Thursday, 15 December 2011

Cairns Entertainment Precinct gets go-ahead

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, December 15, 2011
© The Cairns Post

<strong> Round of applause: </strong> A section of the gallery applauds the council's decision yesterday. Picture: MARC McCORMACK
Round of applause: A section of the gallery applauds the council's decision yesterday. Picture: MARC McCORMACK

Supporters hailed the victory as a turning point in helping to restore pride and confidence in the city and in kickstarting the local construction industry.

Mayor Val Schier described it as the biggest vote the current council would cast – deciding whether to forge ahead with the controversial portside project or hand back $97.3 million of state and federal cash.

Despite protests from five councillors that the $155 million precinct was too expensive and would lead Cairns further into a “Caribbean-style economy”, a majority of six councillors voted in favour. The council hopes to sign deeds with the State and Federal governments before Christmas, shoring up the cash and locking the region into a contract to finally deliver the infrastructure.

A report to councillors highlighted five attempts by previous councils to replace the city’s Civic Theatre since 1994, with all of those projects failing because of a lack of funding, land or political will. But expressing her support for the entertainment precinct yesterday, Cr Linda Cooper said the region had "the most incredible amount of funding to go forward" with the current proposal.

Cr Cooper only revealed yesterday that she would vote in favour of the precinct, giving it the critical vote needed after months of stalling by a majority of councillors. "I know there’s going to be some disappointed people out there and I respect that – I sat on that side of the fence for quite some time," she said. "But I think it’s going to bring a lot of pride back to this city that’s been missing for a long time."

A packed public gallery cheered when each of the six affirmative councillors pledged their support, and more applause roared through the chamber when the final vote was cast after almost an hour of debate.

Mayor Schier said she was relieved that council votes had swung in favour of the development. But she was disappointed a unanimous decision wasn’t reached, with Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane leading the vote against the project.

Cr Cochrane, who insists the project should be built on different land and with less money, conceded that council’s support for the project was inevitable at yesterday’s meeting, but so too were "cost blowouts" in the future. She mentioned an estimated rate rise of more than 14 per cent a year once the precinct was built, but that number was rubbished by project manager Linda Cardew, who said she had "no idea where that figure came from".

Two councillors with divisions in the region’s southern growth corridor also voted against the precinct, raising their concerns about the project’s impact on other infrastructure needed during the next decade.

"I believe this project takes our region further down the pathway of a Caribbean-style economy – it deepens our dependence on tourism," Cr Nancy Lanskey said, adding that the precinct would "straight jacket" the council.

                            ________________   |   ______________

My Opinion

It is to be hoped now that the dissenting Councillors put their personal agenda aside and work for the common good of Cairns. The decision has been made and a majority gained.

Ideally, Cr Schier and Cr Cochrane should form a united voice on the CEP. The Council’s effort should now be directed towards ensuring the CEP is kept within budget and on time.

The time for debate on its merits was yesterday. Today is for going forward and healing the wounds that were created by the robust debate not only in the Council Chamber but within the broader community.

I implore Cr Cochrane and her dissenting Councillors to put into action her opening comments at yesterday’s debate when she said she would respect the Council decision. I ask her to do so with dignity and magnanimity and not to frustrate the CEP's progress.

I believe the next election should be fought on issues other than the merits of the CEP.

Ross Parisi
15th December 2011

1 comment:

  1. you have that right Ross ,,sure hope so ,, other issues to run on now


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.