Thursday, 17 May 2012

Bob Manning's team discards 'Unity' tag for the sake of unity

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, May 17, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Cairns Regional Council: Top: Cr Max O’Halloran, Cr Steve Brain, Cr John Schilling, Cr Linda Cooper, Cr Jessie Richardson, Cr Richie Bates and Cr Greg Fennell. Front: Cr Rob Pyne, Cr Terry James, Mayor Bob Manning, CEO Lyn Russell and Cr Julia Leu.

BOB Manning's triumphant election team will drop its Unity tag for the sake of unity in the council chamber now that the official business of the new-look Cairns Regional Council is under way.

A packed gallery watched yesterday as the council CEO Lyn Russell swore in the new cohort of councillors, seven of whom are Unity team members and four who are independents.

As the group embarks on its first orders of business – preparing the upcoming Budget and dismantling the Cairns Entertainment Precinct plans – the new mayor has promised a fair go for all councillors, Unity natives or not. "I’m very confident this will be a united and decisive council," he said."What I’ve found is that there’s a great feeling within the group of wanting to work together."We operate as a council – not as a local government and an opposition, but a council."

The promise of equality was welcomed by the council’s independent members, who are outnumbered by the majority formed by Unity councillors. "I think there’s a very pragmatic and workman-like group of people who are going to achieve great outcomes for the people of Cairns," returning Division 3 councillor Rob Pyne said.

The council includes only three councillors who served during the last term, and the group says its top priority will be to bring the newcomers up to speed.

The council staff spearheading the Cairns Entertainment Precinct plans will brief councillors on the existing project today, and Mr Manning says "settling" the matter will be the new group’s first big task. "We’ve got some contractual matters that have to be resolved, at the same time we need to be having conversations with the State and Federal governments. We want to protect that money flow that is coming in."

It is likely the new council will officially start dismantling former mayor Val Schier’s $155 million waterfront vision at its first ordinary meeting on May 30. "I fully appreciate the disappointment of those who supported the Cairns Entertainment Precinct in its current form, the promotion of which became a divisive issue within the community," Cr Manning said in his inaugural speech.

He bared his softer side during the 11-minute speech, choking up when paying tribute to wife Claire. "Claire’s put up with a lot over the years and, as I said, she’s always been the wind beneath my wings," he said.

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