Friday 26 September 2008

Something stinks about this bit of dirt

You know, I've been following the battle to save the old Yacht Club building for only a quarter of the time Rob Williams, Ray Taylor, and former commodore Bob Rendall have.

Over the last 17 months, I've written numerous articles about how and why the decision not to heritage list the historic Cairns Yacht building occurred. It's been an education in 101 community politics.

Early on I was warned by some to stay away from the subject. However the more I dug down, I discovered how undemocratic the the State Government and the equally secretive Port Authority was.

In the last few weeks, as D-Day has approached, the State Government have been backed into a embarrassing political corner. As every week has past, it's made them look more and more out of touch with the people, and their political spin doctors and media managers in Brisbane have just started to realise the enormous damage this issue is doing the party in Far North Queensland. Pitt, O'Brien, Wettenhall, and especially Boyle, have been in a real pickle over the Yacht Club dilemma. This issue will galvanise a kinetic revolt at the polling booth next year. There is no doubt about that. Even Turnour has failed to stand up for his wider constituency. They are a sorry and spineless bunch when they have not once acknowledged the strong will of the people.

I've said before that this old somewhat rusty old building, is a symbol of what community means to us. It's a symbol of what little we have left from our early colonial past. We hunger for such things as a community. It connects us spiritually to former days when our town was growing and developing.

The alternative plan is for corporate and residentail private tower block, a back-to-back Berlin Wall that the Port Authority have planned along Trinity Inlet. It will disenfranchise and disconnect the public from our sacred coastline.

Last week Labor realised the need to show some sympathy, but also wanted to show that they knew what was best for us. The public needn't be party to it, we can make that decision for them. After months of saying the same old bullshit story that the Yacht Club is getting a new $6M home, we realised this was an outright lie. The new multi-use facility at the northern corner of the Marina, is a flash upmarket commercial public restaurant, called the Salt House. At it's rear is a flash upmarket commercial public bar, called WankerVille. Then there a flash upmarket commercial pubic toilet. Right next door is a 68sq meter concrete bunker, that the Yacht Club will share with others. It doesn't even have a window looking at the water. The club members have been fooled and cheated on this move.

So the story about was an outright lie. But we've worked that spin out weeks, or months ago.

However this campaign has nothing to do with the Yacht Club. It has to do with saving a unique piece of early Queensland history. It is probably one of the longest standing absolute waterfront structures from the turn of the century in Australia.

Desley has been hiding under her self-imposed exile, with not a minute spent of responded to the reported 550 letters she's received. She's also deliberately and defiantly ignored 11,000 of her residents that petitioned for a fair go on this issue. She ignored everyone of them. She sent Wettenhall, her neighbouring MP up the Barron River without a paddle, to do the dirty stinking work of a PR sham yesterday. It was the worst impression of a white knight in a shinny suit I've ever seen. I expected better of him.

Whilst holding the hand Port Authority's Skarott the Parrot, he said that the proposed move to JCU for the building is a pleasing result. He faithfully announced that the political games are now over. Stephen, you are very naive if you believe that, and I think deep down in your heart, you know that. Wettenhall hasn't had much time in politics yet, in fact, I've worked in Parliament and the game of politics for a lot longer, and know full well that you won't placate the masses with such patsy stage manged shows like that. You'll need to do a whole lot better.

The shameful thing in all of this, is that Labor could have, and could still, claw back some modicum of respect by listening ad supporting the community.

With all the information that has come my way over the last year and a half, I've come to the realisation that the core reason why those at the top of the money food chain what rid of this Yacht Club building noose, is a deal was done some time back.

They are committed to that land being free.

So it got me thinking. And it got me asking in all the wrong corners.

Why are they so sold that the Cairns Yacht Club building has to stay put? The question on everyone’s lips is why not? Why can’t the Cityport Masterplan be amended to include a revamped Yacht Club building as a heritage tourism site?

Plenty of other features in Cityport have been changed since its inception in 1996, so what impediment is there on this one? When I heard Steve Wettenhall yesterday on ABC Far North (we love you Fiona) saying that it had been planned years ago, he sounded more like a out of touch politician than anyone interested in representing after the people. Like all MPs, he signed a solemn oath to advocate and represent his people. It's taken Steve less than one term to turn his back on the people that want to be heard on this issue. He won't be the only one to loose his seat over this. It's nice he will have his law business to head back to next year. And yet, he seemed such a promising representative of the community, he's performed poorly on this issue. However Steve isn't alone in this lack of understanding. Turnour has been invisible as a Federal advocate on this issue. But really, this has been a mess created solely by the Member for Cairns, Desley Boyle. This could have been headed off at the pass years ago.

So back to this unique and valuable bit of land where the building still rests tonight. The obvious first possibility is that Cairns Ports are under instructions to obtain vacant possession of the site from their masters, the Bligh State Government, who are cash-strapped and will sell anything that isn’t nailed down to ease their burgeoning debt. Their debt is recorded to be in the billions. It's a frightening situation. Boyle confirmed this situation to Mark Buttrose last week. Their financial situation is appalling. The Cairns Airport sale will net them around $250 million, after they spend a similar amount renovating it. Now that has to be one of Bligh's and Boyle most stupid decisions ever.

So, with the airport sale, Cairns Port Authority is running out of revenue-raising infrastructure.

This doesn’t explain why the obsession to clear the site has been going on for a decade, or why there are the crazed looks, or the frantic protests of “No, it can’t, it just can't !” by Port Authority officials and Government Members whenever the issue of keeping the building on it's present site is raised.

It would seem that there are other reasons.

