Monday 7 July 2008

Save Yacht Club campaign launched today

Last Tuesday, the Cairns Port Authority served the Cairns Yacht Club with it's 120 days notice to demolish the historic 100 year old building.

This fight has been going on for some years now. I've been following the debate and campaigning for the Queensland Heritage Listing for a year now.

The Port Authority, an authority unto itself it seems, aim to bring in the bulldozers and flatten the building on 1st October, along with the history associated with the Club.

They seek to do this before the end of the year, because the Heritage Council will next be able to reconsider it's Heritage listing decision in the new year.

The multi-million dollar State government authority, have not indicated that they will offer to relocate the building, as a gift to the Cairns community. Nor have they announced that an archaeological dig can occur of the site, as Professor Jan Wegner has recommended.

More compelling, they have not indicated what they want the site for. Initial plans sought from the Port Authority showed a car park, however rumours have indicated that another apartment high-rise is planned. The Port Authority have also insisted that the club pay for half the demolition cost of the building.

On Friday, Mayor Val Schier finally publicly weighed in on the campaign. She said that the Port Authority should consider gifting the building to the Cairns community.

"Given the substantial profit the [Port] Authority will make from the upcoming sale of the Cairns Airport, they should consider handing this back to the community," Val Schier said.

Schier said she will now seek support for a listing on the Council's Heritage register.

Councillor Diane Forsyth is also backing the campaign to save the club building on this site.

In January, there was an overwhelmed demand from a round of community meetings held jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Cairns Council to list the building.

A community campaign is being launched this week calling itself People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club, to seek a stay of execution for Cairns' favourite old aquatic club house, and also to get the building on the Council's and the State's Heritage registers. A special website has also been set up.

The National Trust of Australia listed the Cairns Yacht Club building as an endangered building in 2004. There was a 5,000 public petition, a Council under the stewardship of Kevin Bynre that gave little support and intended not to reflect the majority wishes of his electorate, and a vote that went down to the wire with the Heritage Council. Coupled with this, State MP Desley Boyle, who presided over the Heritage Council at the time, gave the building and it's supporters, little time.

Another amazing development was that the then chief of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, was collared by the mayor and the Port Authority to not support the building's retention. Why the regional tourism body, that's mission is to attract visitors to the region, would unilaterally decide that history is not worth retaining, is beyond any normal comprehension. It's obvious that the old Yacht Club interfered in the CityPort development by having an undisturbed row of concrete high-rise towers along the waterfront.

It's been a long battle for a number of loyal old yachties, who are devastated by the proposed actions of the Port Authority, but they are not giving up now.

Last year Heritage Council added Herries Private Hospital, in McLeod Street to this list. This was a building that was relocated to Cairns, and hasn't been in use for many years.

This week a group called People Against Demolition of the Yacht Club has formed by to save the historical Cairns Yacht Club building. In the next couple of weeks, they will call public meeting.

Liberal Party member, Wendy Richardson, is putting her weight behind the campaign. On Friday, she sent letters to the Premier and the Heritage Council, demanding urgent intervention.

"You may be unwittingly about to commit an act of heritage vandalism, to be held against you for many years. And we will lose our history," she said in the letter.

The historic building and the site date back to 1895, and has been the focal point of much of Cairns’ maritime, civic and wartime history.

"Premier, we are highly aware of the shabby appearance of the building, made worse by the outdated 1960’s and 1970’s trappings in places," Richardson says. "We commend to you the artist’s impressions of the appearance of the revitalised building; something every Queenslander could be very proud of."

The group propose that in light of the proposed sale of the Cairns Airport, that the government re-consider why the demolition of this building, and the sale of this land, is still so crucial.

"The site is not going to be used for vital port infrastructure; just an apartment building," she says. Although the Yacht Club have agreed to move on to new premises, they have urged politicians to consider the value of the old building.

"As Cairns struggles under the recent cut in Qantas flights, any move to increase the tourism appeal of our city should be carefully considered. Richard adds. "We believe this building, in this location, has enormous potential if run by a Community Board much as the Art Gallery is."

"We will fight for this building, because it’s worth it."

The State Government’s own Heritage Assessor, Michael Kennedy, reached a published decision that the building has cultural significance, sufficient for State Listing. This advice was ignored by the very people who commissioned him, the Queensland Heritage Council.

The Cairns public are now strongly encouraged to get involved in this David and Goliath fight. We are looking for supporters to contribute and help.

People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club


Anonymous said...

You really have to question the mentality of the idiots that run the Port Authority and the elected politions that have betrayed thousands of Cairns locals.

You have my support and we will fight them till the bitter end. It is still not to late to rescue at least one piece of Cairns history.

Jono & Patrica

Anonymous said...

I saw something on this in the Weekend Post but have no idea who the 'Stubbart' (sic) Traill referred to in The Post is??

Anonymous said...

Hahhaha I saw that in the ComPost as well... looks like they need a new sub editor

It's meant to Stu Traill dunno where they got the extra "bbart" from!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the CPA has built nearly enough high rise waterfront carparking to provide for the future. I mean the ugly street carpark moat they built on prime waterfront land between The Pier and boardwalk just isn't enough!!

