Sunday 12 October 2008

What Cairns Ports don't want you to see

Last Thursday and Friday, Anton Demolitions, the firm contracted and under instruction from Cairns Ports to demolish the historic Cairns Yacht Club building, had yet another PR disaster to deal with.

As you can see in the photograph, the corrugated iron was removed from the sides of the building and also the Wharf Street frontage. They never knew want the would uncover. Neither did local historians, or local researchers.

If you look closely at the photo above, there's two large black plastic tarps nailed to the front of the old weatherboards exterior. As I will reveal, this was a deliberate act by Cairns Ports to minimise more embarrassment.

When the corrugated iron was peeled away, probably for the first time in 60 years, two stunning historic hand-painted signs were exposed.

The first one reads: "CAIRNS SAILING CLUB", and name the organisation had for some time, before changing to the Cairns Yacht Club in recent years.

Alongside this, another sign was discovered: "AQUATIC DANCE PALAIS"

Two large sheets of black plastic were quickly plastered across the signs, to avoid more attention on the building. It's believed that Cairns Ports boss Neil Quinn himself ordered the cover up, sometime on Thursday. They didn't want an obvious history lesson, glaring right out onto Wharf Street for the passing public and hotel guests of Sofitel and Hilton to see the very real evidence of historic vandalism occurring before their eyes.

Thanks to a breezy Sunday afternoon, I was able to catch these photos to show you what Cairns Ports won't. It's possible that they will destroy this wall completely over the next 48 hours.

The old building was as famous for it's water-based activities as it was for it's regular dances, which were a focal activity of the Cairns social calender for most of the life of the building's existence. Through two world wars and hundreds of balls and weddings, and the evolution of many local bands, the 'Dance Palais' was the social centre of Far North Queensland.

Yet, now it's being paid lip service to, and no one, bar the team from Anton Demolitions are allowed near the building, that is probably harbouring hundreds of secrets behind it's walls and floorboards. Regardless of it's fate, these need to be recorded and catalogued for all time.

James Cook University Professor, Jane Wagner has said that an archaeological dig must occur on the site. "At the very minimum, this site is unique in Cairns and a period is required, if the building is removed," she told ABC's Pat Morrish two months ago.

Meanwhile, a guest staying at the neighbouring Cairns Hilton Hotel emailed me this photo this evening.

It clearly shows that the exposed roof, is now allowing water to pool and seep onto the original Black Bean sprung dance floor.

This is a clear breach of an agreement Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall made when he announcing the building would be moved to James Cook University. "The floor and structure will be preserved for the entire community," he said three weeks ago.

However, it's clear that Cairns Ports removed the roof with a sense of urgency late last week, without protecting or removing the special floor first.

"This is madness," says Bob Rendall, former Commodore of the club, and author of 'At the Aquatic'. "There is a total disregard for this delicate operation. Why are they pulling down this old fragile building in five minutes?" Rendall asks.

Why aren't local researchers and historians involved in this operation? Such disregard, Cairns Ports have got a demolition team to do this work. How mad are they.

This week will be a shameful one for the Government of Queensland. They will be held to account.

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