Saturday, 26 May 2012

Titanic deck seats reshuffled

Focus on leading Cairns out of economic woes

Nick Dalton
Saturday, May 26, 2012
© The Cairns Post

 Hitting the ground running: Advance Cairns chairman Cam Charlton and the group's revitalised board members want to bring the Far North out of the economic doldrums. Picture: MARC McCORMACK

BUSINESS group Advance Cairns is determined to lead the Far North out of the economic doldrums with a new chairman and board, a restructuring and a fresh focus providing the impetus.

An enthusiastic and energised chairman, Cam Charlton, backed by an experienced and revitalised board, new and extra private enterprise funding and a relatively new chief executive officer, Stewart Christie, has hit the ground running, determined to bring the region and its various business and economic development groups together.

The board met for the first time this week and has started compiling a list of "can-do" ideas and projects.
Mr Charlton said it was the biggest overhaul in the 10 years of Advance Cairns and the group wanted to convert words into actions straight away.

One of the first tasks is restoring faith in the region. "We need to restore business confidence in the region and re-establish pride and self-determination," Mr Charlton said. "Too many people can’t see beyond their own grief and we need to restore enthusiasm, pride and self-belief."

One of the quickest and immediate jobs is to start enticing business investment in the city, targeting the resources sectors in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. He said luring head offices to set up in the CBD was a priority with recent examples including InterOil and Barrick, while in the 1990s, Chevron Oil established its head office in Cairns.

He said Cairns had cheaper rents, a safer environment, a better quality of life and better education, health, shopping and entertainment facilities than in PNG. Mr Charlton said as part of inspiring business confidence Advance Cairns was backing the chamber of commerce and the Cairns Regional Council in the upgrade of the CBD, filling empty shops and offices and tidying up tatty areas.

Advance Cairns will be an organisation for all, not just the top end of town, nor rely on political funding.
Charities, non-profit and community organisations would be invited to become members, Mr Charlton said.
He said Advance Cairns would not work in isolation but with all organisations, including the chamber and Tourism Tropical North Queensland. "We will have a regional focus, it is not just Cairns-centric and that is why we want board members who represent key industries in transport, agriculture, manufacturing, creative and technology industries from the Cassowary Coast, Tableland and Cook Shire," he said. "We will be politically active but not politically aligned."

Membership will be capped at 100, with 13 executive and 87 general members.
Mr Charlton said, while diversification was "a no-brainer" its emphasis had damaged the $2.3 billion tourism industry. "We have the building blocks. We do have to diversify. That is a no-brainer. But let us get the language right. That is not to diversify at the expense of our traditional industries. "It’s important to support existing industries such as tourism. "We need to get behind and support tourism and agriculture not diversify at their expense."

Mr Charlton said tourism operators had felt "alienated" by the diversification focus. The value of agriculture could not be underestimated, he said. He said Advance Cairns would emphasise the lifestyle that attracted people to live and work. Nurturing young people was another project, particularly long term unemployed and the young leaders of the future. "We are indeed fortunate that our region is blessed with a tremendous array of natural heritage assets, with an intrinsic and timeless market appeal that provides a secure foundation for our industries to build upon," he said.

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My Opinion

I had previously called  for this board to be restructured by amalgamating it with Tourism Cairns.The restructuring  is a charade. A joke of classic magnitude. Fancy having a board of 13 members or whatever the number is. The left hand wont know what the right hand is doing. This 'Advance Cairns' party should be scrapped in its entirety and replaced by a board of 3 yes 3credible community leader that know how to get a job done.

Ross Parisi 

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