Sunday 27 January 2008

Council & their community responsibilities

In all the discussions and debates over the last 5 years to save the historic Yacht Club building, this story acts as a symbolic example of a Council out of touch with it's community.

We get told many times, that the land the building occupies is on State managed land, however without the support of the local government, it was going to be a difficult battle to protect a community institution.

Residents also have little respect for an inconsistent Council that pick and choose what they want to lobby and support.

They blindly ignored Villa Romana's illegal construction, and now are washing their hands of it as the State Government rule on what to do following a second request from the owner to retain his 53sqmt extension.

We saw 846AM radio announcer John McKenzie rallies behind opposition to keep high-density apartments away from his home in Cairns Street, yet in the same breath he backs and endorses a number of substantial apartment constructions, supported by his regular on-air free advert with his mate the Mayor.

We see the Mayor's political billboards appear on the land owned by LHL, and the roof of CEC's roof, two large property developers that donate to the Mayor's re-election and seek substantial support for development approvals and get informed by Council officers that Local ByLaw 28 doesn't apply "because they are not really political."

We loose count of the number of Material Change of Use applications that this Council approve. At last week's Council meeting, four more were approved.

The CairnsPlan is continually amended and changed to suit an developers' application before Council.

Recently, the CairnsPlan was again amended to reduce the boundary distance of building alongside waterways. This is a shocking breach of protecting vital natural wildlife and also presents more serious problems regarding seasonal flooding.

Local communities are rarely consulted about proposed construction in their neighbourhood. There is no open democracy in this city under the stewardship of Mayor Byrne. This is why we need to remove him and his style of destructive leadership from our city.

We simply don't respect nor trust this Council.

We have no opposition in this Council that rallies together to effectively challenge and block Byrne's build-em-up programme.

There is no doubt that his tenure as Mayor has contributed towards the demise of the Yacht Club building.

This letter is from the State Department for Local Government & Planning. The highlighted paragraph refers to the plight of the old Cairns Yacht Club building.

The current Cairns City Council are guilty of blatantly ignoring their responsibility and accountability to their community on two counts:

  1. They objected to the nomination for State Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club , even though they (as stated in council minutes) were fully aware that the majority view of the Community was in favour.

  2. Their objection was identical to that submitted by the Cairns Port Authority, a body whose policies are determined in far off Brisbane.

It's probably timely that we provide a detailed account about how the Cairns Yacht Club building failed to gain Queensland Heritage Listing on December the 12th 2003.

In 2003 an application for State Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club building was made. A high level of public support was acknowledged and reported by the press.

Expectations were high, buoyed by comments made by the Chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock, following an inspection of the property.

  • “The demolition of the Cairns Yacht Club would be a terrible loss to the city and would reduce the social and cultural value of its waterfront irreparably, Queensland Heritage Council chairman John Brannock said yesterday.-------”

In addition to this, the Queensland Heritage Council sent an Assessor, from Brisbane, to Cairns to inspect the place on two separate occasions.

14th of August 2003: The Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor’s first of two reports stated:

  • “Assessors Decision: The place is not of cultural heritage significance--- because of discrepancies in the listing boundary it is impossible to determine whether the place is of cultural heritage significance---”

Then on the 3rd of December 2003: Having clarified the listing boundary, the Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor’s final Decision states:

  • “Assessors Decision: That the place is of cultural heritage significance, and satisfies one or more of the criteria under section 23(1) of the Act.---”

The Objectors: There were four objectors to Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club building:

1. Cairns Port Authority
2. Cairns City Council
3. Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
4. The Hilton Hotel.

Another objector is listed on the initial report from the Assessor, namely Advance Cairns, a Council quango, funded by Council, and the Port Authority.

The reasons for their objections where found to be the same as that given by Cairns Port Authority. For example, an Ordinary Meeting of the Cairns City Council, dated 25th of December 2003, states:

  • “Council--- resolved to lodge an objection based on the grounds of the heritage assessment undertaken by the Cairns Port Authority----- that the building has a high value for the residence of Cairns. The heritage assessment undertaken for the Port Authority acknowledges that the social significance of the place may be demonstrated at local level but no evidence to support it at state level.”

The Vote: On Friday the 12th of December 2003, the Heritage Council met in Brisbane to decide the matter.

Of the twelve member Council, two came from North Queensland. Although both were in favour of heritage listing neither voted.

