Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cr. Margaret Cochrane, which way will you 'flip - flop' now?

Cairns business leaders unite to back entertainment precinct

Nick Dalton
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
© The Cairns Post

United: Business leaders Gayle Cargill, Gary Aylward, Rose-Marie Dash, Tim Grau, John Andrejic, Russell Beer, Michael Huelin, Stephen Weller, Graham Caldwell, Pat Flanagan and Stewart Christie at the site of the proposed precinct.

THE business, tourism, arts and education communities are pleading with Cairns regional councillors to proceed with the $155 million entertainment precinct or lose $100 million in state and federal infrastructure money.

In an unprecedented show of unity, representatives from Advance Cairns, Arts Nexus, Cairns Airport, James Cook University and the development, engineering and legal industries will attend the council’s entertainment precinct committee meeting today after calling on the council to give the development the go-ahead.

It comes as 219 business leaders and companies took out a full page advertisement in today’s The Cairns Post supporting the precinct. Among them are developer George Chapman, retired Supreme Court judge Stanley Jones and former state treasurer Keith De Lacy.  Advance Cairns chairman Russell Beer described the action as "a call to arms".

The precinct risks being derailed by a core of six councillors who say the city cannot afford the project. Other signatories to the call to action include the airport, the university, leading banks, hotels, motor dealers, legal firms, real estate agencies, developers and tourism operators Mr Beer said he was "overwhelmed" with the response by the community. "We can’t afford to lose it," he said.  "There is no better time for our governments to bring a major project to reality. "Not only does the economy need the boost, but building costs are as low and competitive as they will ever be. "Given the tough times that the Cairns economy has faced, and continues to face, it would seem almost inconceivable that we could turn our back on such significant funding from the State and Federal  governments. "The time for planning and what ifs is over – it’s time for action."

Advance Cairns chief executive officer Stewart Christie said the business community had delivered a loud and clear message to the council. "The building phase alone will provide a much needed economic boost for the region, its presence will diversify our economy," Mr Christie said. "Unless our council proceeds with this proposal, Cairns will lose that money."

Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos said the Gold Coast was ‘‘breathing down our neck – not only as a fly-in, fly-out base for mining but for an entertainment centre as well. "We simply can’t afford to walk away from either. If the State money walks, the Federal money walks too," he said.

James Cook University deputy vice chancellor and Cairns campus head Dr Stephen Weller said if successful the project had the capacity to ensure that Cairns remained a viable and diverse regional city. "We believe that it can deliver critical economic diversification to the city," he said. "It will inject significant capital and associated employment opportunities, and provide a major injection into the cultural and entertainment industries of the region."

Arts Nexus president Tim Grau said his members had voted unanimously for the project. "The entertainment precinct is vital and valuable community infrastructure that will not only enhance the community’s enjoyment of a rich cultural life in the region, but will provide a significant and ongoing economic boost for the region," he said.

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