Hey, the old yacht club may only be a shoebox footprint in the scheme of cityport, but I calculate that if we build a 50 story high carpark on the site we could probably get maybe a dozen carparks per floor (after space for access and driveways etc)and totally wipe out any parking problems in the city.

What do you think?

KitchenSlut said...

Well done Cairnsblog for a quality posting of the issues which certainly leaves the sensationalist Weekend Compost report as .... well just compost really (Stubbart Who?).

This has been a sorry saga of opaque procedural dysfunction, spurious justifications from the CPA, and dubiously stubborn political leadership. We deserve better.

And then we have the rather infantile response from Desley Boyle about the current shabby presentation of the building. Hey, Desley if your place was scheduled for demolition 5 years ago then you would let it run down too rather than spend money on it.

A refurbished yacht building should be an iconic symbol juxtaposed within the planned(?) cityport development. And lets face it the area occupied by the yacht club building is so small as a proportion of the entire area that any financial argument that it is essential to redevelopment and public finance is simply a fraud.

If the worst comes kitchenslut will at least make sure he gets down there for a 'last supper' of fish & chips on the balcony for a final savouring of the ambience ......

Anonymous said...

Very Succinct and to the point Kitchen Slut

I don't buy the CP every day, but people tell me what Desley says.

For several years she has tried to pump life into the CBD and for as many years she has failed.

Why don't Japanese Tourists want to come here any more? Just like blind Freddy, they have nothing to see.

Why are the Road Tourists by-passing Cairns? Because the Palmerston is the highway to Heritage. Simple as that.

My mate Bob Rendal visited Broome the other day. He spent most of his time in the Historical and ancient galvanised Iron buildings called China Town.
I know why, I've been there too.

Anonymous said...

It comes as no surprise that Val Schier and others on her team, (what's left of it), should finally decide that they should sharpen their spears and come out to have a dig at the current Labor Government, in support of the Yacht Club. They have left it long enough in the scheme of things to not stop it,(they believe) but just in time to make a point that they care, before it is gone.
The Mayor's statements of support are cynical in the extreme when there were months and years of opportunity to comment prior to an 11th hour effort to make the current government powers that be, see the error of their ways.

I was in Brisbane when the bulldozers moved in on the Bellevue Hotel, to demolish a city icon in the dead of night, against overwhelming public opinion,an outrage perpetrated on Brisbane's heritage by the Bjelke-Petersen National Party Government. I feel that whatever Brisbane has tried to achieve since, it has been left wanting since that outrage.

Cairns is placed in the same situation now, except that the perpetrators would be the Labor Party, those that suggest they have the heritage interests of Qld at heart.

All the Labor Party members in this region are implicated, as they have been conspicuous by their sheer invisibility and gutlessness on commenting on where they stand on this.

There are but weeks left, it is said, before the Cairns Yacht Club and its 100 year history is bulldozed into matchwood, at the instigation of the current Labor Party Government. The local members' acquiescence is shameful, and should not be forgotten at future elections.

Where Cairns has lost other heritage value properties, invariably they have had private ownership - the land on which the Yacht Club stands is Govt property and they can make the decision at any time on what can be done with it.

If the Yacht Club does get trashed, every elected Labor Party member's photo and name should be put on a plaque in a prominent position on Wharf Street, in front of whatever replaces the Cairns Yacht Club, and underneath it hould read, "We did this". Looking at whatever it is that replaces the Yacht Club, I'm sure that those in the future would say, "That's shameful!".

Alternately, the same members with the same photos and the same message, if they save the Cairns Yacht Club, after listening to the overwhelming voices of support for the club, would go down in Cairns' history in perpetuity, as very special people. They would be the group that saved the icon. I wonder if they could handle this.

One can look at a robust athlete, full of energy, and ready to face the future, and think they are untouchable. As big and strong as they are, they are nothing if you take away something the size of their fist, their heart! It is small, but so very important.

Cairns without the Cairns Yacht Club would be this athlete.

Michael P Moore said...

Well put Iceman.

You should join us for a special action meeting tonite at Wendy's.

Drop me an email to for the details.

Anonymous said...

For a political party who's core values were founded on social issues, their current attitude to the old Cairns Yacht Club house indicates that these values no longer exist.

Anonymous said...

Couldn’t agree more Iceman.

Yesterday I was thinking about the effort and dedication involved by those early citizens who, in 1920 after the cyclone badly damaged the building, volunteered to re-build it, rescuing remnants to use (waste not, want not) and cutting new stronger timbers to prevent a recurrence.

It was no small undertaking.

They deserve that we should now fight also to save it.

Does the Labor State government not know this history of the ordinary people who built and cared for this building over the last century?

Wendy Richardson
Coordinator - PADYC
People Against Demolishing the Yacht Club

Ph 07 4034 2248

Save the Yacht Club Cairns

Anonymous said...

Count another Cairnsite interested in doing all she can to preserve a smidgeon of our heritage. The wonderful old hotels which comprised the world famous "Barbary Coast" have been ripped down,ditto the old Burns Philip building, ditto the wooden shop fronts, ditto the wooden workman's cottages...