The reasons for not voting were, in one case, on ethical grounds, because of a direct involvement in the preparation of the submission for Listing of the place (Dr. Wagner). In the second case the other North Queensland Council Member failed to attend.

The outcome of the vote made by the remaining ten council members, that included the chairman, professor John Brannock, was split, five in favour to five against.

In this situation the chairman has another vote. He, professor John Brannock, chose to vote against Listing.

It should be noted that the professor resigned the following year.

The Fallout. The level of disappointment, cynicism and anger at the decision was great. It should also be noted that, the vast majority of the public were, at this point, unaware of any objectors to heritage listing of the place, or the manner in which it failed. As the facts of the matter came to light questions were raised. For example:

  1. Why, did the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, do a 180 degree turn, when a few months earlier, following an inspection of the place, he clearly supported Heritage Listing.
  2. Why, when placed in the position of a split vote, did professor John Brannock ignore, respectively, the Decision of the Assessor and the opinions of the two North Queensland Council Members, all of whom favoured listing of the place.

In Summary:

1. The Objectors claimed:

“The place is not of cultural heritage significance,---”

2. The Report of the Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor states:

“The place is of cultural heritage significance,---"

3. The two North Queensland Heritage Council members were both in favour of heritage listing.

4. In the May of 2003 the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock, led everyone to believe, in his statement to the Cairns Post, that he was strongly in favour of heritage listing.

5. When met with a split vote situation the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock:

a) Ignored the Council Assessor’s Decision. (note: Decision, not opinion)

b) Ignored the views of the two North Queensland members of the Heritage Council.

c) Reneged on his media release to the public, via the Cairns Post, and voted against the heritage listing of the place.

Since its failure to gain Heritage listing, the historic value of the Cairns Yacht Club Building has been acknowledged on a state and national basis when it was listed on :

a) Australian Council of National Trusts 2004 Endangered places List.

b) The National Trust of the Queensland Register.(31st March 2005)

So much for the Objectors claim that: “---acknowledges that the social significance of the place may be demonstrated at local level but no evidence to support it at state level.”

At a meeting on the 27th of August 2004, the QHC issued the Cairns Port Authority with a Certificate of Immunity the effect of which was that the Cairns Yacht Club could not be entered on the Heritage Register for a period of five years.

Of the Objectors, the following have since resigned and left their position:

  • Bill Calderwood-CEO Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
    Brad Geatches -CEO Cairns Port Authority
    David Maguire -CEO Advance Cairns


Anonymous said...

It was the Cairns Port Authority that served the eviction notice on the yacht club building, not the Council.

The CPA served the eviction notice because the lease had run out.

It's a bit like expecting the Chinese Government to allow the British to remain in Hong Kong by renewing the lease yet again. Oh yeah.

And there were a few heritage bits and pieces in Hong Kong as well.

Perhaps the Port Authority just want "their land" back after 99 years. Sounds similar ?

Anonymous said...

They continue to miss the point.

This Council DID NOT SUPPORT retaining the building... MNor lobby on behalf of the residents.

How many times do you have to spell it out to these nutters???

Anonymous said...

The Cairns City Council cannot abrogate its role in the failure to list the Yacht Club as a heritage building. Had the Council listened to the people and based its submission on supporting the listing of the building, then this may very well have been enough pressure for John Bannock to have voted to preserve it.
Factman,it's no good pretending that the Council had nothing to do with it. The Cairns City Council and Kevin Byrne were "Yes men" who didn't have the foresight or nous to understand what heritage actually means.

Anonymous said...

The Qld State Government and the Cairns City Council are both to blame for the current situation with the Cairns Yacht Club. The Wet Tropical Coast Regional Coastal Management Plan (WTCRCMP) is a statutory instrument under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995. It also has the effect of State planning policies under the Integrated Planning Act 1997. That means both the State Government and local governments are required to have regard for the plan when making decisions.
The Cairns Yacht Club is within Key Coastal Site 10, Trinity Inlet and is designated as an area of State Significance (cultural heritage) Map 25.
State Policy 2.6 Cultural heritage states:
“Places, buildings and objects with important cultural heritage values located on the coast are appreciated, conserved, managed and passed on to future generations.”
Principles include “decisions concerning cultural heritage are undertaken with the involvement of the relevant members of the community.”
Regional Policy 2.6.1 states: “areas of state significance (cultural heritage) are to be identified as valuable features in planning schemes and measures developed to protect them from incompatible development.”
The Cairns Yacht Club should have been entered in the Queensland Heritage Register in accordance with State Policy 2.6 and 2.6.1 and as state planning policy, the Cairns City Council should have reflected the intent of these policies in their planning scheme. It is abundantly clear under the WTCRCMP that the Cairns Yacht Club was deemed to have cultural heritage value and should have been protected and preserved where it is.

