Ahead of this Wednesday’s Cairns Regional Council Meeting, which is likely to kill off the $155 million Cairns Entertainment Precinct (CEP) Project, Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt and Division 3 Councillor Rob Pyne are again putting forward their support for the existing plan in a last ditch effort to get the local economy going.
Mr Pitt said he was there at the first meeting in October 2009* when Advance Cairns, the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, TTNQ and Cairns Regional Council approached the former state government.
“It was indeed a rare thing to have the support of three levels of government for a project, as well as the local business community to have had the support of three levels,” Mr Pitt said.
“This project was strongly supported by representatives of the business community and Council, and was identified as the priority infrastructure project for the region which would create many jobs during the life of the project.
“In 2011, at the height of the campaign against this project, the new Member for Cairns Gavin King – despite a reduced funding commitment – supported the waterfront site:
‘We need to compromise on the Cairns entertainment precinct, scale back the cost to a maximum of $120 million and start building it immediately on the waterfront site, otherwise, it will remain bogged down in a stalemate for years.’ **
“It’s clear to see that construction work has all but dried up in the region and if the current plans for the CEP are scrapped, any alternate proposal will take months if not years to plan and go to tender before we’ll see any benefit to the local economy.”
Mr Pitt said the project was already well-advanced, in accordance with the State and Commonwealth Funding Agreements and significant expenditure had already been incurred to date.
“The new council has a responsibility to push forward with this project which is shovel-ready,” Mr Pitt said.
“If for no other reason, what about the more than 20 firms that have had their contracts suspended – worth more than $2.6 million – without payment who are already engaged on the project?”
“For some companies involved, the project represented nearly one-fifth of their overall revenue and well over 100 people were already engaged and working on the project.
“And to those who suggest that the recent Council elections were a ‘referendum on the CEP’ should ask why councillors Pyne, Leu and Cooper – noted for their strong support of the project at critical stages – were all re-elected.”
Councillor Rob Pyne said it’s nothing short of tragic that the CEP was now at risk.
“It will contribute to the diversification of the economy by catering to a wide range of uses from local schools to international and national touring shows,” Cr Pyne said.
“It was expected that there would be significant economic flow on through demands for goods and services supporting the Precinct, its visitors and users.
“The Precinct also presented the opportunity to support the Convention Centre by the provision of additional meeting space.
“The public spaces and facilities within the Cultural Precinct are to meet the needs of the community and growing population for more than 50 years.
“Long-term planning to achieve a sustainable outcome considered all the environmental, social, economic and cultural outcomes.
“Now all that is likely to be lost to Cairns, not to mention the promised $40m from the Federal Government.
“Some people may think they’ve won against the CEP, the community will lose out in the long term.”
** Gavin King, The Cairns Post, Saturday, 21 May 2011