Monday 22 September 2008

State Government to move Yacht Club building

The Queensland State Labor Government, after months of community pressure, will announce this week to move the historic building.

More than four years of campaigning by a core number of Yacht Club members, including it's former Commodore, the State Government has failed to bend to the will of the local community and retain the 103 year old iconic Cairns waterfront building.

Like the shock announcement to sell the Cairns airport a few months ago, there has been no discussion or consultation with the community or immediate stakeholders.

PADYC, the group headed by Liberal and Tablelands Regional Council candidate Wendy Richardson, has not had any discussions about this forthcoming announcement. "No, they have not discussed this with any of us who have been campaigning to keep this building on the existing site," Richardson said this morning.

"We will still advocate and question the retention of this important Cairns building on the site it has stood for over 100 years," said Wendy Richardson.

It is believed the $150,000 that the State Government put up for "some community group or organisation" will be topped up to pay for the move.

"The new location will be very pleasing to everyone," Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall told CairnsBlog.

The Cairns Port Authority has had an appalling history in dealing with the matter. Two months ago they announced to help find a space for the old building in a 'history' precinct of the CityPort development, then days later, canned the offer.

It now appears that the State Government is acknowledging the huge revolt to it's support in the greater Cairns region. There is a huge and growing descent in the community following their lack of support for the Yacht Club building issue. Even for those that have hardly ever been in the building, or find it's not a place they socialise in, it is a symbol of our past and worth preserving.

This is a rare and the last building of it's type in the Cairns CBD. It has carried a huge amount of social connection s over the last century and the Labor Government, under the representation of local member Desley Boyle Member for Cairns, have greatly underestimated the passion and mobilisation of the Cairns Community for the building's retention.

The Government will announce on Wednesday that the building will be moved, to a new location, at the their expense. It's expected the Port Authority will help foot the bill. The location is being kept under wraps, and Wettenhall would not disclose if it was another waterfront location.

"The site where the building is, is not where the building will remain. That issue is dead in the water," Wettenhall said.

The big question is why. Why is the retention of the building on this site a no option?

The State Government, through it's local Port Authority, must be trapped. They have obviously promised this piece of dirt to someone else. They appear trapped and can not reveal to the public why this site cannot be used. If it was just a matter of money, then there would be an option. However it's thought that the neighbouring Hilton Hotel may wish to use this land and could have well have done a deal with the Port Authority.

The MP, who has been an almost solitary voice from the regions Labor MPs in recent weeks, said it is something that needs to happen.

"I thought hard about all this through the few weeks, and you know politics is all about compromise," Wettenall said. "I think everyone will be very pleased with where the building will be moved to."

It has been mooted to move the building to the James Cook university campus at Smithfield. The Ellis Beach site, which the Cairns Yacht club operate, would also be a suitable location. However it's expected with little funding avenues when they move to the relocated club at the Marina, they will have little ability to keep the Ellis Beach venue.

The government has not budged of their plan to build another high rise building on the site of the current building. The have felt there is no need to concede to the will of a three surveys and hundreds of letters over the last fours years.

Federal Labor Heritage Minister Peter Garrett's intervention left many despondent when he offered no support. "There's no new information to save this old building ," Garrett said. He did not understand the history of the failed Heritage listing, and the will of the local community. It was obvious he was simply following his Queensland State counterparts.

Many have called Garrett a sell out over not standing up for them and the building, after he had down the same in his days as the lead of the influential band Midnight Oil.

Meanwhile, Councillor Dianne Forsyth claimed ownership of the building in the small hours of Saturday night / Sunday morning, as the Yacht Club closed the bar for the last time.

"As a Cairns Regional Councillor, representing two motions to protect and retain this fantastic old building on this site where we stand now, I claim ownership of this building," she told a packed crowd of around 400 revellers.

Some were so moved by the significance of the night, and left before midnight. "I don't want to be here for the last song, I'm not going to listen to that," said a distraught Bob Rendall, former Commodore of the Yacht Club. Rendall wrote 'At the Aquatic', an 80 year entertainment history of the Yacht Club two years ago.

Many who spoke with me were also angry about the way in which the issue has been handled by Labor MPs.

Councillor Dianne Forsyth and Mayor Val Schier are expecting to meet with Premier Anna Bligh this week on the matter. This follows Council's resolution two weeks ago to engage in emergency talks with the Premier. "We are still waiting, she has not responded to our request as yet," Councillor Forsyth said.

Dianne Forsyth, a late addition to the campaign, infamously said around the Council table in July that this isn't over until the fat lady signs.

Cairns Yacht Club Commodore Warner Ferguson addressed the capacity crowd who gathered to farewell the old building and said he and the club was resolved to moving.

"This was a political decision" he told the crowd. "Politicians put us here." The Commodore was referring to the predicament that the Club is forced to move and abandon it's old historic club house.

