Treasurer Andrew Fraser warns Cairns Regional Council to unite or lose the entertainment precinct
Work on the precinct has been resurrected for at least a month, but it still faces an uncertain future as councillors ask to see more facts and figures. At a council meeting yesterday, fears that Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane would try to permanently shelve the project failed to materialise. The packed gallery included an alliance of Far Northern business leaders who joined the local arts community to support the project.
But Cr Cochrane again flagged her desire for a referendum on the matter, saying she would be prepared to stall the project again next month if a report on 10-year financial modelling did not stack up. Those figures – which will forecast the precinct’s impact on other construction projects over the next decade – will be presented at a crucial council vote on December 14.
Mayor Val Schier criticised her deputy for "flip flopping" on the precinct, saying Cr Cochrane’s stance was inconsistent and was spreading uncertainty. But Cr Cochrane said she had always called for full disclosure of the project’s financial impacts. "If this project means that we can’t get other projects done in the next 10 years, I would question it," Cr Cochrane said.
Yesterday’s meeting comes within weeks of a decision from the State Government about its share of the money, with the council hoping for $57.3 million in cash. When Mr Fraser was asked whether the council’s support for the precinct would be considered as the State Government made its decision on funding, he said: "I would urge council to unite on this and work with the Government to make the precinct a reality."
Mr Fraser said the Government had embarked on the project as a joint venture between all levels of government, and wanted to see it continue that way. "The Government has long stated its desire to see this project go ahead for the jobs and economic opportunities it can bring to the region," Mr Fraser said.
A business case and financial sustainability review were formally presented to councillors yesterday, effectively undoing a vote cast last month to halt work on the project until the finances were made public. With yesterday’s votes, the project control group will now be able to progress with preparing development applications including work to advance designs and appoint relevant consultants.
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