Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mixed response to Cairns Regional Council mayor-elect Bob Manning

Daniel Strudwick
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Top job: Bob Manning and his wife Claire go to vote in Saturday's local government election, which swept Mr Manning to power in Cairns Regional Council.

Cairns business leaders have given mayor-elect Bob Manning a warm welcome to the region's top job, but local green groups and arts figures are anxious to see how their sectors will fare under a back-to-basics council.

Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos said Unity’s promise to tighten the council’s belt does not mean the region will be without vision and growth. "It will be the opposite – there’ll be a real confidence developing in business and that means growth will follow," Mr Mirotsos said.

He was critical of the outgoing council, led by Val Schier, for not doing enough to restore confidence in local businesses. "If your legacy to council is Zumba on the Esplanade and the Ukulele Festival, then there can only be a better alternative," he said.

But Advance Cairns chairman Stewart Christie said the outgoing council should be commended for its fiscal innovations. "We welcome the Unity team’s economic focus and we think they’re starting from a good spot because of what the last council was able to plan and implement", Mr Christie said, referring to the economic development unit and investment attraction fund. KickArts chairwoman Gayleen Todd said the incoming councillors should not underestimate the economic value of the former council’s creative initiatives.

She hopes the State Government’s recent cuts to arts budgets are not a sign of things to come in Cairns. "Everyone’s looking to diversify the economy, and arts is an area where there’s tremendous potential," she said. "The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, for example, has brought in thousands of visitors and they’re all interested in spending big dollars."

Mrs Todd said Unity’s promise to downsize the proposed Cairns Entertainment Precinct would be a "lost opportunity", which is a sentiment echoed by the local theatre community. "It would be unfortunate if the desire to save money results in such a significant, once-in-a-lifetime development being drastically reduced in size and placed on a second-rate site," JUTE theatre’s bosses Suellen Maunder and Keith Whenmouth said in a joint statement yesterday.

The region’s peak environmental lobby group, CAFNEC, wants the new council to continue the green initiatives of their predecessors, particularly the climate change strategy. "We encourage the council to acknowledge that economic prosperity and social cohesion must also be hand-in-hand with environmental protection," CAFNEC co-ordinator Sarah Hoyal said.

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