Thursday 8 December 2011

Cr Cochrane and her adherants under the political blow torch


State Government commits $57.3 million for Cairns Entertainment Precinct

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, December 8, 2011
© The Cairns Post

THE Bligh Government will today commit $57.3 million in cash to the Cairns Entertainment Precinct, giving the project a critical boost before a make-or-break council vote next week.

The Cairns Post can reveal the State Government will raise the funds by selling the old Brisbane Supreme Court site and sending the proceeds north to Cairns. The cash injection, which Premier Anna Bligh will announce in Cairns today, ends speculation the State Government might not have committed all of the money needed by Cairns Regional Council to green-light the project.

Ms Bligh (pictured) said the plan was a "win-win" for both cities, with Cairns to get a world class entertainment precinct, and the land in Brisbane earmarked for a possible luxury hotel or office space and a theatre. But the $155 million project needs to get past a final vote by councillors before it gets the go-ahead. Councillors are to vote on the precinct's future on Wednesday after they see a new report that outlines how it will impact on other infrastructure plans in the region.

The Premier confirmed the council's business case had stacked up in the eyes of her Cabinet Budget Review Committee and the project was worthy of the full funding requested. Ms Bligh said the $57.3 million in cash would be contributed on top of the $40 million of state-owned land already pledged. The Federal Government will contribute $40 million. "Sending funds from the Brisbane sale up north is about spreading wealth across the state," Ms Bligh said. "Both cities gain the construction jobs and tourism boost that comes from new infrastructure."

Cairns Mayor Val Schier expressed relief over the cash announcement after worrying that her divided council might jeopardise the incoming funds. Progress has been hampered in recent months as a majority of councillors called for extra financial information to be made public before decisions were made. "Those wavering councillors were sending out the message that they lacked confidence in themselves, and what the state has shown is the confidence that we now need to show," Cr Schier said. "In the end, this is the shot in the arm that Cairns needs."

The Mayor said state and federal pledges – which total almost $137.3 million including land – were unprecedented and needed to be seized while the offers were on the table. "The footpaths and the parks and the mowing and the roads and sports facilities and all of those other things will still continue to occur. "There will be financial impacts, but we know what they'll be and we know that we can continue to fund other infrastructure as well."

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt agreed, saying snaring millions of dollars from the sale of a capital city asset was "about as good as it gets". "This is an exciting new phase in the history of the city and the Far North will welcome the 70 construction jobs associated with the project," Mr Pitt said. Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall said: "This is a great shot in the arm and confidence boost for Cairns." He said the way it would link to the Conference Centre and add capacity would be a boost to the city's ability to bid for high-yielding business conferences and events.

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said the move was a great opportunity for jobs and a boost to the social and cultural life of the city. "It's likely to become iconic and will be a boon to tourism," she said. Member for Cook Jason O'Brien said: "This will benefit the whole region not just Cairns, meaning more tourism activity in Port Douglas, the Tableland and the Cape," he said.

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