Wednesday 14 December 2011

Cr Linda Cooper | Why I will vote'Yes'

I love this city and region and have always believed that we deserve the best. The decision I'm making today is based on two years of careful consideration, ultimately weighed up by the fact that this world-renowned city desperately needs a venue to replace the ageing Civic Theatre.

There will be many questions as to why I’ve changed my mind but the fact is that I’ve never changed my mind, and I have not been influenced by either side of the debate.

I have publicly gone on record since the beginning to say that my vote would be determined after receiving all financial information, including results of the Business Case, QTC’s Financial Sustainability Review and Council’s own 10-year financial model.

I understand the concerns of the community but the overriding point in this whole debate is that the Civic Theatre needs to be replaced, which has been acknowledged for the past 17 years with a stack of different studies being conducted to provide site and funding options.
his is the first time that both the State and Federal governments have put their hands in their pockets to fund at such a high level — $97.3 million, plus the use of the land.

I would normally agree that it’s not necessarily a smart idea to accept funding for ‘‘funding’s sake’’. However this is a $97.3 million injection for a project that we need. Government elections are looming at every level and while all parties are promising to support this project, there are no guarantees, hence the need to secure funding now. But for me it’s never been about the cost of construction.

This council is financially robust and is one of the best performing councils across the state. Our borrowing capacity is significant and this project will not be detrimental on any future need we have.  To suggest that everything else on council’s capital works program will stop is a fallacy. In my mind the most important issue is the ongoing operational cost, which will run at a deficit, as do many council facilities. The 10-year financial model has shown that we can carry this deficit and work back to a balanced budget by 2018-19.

here has been no movement on future rating percentages on what the full council accepted during our budget process earlier this year.  I have no doubt that this will be met with scepticism. However, decisions can only be made on the information presented and as the Chair of Finance I have complete confidence that our financial team has developed a financial model that is as accurate as possible.

But the reality is that we have been given a golden opportunity to create a facility that has already become the envy of every other regional city in Queensland. We have received unprecedented funding support and we may honestly never get this chance again. Quite frankly, I’m not happy to sit back and take that risk.

I am aware my support for this project may jeopardise my chances of re-election but, despite that knowledge, I am still prepared to support the Cairns Entertainment Precinct because I honestly believe this is a progressive step forward for a region that has struggled in the past few years.  And if I didn’t think it was "doable" then I can assure you I would not be raising my hand today.

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