The shock move puts a cloud over this year’s event, one of the biggest annual celebrations in the city. Last year’s 17-day festival in August attracted an audience of about 110,000 people with an economic impact of more than $5 million for the region across 106 events.
Mr Holowacz said after such successful 2010 and 2011 events, including last year’s Cairns Festival 50th anniversary celebration, it was a shame Cairns Regional Council had cut support for the city’s flagship community and cultural festival. "Given the decreasing internal council support for the festival and the good work of our small team, it was the right time to move on," Mr Holowacz told The Cairns Post. "I just didn’t have the energy to keep fighting for decent resources, program support, community engagement ideas, and a more co-operative work environment."
The Cairns Festival 2011 Evaluation Report, released last year, shows Cairns Festival’s 2011 event ran $131,760 over its projected budget of $606,313. "Recent budget adjustments have diminished capacity in the current fiscal year, and will impact seasonal staffing, technical production, marketing, and scope of events for the 2012 festival," the report said.
The council’s Community, Sport and Cultural Services general manager Ian Lowth declined to comment on Mr Holowacz’s resignation.
But he said "Cairns Festival has always been a team effort and a combination of internal and contracted staff will work together to ensure the 2012 festival goes ahead without disruption". "The budget for the 2012 Cairns Festival remains in the vicinity of $600,000," Mr Lowth said. "As in all areas of council at the introduction of the last budget, reductions in operating costs have needed to be implemented. "This is not expected to impact on the quality of the festival, as it is more aimed towards increasing efficiencies and streamlining operations throughout council as a whole."
He also addressed the closure of Festival HQ in City Place. "When the botanic gardens visitor centre was completed, the festival team joined their branch colleagues in the new offices," Mr Lowth said.
Mr Holowacz said he planned to stay in the region to "develop a few new projects for Far North Queensland into the near future". Among Mr Holowacz’s accomplishments are the Opening Notes project, the Man vs Fascinator exhibition, free concerts and film events at Fogarty Park.
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