Tuesday 21 October 2008

Professor calls for archelogical dig

When you reflect on the adjectives used around the Yacht Club building, it makes for some interesting analysis.

It wasn't until the building was stripped back, and she sat alongside a number of full rubbish skips of debris that Port Authority chief Neil Quinn admitted there was some 'historic' parts of the old building. This was in contrast to his defiance over the last four years that the building had no history that needed to be preserved.

Almost every protester who stood before a judge at the Cairns Courthouse over the last three weeks, was told they were disrupting the 'demolition'. It was a sad, but accurate description.

However local Labor politicians never expected such fallout. Barron River's Steve Wettenhall and Cairns' Desley Boyle genuinely believed that they were 'saving' the old building for posterity by 'relocating'. "It's better than demolishing it," Wettenhall said.

History and Heritage professor at JCU Jan Wegnar has been very critical of the way in which the Port Authority has undertaken the move. None of the interior was kept, and historic hand-painted lettering was chain-sawed through and thrown in the rubbish skip, as the rush to clear the site reached fever pitch.

It was the early removal of the roof, to stop protestors climbing on top, that encouraged the Port Authority to remove the roofing, without any plan to protect the Black Bean dance floor. Waterproof tarps were left rolled up for the secrurty gards to unravel. They never did.

Professor Wagner also asks about the slatted ceiling. "It was a major heritage feature of the building," she says. "I automatically expected it would go to JCU with the rest of the place but I've just queried them and found they weren't expecting the ceiling to come at all."

John Mickel, now minister of Transport and a director of the Cairns Port Authority, was Minister for Heritage not that long ago. In his new role, he had a vested interest to clear this site. As Heritage Minister he was apparently copping a lot of flak from developers who were annoyed by people putting in Heritage Register nominations on the properties they were about to demolish/develop. Mickel started a secret inquiry into heritage processes in Queensland and then brought in an Act which has had the effect of putting the State's heritage processes more under the control of government.

He's well-known as a hard-liner and unsympathetic to heritage.

"I suspect that a lot of the government's non-responsiveness over the Cairns Yacht Club building comes from Mickel being the minister in charge of the Port Authority," says Professor Wegnar.

Jan Wegnar has called for an archaeological dig on the Wharf Street site now laid bare. "Who knows what is buried below that site. After nearly 100 years there will be numerous items that made their way below the floorboards," Wegnar says.

"At the very least, an archaeological inspection should occur."

Cairns Regional Councillor Julia Leu says what has happened is absolutely outrageous. "Their days are definitely numbered up here," she says.

Councillor Leu was sorry she was unable to physically be at the Yacht Club protests, living north of Port Douglas at Daintree. "Fitting everything is a nightmare," Councillor Leu said. "Di [Forsyth] knows that I fully support her, I rang her the day she was arrested - outraged by the response by most Councillors," Leu said. "However, not unexpected. What a gutless mob!"

However, given the way the Cairns Port Authority, with the blind support of the State Government and local politicians has acted towards retaining this old building, it's unlikely they will entertain such an exercise.

When Rusty Market was redeveloped five years ago, two months of digging unearthed many remnants of Chinese workers and various items that dated back to the early settlement of Cairns.

So this whole Yacht Club saga was not a relocation at all. It was destruction and demolition. Not by any other word. Many have lost their faith in the political process through the demolition of the old Yachtie.

So where to from here? The waterfront is the next battle line.

Cairns architect Mark Buttrose says that we need to put pressure on the Premier Anna. "We need to ensure our waterfront becomes an asset to the community and not a liability," he says. Bligh has finally rejected the waterfront scheme opposite Southbank in Brisbane.

The State Government have just announced that they have canned the North Bank Development after spending $5 million and six years pondering about. Deputy Premier Paul Lucas said it had nothing to do with the credit crisis, but it might have a lot to do with developers going belly up everywhere and the State's $50 billion debt.

"The Government always indicated that we wanted people to have a say," Lucas said. What an insult to the people of Cairns. This is the same Government that didn't listen to 11,500 residents. Lucas went on to say that people had a say in almost 2,300 submissions; 93% were against the development. This is supreme political two-facedness, when there was five times more objectors in Cairns.

Even former Mayor Kevin Byrne wants to throw up when he hears of Captain Bligh in a hat hat spouting about all things South East Queensland.

Bligh infamously said that she was "going to govern equally for all Queenslanders" when she took over from Beattie.

We now know this is not the case.


Al said...

"It is my job and the responsibility of government to listen to the will of the people" (Anna Bligh, The Sunday Mail, 19 Oct).

3,000 signatures from a population of about 3 million resident stops $1.7 billion project in Brisbane.
11,000 signatures from a population of 130,000 is totally ignored in Cairns.

When did the will of the people become just a South East thing?

Anonymous said...

It appears that the whole sorry demolition saga and the precious black bean floor getting wet comes down to the responsibility of the lowest common demoninator - the Security Guard who is paid around $16.50 per hour. The CPA says it left a rolled up tarp for the Security Guards to put over the floor and they didn't do it. One would have thought the Security Guard was there to protect the site so the Contractor could carry out his contracted task of preserving the Heritage for transportation. The buck stops at the top of the food chain, not the bottom.

Anonymous said...

Why are we all ignoring the fact that Cairns man, former Mayor of the old Cairns City Council and I believe director of the company to construct the abomination along Wharf Street to Kenny Street, Kevin Byrne, is equally as culpable as anyone in this whole sorry fiasco.
His co-councillor Alan Blake, now councillor for division 5 in the new Cairns Regional Council must also be held responsible for his contribution, right up to when he voted against the new council taking action to attempt to preserve the old building.
Let us hope now that an archeological search will be encouraged and the old building's reconstruction will by suitably overseen.