Anonymous said...

Follow me said ..."This Council DID NOT SUPPORT retaining the building"

If the Port Authority hadn't served the eviction notice then the Yacht Club would still be happily being there.

Council had nothing to do with the clubs notice to quit the site.

OK, so Council didn't support heritage listing. That's because it's heritage had nothing to do with the State's heritage or the building style, which is what the Heritage Listing Act is all about.
Sugar sheds, yes, drinking holes, no.
You know, the yacht club has not paid a fair lease price since 1992, nor has it paid any rates either.
The club's elected committee have accepted the inevitable and agreed to the generous offer from the tax payer funded State Government to relocate.

Where were those who are trying to save this grotty tin shed when the Masonic/Fishing/etc clubs lease's were terminated?

Drinking holes come and go ... ask the good folks at Yarrabah

Anonymous said...

Factman you just don’t get it and like Council probably never will.
The WTCRCM Plan came into being following an extensive consultation process which included advisory bodies, the community etc. The Cairns Yacht Club was declared an Area of State Significance (cultural heritage) for a reason and the community has every right to expect that the intent and spirit of this plan be upheld. Regional coastal plans are an integral part of coastal management which includes protecting, conserving and managing natural and cultural resources.

What truly astounds me is the total lack of respect you and Council have for the community and for laws and policies. The community has every right to expect that the CairnsPlan means what it says but as we all know, it’s manipulated at will. The Unity advertising sign at Smithfield is another example of Council’s unbelievable attitude. First the claim it wasn’t a political sign. If it wasn’t a political sign then by definition under Schedule 5 for “Residential/Rural environment” it was an “off site” advertisement which is prohibited.
If now it is a “political sign,” then it is also illegal because it exceeds 0.6m2. I cannot understand how any Council can behave in the manner that this Council does, and believe that it is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Let me put this as simply as possible, Anonymous.

All Council did was object to heritage listing of the Cairns Yacht Club.
Everything else is in the hands of others.
If the CPA hadn't delivered the eviction notice, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Council have gifted the club thousands of dollars for junior sail training and have forgone more thousands of dollars in unpaid rates.
You should be venting your spleen against those who are in control, namely those labor dogs who claim to represent the people of Cairns.

But you wont because you're blinded by a hatred of all things Bryne.

As for those attractive signs ... they are not political, they are simply a statement of fact. They do not encourage you to vote for any particular political party. If they did, then they would be "political".

Get over it ...

Anonymous said...

The Mayor has said those signs are part of his "Political Campaign"

Anonymous said...

Dear Factman to coin your phrase - let me put this as simply as possible. Council should NEVER have objected to the heritage listing of the Cairns Yacht Club. The intent of the WTCRCMP was clear as was the support of the community for its listing. Yes, I agree that the State Government has a lot to answer for on this issue as it does with many issues which makes it even more imperative that Council decisions support and reflect the wishes of the community. If Council had supported the community and the listing, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” as you so quaintly put it.

As for the signs, I guess they are a statement of sorts. The property Council chose to put them on says something to many.

Anonymous said...

Factman is so right, Architects, Vets, Uni leaders, Greenies, Historians and a whole shipload of other people should not get in to council.

But Factman has missed the main group called Ratepayers, those silly mugs who pay and pay rates taxes and actually finance Council, stuff em ..... anyway they probably haven't got a chance, as you would know Factman it takes a lot in elaction contributions to get anywhere these days, unless of course you could give them some advice on how to raise a quick few hundred thousand.

Anonymous said...

Has the Byrne Council preserved anything???!!!

Anonymous said...

Grotty tin shed you say factman.
Id be surprised if a high flyer like you had even stepped into the joint.
The patrons (myself included) are obviously grots in your eyes too, as we love it for its old time charm. (Bit of a local hang up on the past i hear... not to be commended at all.)
Well i might start hanging out at some of the flash joints you and Big Kev patronise.....nah cant stand the up em self attitudes.
You high class people can plot against us lower classes in peace.