project and it was officially opened on 14 April 2009. During the demolition/construction period the community hall was unavailable so SAFCA meetings were held at the Stratford Bowls Club or Freshwater State School.

Public toilets for Stratford shopping village and old library
The topic of public toilets in Stratford was first raised by the association in November 1988. In 1989 Mulgrave Shire Council laid formwork near the library, but after objections from some residents’ work ceased and funding was transferred to another suburb. In February 1999 a petition containing some 700 signatures from local and surrounding residents was presented to our local councillors, resulting in a council budget allocation and display of plans at the end of 1999 for a toilet block next to the Stratford library. However, some residents were concerned at the size of the proposal and the possibility of loiterers.

A well-attended meeting in January 2000 resolved that there be no stand-alone public toilet in Stratford; that the budget allocation be reserved for capital works at Stratford; that the library be retained and the upgraded and expanded library include internal public toilets for use during library hours; and that the library hours be expanded to include Saturday mornings.

Grave site of Constable Michael Dwyer.
From 1990 the association lobbied to have the early grave site of Constable Michael Dwyer moved from the bank of the Barron River to save it from loss through erosion of the riverbank. Initially it was suggested that the grave be relocated to Jalara Park, but it was later decided a better position would be near the Stratford War Memorial. No human remains were found during the July 2003 archaeological dig by JCU and volunteers, but fragments of the coffin, other artefacts and the original headstone were removed to the new location under police escort. It is interesting to note that the excavation took place close to the 126th anniversary of Constable Dwyer’s death on 20 July 1877, and artefacts found at the gravesite were re-interred on Police National Remembrance Day, 29 September 2003. Both locations of the grave are included on the Stratford Heritage Trail.

In 2016 SAFCA notified CRC that the Michael Dwyer headstone at the Stratford Cenotaph had been freshly painted by someone who did not realise that this would irreparably damage this iconic monument. This is the headstone of the oldest marked European grave in Cairns, dating back to 1877 and CRC were committed to restoring as much as possible this invaluable piece of Cairns early history.

Railway beautification
After lengthy negotiations from 1990, between the Mulgrave Shire Council and the Railways Department, in March and June 1993 the association conducted community tree plantings between the road and a section of railway line near Hardwick Street Stratford using native species and a plan approved by Railways. The young trees were mulched, watered and weeded by members until they were self-sufficient. Sadly, this bit of association history was lost with the construction in 2015 of CRC’s well-used bike track.

Jalara Park
In 1986 the association started working with the local state member, councillors and staff of the Mulgrave Shire Council to keep the majority of a large parcel of former education department land in Stratford for a park. Following gazettal of the land as park, a community day was held on the land in May 1994. The association worked with council and botanical experts to develop a planting plan and several community planting days were organised. The association supports the original intention to create a native species arboretum in the top area of the park grading to mixed recreation use lower down. The association has resisted attempts to reserve portions of the park for exclusive use by particular groups, arguing that it should remain open public space. Jalara Park, one of the largest urban parks in the region, continues to be a focus and priority for the Association. The Association continued lobbying of Council and in 2015 lobbied for the audit of parks to be finalised so that the Jalara Park master plan could be reviewed prior to continuing tree planting activities.

In August 2016 following extensive involvement of SAFCA members in the design, the Jalara Park User Survey with links to the original masterplan was published on the council website and hard copies distributed to nearby residents and at the library. The results of the Jalara Park Survey were published in February 2017 pointing to ‘minimal changes. With support from CRC’s Green Space, My Space program a group of volunteers has embarked on a massive project (due to Singapore daisy) in restoring a gully that runs along the western boundary of Jalara Park. The Jalara Park botanical naming of trees project is awaiting cost estimates.

In 2018 SAFCA endorsed the proposal from a local resident for a labyrinth, a meditative walking path to promote positive mental health outcomes to be installed at Jalara Park. Design work undertaken, adjoining residents surveyed, council support obtained and SAFCA is now sourcing funding for the labyrinth project.

Walking track – since the establishment of Jalara Park, the association has lobbied for a walking track linking the park with the Blue Arrow Track. While so far unsuccessful, strong partnerships have been established and we will continue to investigate this issue.

Some other early issues for the association:

  • 1988-89 succeeded in having trucks which were carting fill from a Redlynch quarry along Kamerunga Road to the new international airport, to reduce their speed and cover their loads.
  • 1992 achieved widening of the narrow road between Stratford to Aeroglen to provide more space for bicycles.
  • 1994 wrote to Qld Electoral Commission objecting to their proposal to move Freshwater to a separate division after amalgamation of Mulgrave Shire and Cairns City.
  • 1995 successfully lobbied for a uniform 60km/hr speed limit along Kamerunga Road instead of the previous mix of 60km/hr and 70km/hr.
  • 1985-1992 seeking opinions on the need for sewerage installation was on the agenda from the association’s first and ongoing meetings highlighting divided views for financial and environmental reasons. In 1989 the Mulgrave Shire Council rates included a partial levy for installation of sewerage, prompting a number of well-attended meetings including one at Freshwater State School, due to divided community views. However, Council proceeded with installation and the sewerage system was operational in 1992.

Other development issues
In past years, the association has convened meetings on controversial development issues and facilitated residents’ attempts to ensure developments are appropriate to the area. This includes hill slope developments, unit complexes and proposals to develop the Barron delta.

Examples are the special meetings – very well attended – organized to discuss various multiunit proposals on the hill slopes above Stratford (e.g. Ulysses development); the fate of the Stratford caravan park land; the sub-division above Dalziel Street; a proposed bus depot on the former chicken farm site; a unit block in Marett Street; the unit complex proposed for the Freshwater Hotel site (now a child care centre); and the proposed Delta Park development (the latter meeting held in conjunction with Machen’s Beach Community Association).

The development application concerning Savina’s farm at Lower Freshwater received a considerable number of objections and submissions before the application was withdrawn. The sand mining application at Kamerunga caused angst within the small community of Kamerunga and Peace Lutheran College. A well organised vocal group of concerned citizens set up meetings, a web site www.sandmine.com.au, and a petition. Over 100 submissions were lodged against the proposal.

The Association’s involvement in some development issues, such as the subdivision above Dalziel Street, has continued for years as members do research, compile submissions and lobby representatives to try to protect the character of our area. The drainage problems caused by this subdivision continue to be a focus for the association.

When Friends of Freshwater was formed in 2005, SAFCA supported their concerns about inappropriate development in Freshwater, such as the units proposal for the Freshwater Hotel site, the redevelopment of Freshwater Connection and various multi-unit applications in single dwelling and heritage areas (e.g. Old Smithfield Road and Martin Street). Friends of Freshwater had some significant wins in protecting the character of Freshwater. SAFCA members joined Friends of Freshwater to meet Qld Rail representatives to present residents’ views on the proposed development of Freshwater Connection. Issues formerly pursued by Friends of Freshwater are now addressed by SAFCA.

The association submitted to the ministerial review of the Integrated Planning Act. Our submissions were informed by our involvement in local development proposals and conversations with other community groups with similar issues. In May 2008 the association wrote to the then Minister for Infrastructure & Planning enquiring about the status of the Review and repeated our concerns with the IPA including old approvals and Private Certifiers.

Members of the association attended FNQ2025 meetings and submitted suggestions. As a result of the gazetting of this overarching planning instrument we hope for better protection of our beautiful hills and slopes around Cairns.

SAFCA continues to try to maintain the amenity and liveability of Stratford and Freshwater in accordance with our stated Objects.