Friday, 11 July 2008

Council takes formal action to keep Yacht Club

Yesterday's Planning and Environment meeting of the Cairns Regional Council carried a significant decision.
There was a rare moment of hope for the fragile future of the 100 year old Cairns Yacht Club, as it steers in the face of Port Authority demolition.
The meeting heard a burst of unorthodox spirit from the floor. Councillor Diane Forsyth, hungry for an issue to make a difference to her community, moved a motion to engage the State Government to stop it's disposal of the historic Cairns Yacht Club.
This move follows the formation of PADYC earlier this week, a group of political and community leaders, representing all sides of the spectrum, and nearly five years of grassroots community campaigning.
A Councillor proposing this kind of dissent under the previous administration would probably have been thrown out of the chamber. Such subjects for debate under Corporal Byrne and Sargent Schultz, aka Terry James, would not have been tolerated.
Councillor Forsyth, who has a history of helping people in the community who are most at risk when she was director of the Addiction Help Agency, is leading the battle of minds in Council. She is ushering in a more respectful administration that were elected on a platform of protecting heritage and creating a sense of community.
This is what the old Yacht Club building and it's location, can offer.
This change of heart in Council is very heartening, even at this late stage. We need an urgent rescue plan for this gracious old waterfront icon, to save it from the State Government's bulldozer in just under three months time. That's 12 weeks.
Cr Forsyth can see the vision of a re-vitalised facility for the whole community to share and enjoy. She, like over 5,000 who signed the last petition, doesn't want this destroyed on her watch. A renovated historic building can be strengthen and modernised , yet keep the features from it's proud and long history. It can be a multi-purpose venue, that will house a living maritime museum.
However, it wasn't all roses at yesterday's meeting.
Councillor Paul Gregory baulked at the idea for the Council to take action. "This is a lost cause," he exclaimed. The comfortable-sized Forsyth quipped back: "I hate to say this, but it's not over till the fat lady sings!" The irony was missed, as, like a bulldozer, it bought the house down.
Diane Forsyth has also got the backing of fellow Councillors Pyne, Lesina, Lansky and also Mayor Val Schier. That's half of the Cairns Regional Council. This type of public declaration of support for this grand old lady (the Yacht Club that is, not Councillor Forsyth) is unprecedented.
"Boy, am I passionate about this one," says Councillor Robert Pyne, who is also aiming to put the building on the Council's own Heritage Register.
"It never was and this is so very wrong. It's a no-brainer. It calls into question the politics that were at play in the previous Council," says Robert Pyne.
Maybe the last Council had no brains when it came to protecting heritage buildings?
Councillor Leu from Port Douglas also needs to join this fight. Her own Douglas waterfront, with a myriad of historic village buildings, will be under threat of this State Government's development ideals.
I suspect Councillors Cooper and Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane will also join the campaign.
Interestingly, Councillor Alan Blake, whose Division encompasses the Yacht Club, has been publicly silent on this issue. Some sailors told CairnsBlog that he has been down to the club over the years and 'enjoys the atmosphere'. I hope his enjoyment extends beyond a cheap beer on the balcony. Blake needs to put a stake in the ground on the building's future.
A motion was agreed to at the Planning and Environment meeting. Cr Forsyth wanted some 'strong action and intervention' from the Council in the form of a delegation to the State Government. She recommended that the Mayor should lead this representation with some urgency.
The final motion was watered down somewhat - as they often are - however the impetus was still there: That Council seek a better outcome than the current plans of the Cairns Port Authority for the Cairns Yacht Club.
Now it is up to all the mighty strength and leadership that our new perky Mayor can muster. This will be a test of her integrity to represent such a strong community feeling, and stare in the face of all the rhetoric about 'development' and 'progress' propaganda, the Port Authority can throw at her. I hope they don't get to her, like the Advance Cairns mob did, in Val's first few days in office.
Photograph reprinted courtesy of Les Sim, Cairns Historical Society
The photo depicts the early 1940's Barbary Coast,
in the Cairns waterfront precinct, with the iconic Yacht club building in the foreground.

The Port Authority operates under the direction of the Queensland State Government, as a corporation. It's responsible for the commercial operation of the airport and seaport. However, it now appears that it's irresponsible for the operation of the Seaport. Hon John Mickel, Minister for Transport and Treasurer Andrew Fraser, are shareholders of the Port Authority.
It is these folk, along with Premier Bligh and the Minister responsible for the Queensland Heritage Council, Andrew McNamara, need to intervene and overturn the heavy-handed tactics of the Port Authority that has been revealed here on CairnsBlog over recent weeks and months.
"The community have felt cheated," says Ray Taylor, a long-time member and supporter of the Yacht Club and it's contribution to the community. "It's more than an old building, it's a part of our social, wartime and colonial history, we have so little left, that's why this fight is imperative."
You don't just dismiss such a property as 'surplus to requirements'. I know this building and the land it sits on, is a thorn in the Port Authority's side. To gift it to the community would be a most gracious act. The Government owes this small gift to the community of Cairns, after the millions it gains from tourists visiting our region.
Rob Williams, whose Dixie Jazz club have used the Yacht Club for years, is angry at the State Government's lack of support in representing the community over this issue.
"The reason why some towns have buildings that are 200 years old, is because they fought to save a 100 year old building," Williams said.
"We have rare opportunities to have connections to our past. This is one of them. We will not give in," Rob Williams says.
Council's Environment and Planning Committee's move to take this issue direct to the State Government will be a powerful arm to the campaign to protect the building for future generations.
This will be not be an easy battle for the Mayor, but it will be one that can assure her a place in Cairns' history, should she contribute towards a win for the people.
This is why Councillors are elected. The are 'representatives' of the people. They cannot operate in a vacuum. Regardless of their own fears of prejudices, they need to carry the wishes of the community forward. They have now taken the first step in this process.
Hang on for a bumpy ride. And get out of the way Desley.

See: Save the Cairns Yacht Club
Get involved, email savetheyachtclub@bigpond.com
Tel 4034 2248 or 4055 1916

1 comment:

esplanade dweller said...

The Yacht Club wont be the only local constituents who have noted Blakeys absence since the election. I certainly regret my vote already!!