The obvious question has to be asked, has it been promised to someone; has a ‘sweetheart deal’ been done?? This is followed up by “Who’s it been done with?” and “Have they already delivered their end of the bargain, thereby obligating Cairns Ports now to deliver theirs.

One major contender for ‘the someone’ would have to be the neighbouring Hilton Hotel. A number of different people have raised this with me and are certain this is what has been going on behind the boardroom doors for years.

The Hilton sits on part of a block of land which is now under one title, along with the Yacht Club and the former Great Adventures site. They, and more recently their wedding chapel, have a lease on this freehold land which is owned by the Port Authority. So, no it hasn’t been sold.

The original concept plan for Cityport apparently showed a building that was a mirror image of the current Hilton Hotel on the Yacht Club building site. The Hilton was also the only commercial entity to object to the heritage listing of the Yacht Club's retention in 2003.

Word has it too that the obliteration of the Hilton's views by Harbor Lights (Blights) was to be compensated by conversion of the Hilton leasehold to freehold. On top of this, two people previously associated with Cairns Ports, believe it is the Hilton who would be most interested in the land.

This may be well speculative, but until we get straight and open answers than ‘we need to create open public space’ or ‘we have to ensure connectivity between Cityport North and South’, the questions will be open.

Politics used to be democracy in action. However this elitist unilateral decision will only benefit the elite who can afford the view and the flash pad at number 4 Wharf Street. Even the pension of a former MP would hardly stretch to that.

Whilst I'm pleased to have Val Schier as an alternative to Pol Pot, she has hardly been vocal on this. Val resigned herself to the fact that she couldn't influence the decision after her March election victory. She really underestimated her weight and the power of regional representation. This community grass roots campaign is the type that got her over the line. If she loudly and proudly banged the Council table, she would have been listened to by Premier Bligh. Val could have come into her own if she picked up this campaign. She would have been remembered for ever as the one that saved some important Cairns heritage for future generations. However the Labor cronies got to her.

The Mayor and Councillor Forsyth have still not reported back to the community following the September 11th motion that was passed. It read:-

  • (a) That Council communicates with the Premier of Queensland, the Transport Minister, the Treasurer and Chairman Cairns Ports as a matter of urgency requesting the proposed imminent demolition or removal of the Cairns Yacht Club building be put on hold.

    (b) That a meeting be convened between Council, State Government, Cairns Ports, Indigenous and community representatives to identify planning issues, ongoing management and funding in relation to the retention of the Cairns Yacht Club Building on it’s current site and adapt the Cairns Yacht Club building for cultural and heritage tourism ventures as part of the waterfront development.

    (c) That Council recognise the petition of more that 10,000 Queensland citizens, including around 8,000 residents from the Cairns Region requesting the retention of the Cairns Yacht Club Building on it’s current waterfront site.
Why has the Premier not availed herself to this meeting with our Mayor? It is the will of the Cairns Regional Council to negotiate on this matter. We have now lost faith in the Premier, the Labor State Government and more recently, the Cairns Regional Council.
  • "Unfortunately, I have not been in a position to be able to influence the state government's decision.

    A meeting with Premier Bligh was requested as a result of the Council resolution of the week before last; unfortunately, the Premier’s office has indicated that the government’s previous decision stands.

    Cr Val Schier
    Cairns Regional Council
    Phone: 07 4044 3083

So there you go. The State Government totally snubbed the entire Cairns Community and it's elected Council. They weren't even prepared to meet with it's Mayor as directed under Council motion. What absolute arrogance.

If they can't stand up for us on this, then what are they capable of? Knee-jerk politics is very poor form. There has been no strategic approach to this. They were desperate to solve this, yet they've made a mess of the whole fiasco.

"If evidence is required as to why the community are rapidly losing confidence in our leader's ability to safeguard the scenic treasures we have here in our midst, against unsatisfactory development and where noble rhetoric doesn't match reality, look no further than the Cairns Yacht Club building," says Ray Taylor.

Maybe Boyle has been promised a Penthouse suite when the replacement building is competed. It will no doubt come with insulated inch-thick glass, so no noisy Dixie Jazz band can interfere in her retirement at the end of next year.


Al said...

If, as now seems probable, the Cairns Yacht Club is lost to us, I for one will volunteer to stand with my "Remember the Yacht Club" banner at a polling booth on the day of the next state election. I don't want the Nat/Libs in their place but the Labour clique in Cairns must be brought to account for their disregard of the clear wishes of their electorate. Such action will serve as a warning to ALL who seek to govern us; you are there to represent US, not your party.

Anonymous said...

"Father forgive them; for they know not what they do".........or do they? Gluteny isn't that a sin? Don't worry old girl the fight is not over yet. And payback will be high on my agenda if you do go. R.I.P. Labor stanghold on Cairns. Enjoy your retirement you lovely laborites. May it be long, healthy and happy. And when your grandchilren ask you, "Poppy what used to be here, before your government fucked it for our generation, I hope you say, go ask Rob Williams, Wendy Richardson, Ray Taylor, Bob Randall, they know far more than I do". Lest we forget. (Mike please check spelling I'm angry as hell), Kerry.

Kerry Riella.

Anonymous said...

It would seem nothing can now be done in time to save the Yacht Club.The blame for this tragedy lies squarely with the existing Council members who were members of the old Council,together with the crew of local Labor
politicians now keeping out of sight.they should all lose their seats at the next election.It is up to the residemts not to forget these people in order to sack them at the first opportunity.

Anonymous said...

We must not forget the dastardly part Kevvie Byrne and his Unity and Liberal cronies (including many of the current councillors) played in this despicable saga. There must have been pay offs right across the board, all self serving creatures have had their hands out. Disappointing there are no political white knights in shining armour, no just reality.
Wendy A