Wednesday 14 December 2011

Exclusive to The Cairns Post: Cr Linda Cooper to vote yes for Cairns Entertainment Precinct

Daniel Strudwick
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Swing: Cr Linda Cooper's support will swing the vote 6-5 in favour of the entertainment precinct.

The Cairns Entertainment Precinct will survive a make-or-break council meeting today when Cr Linda Cooper casts her crucial vote in favour of the  development.

Her support will swing the vote 6-5 in favour of the precinct, locking in almost $100 million in state and federal cash for the project to forge ahead. Today, Cr Cooper tells The Cairns Post outlining why, after months of deliberations and scrutiny, she will throw her vital support behind the $155 million project.

Its future has been uncertain for two months because a majority of councillors, including Cr Cooper, asked to see more financial data before progressing. After today’s meeting – which is the last of the year – the council will be able to progress the design, prepare to lodge development applications and call for expressions of interest from contractors.

Those works were halted in October by Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, who led a majority of councillors to stall project planning until a full business case and financial health check of the council were made public. Cr Cochrane confirmed yesterday she had not changed her mind and would vote against the precinct again today – as would councillors Paul Gregory and Alan Blake.

They expressed concern that the cost of building and running the portside development would be too dear for ratepayers and would jeopardise other infrastructure projects in the region. "I’m not convinced that the council’s financial sustainability is in good enough shape," said Cr Cochrane, who was last night considering an alternative motion to put forward to councillors for consideration today.

Councillors Nancy Lanskey and Sno Bonneau wouldn’t say which way they planned to vote, but Cr Cooper’s support means the precinct cannot be defeated today no matter what those councillors decide. Long-time precinct supporters Rob Pyne, Kirsten Lesina, Di Forsyth and Julia Leu have confirmed they would back the project again today, and Mayor Val Schier’s vote will see the precinct across the line with six votes to five. "We’ll look like absolute fools if we lose this funding when other regions all over Australia would kill to get this kind of state and federal commitment," Cr Leu said yesterday. "And construction companies are waiting with bated breath to get some work out of this – some of them are only just hanging in there."

Support for the project has also come from outside the council chambers, with Tourism Tropical North Queensland among the local organisations to throw weight behind the precinct push in the lead-up to  today’s vote. In an email to all members yesterday, chief Rob Giason said: "The precinct will have the capacity to attract for our region, performances that current venues can’t accommodate, giving our community more options for entertainment in the CBD."

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