On Saturday morning at 1:05am, Councillor Diane Forsyth took the microphone and exclaimed her very real angry at the situation. She didn't sing.


Anonymous said...

Well here we go again. NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION as to where the building will be moved to.
My guess is that it will be the eastern end of the Heritage Wharf. It better be because that's the only way we will still have a public amenity that overlooks the waters of Trinity. Put it this way. If its not, then they can shove the whole lot up their Khyber because I, like 130,000 other Cairns people have NO REASON to go into the City.

Anonymous said...

“The site where the building is, is not where the building will remain. That issue is dead in the water, Wettenhall said.” Well Mr Wettenhall, the building is not the only thing that will be dead in the water. This whole issue reeks of political interference and further, seriously questions the integrity of the Queensland Heritage Council and the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

Queensland Heritage Act 1992
2 Object of this Act
(1) The object of this Act is to provide for the conservation of Queensland’s cultural heritage for the benefit of the community and future generations.
(2) The object is to be primarily achieved by—
(a) establishing the Queensland Heritage Council; and
(b) keeping the Queensland heritage register; and
(c) keeping local heritage registers; and
(d) regulating, in conjunction with other legislation, development affecting the cultural heritage significance of registered places; and
(e) providing for heritage agreements to encourage appropriate management of registered places; and
(f) providing for appropriate enforcement powers to help protect Queensland’s cultural heritage.
(3) In exercising powers conferred by this Act, the Minister, the chief executive, the council and other persons and entities concerned in its administration must seek to achieve—
(a) the retention of the cultural heritage significance of the places and artefacts to which it applies; and
(b) the greatest sustainable benefit to the community from those places and artefacts consistent with the conservation of their cultural heritage significance.
Part 2 Queensland Heritage Council
7 Council’s relationship with the State
The council does not represent the State.
8 Functions of council
(1) The council has the following functions—
(a) to provide strategic advice to the Minister about matters relating to Queensland’s cultural heritage, including, for example, measures necessary to conserve Queensland’s
cultural heritage;
(b) to provide information to the community to encourage interest in, and understanding of, Queensland’s cultural heritage;
(c) to advise entities about conserving Queensland’s cultural heritage, including, for example, government entities and community organisations;
(d) to encourage the appropriate management of places of cultural heritage significance;
(e) to perform other functions given to the council under this Act or by the Minister.
(2) In performing its functions, the council must act independently, impartially and in the public interest.

The Heritage Council clearly determined that the Cairns Yacht Club building met the criteria for Cultural Heritage significance but then on objection by the Port Authority and others removed the listing because of boundary uncertainties. The Heritage Council had 3 choices when making a decision about the proposed removal of a place from the register;
(a) to remove the place from the register; or
(b) to vary the entry of the place in the register; or
(c) to leave the place in the register.

The Heritage Council chose to remove the place from the register when it could have varied the entry or left it in place. Given the definition of “place,” guiding principles for defining boundaries, its functions and adoption of the “Burra Charter,” serious questions need to be asked. You can’t tell me the Heritage Council wasn’t in some way influenced by the following statement in Council’s letter of 11 July 2003. If this did play a part Section 7 and 8 (2) of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 have been seriously breached.

“Council worked closely with the Cairns Port Authority during the
preparation of the Cityport Masterplan and have given its support to
Cityport project. The project subsequently received approval from the
Coordinator General effectively giving “whole of government” approval to
the project.”

The Port Authority engaged a high powered Brisbane legal firm to fight the listing on the basis of being unable to identify the heritage boundary of the CYC place but of course had no trouble identifying boundaries for Precinct 6, 7 and 8 in the Cityport Master Plan.
What really disgusts me is the Port Authority’s follow up action via a Certificate of Immunity to prevent any further application to list the CYC building on the Queensland Heritage List until 2009 by which time the building would conveniently be gone.

Cultural heritage is recognised both nationally and internationally as an important component of tourism. Retaining the CYC building is not in conflict with the intended function of Precinct 7 – a tourist area. It is in the public interest to retain the building and in this so called “smart state” integrating the building into future development plans should be a breeze.

That the CYC building be conserved where it is, is fundamental to its cultural heritage values. The “Burra Charter” which was adopted by the Heritage Council says:

• Values – the assessment of significance should consider all values related to a place
• Setting – a place can seldom be separated from its setting. For most places aspects of the setting contribute to the significance
• Location – the location of most structures is integral to their history and significance. Relocation should always be regarded as a last resort
• Contents – contents, fixtures and objects that contribute to the significance should be retained at the place.
• Participation – many people may have interests or special associations with a place. All should be given the opportunity to participate in the conservation of a place
• Co-existence of cultural values – a place may be valued by more than one community. A place should be managed to conserve all values.

Is there not one politician with the fortitude and integrity to stand up on behalf of the community they serve and acknowledge that what has been done is wrong and take action to remedy it?