Monday 3 May 2010

Who's to blame for closing Sugarworld waterslides park?

A tired and worn sign on the access road to Cairns Regional Council-owned beleaguered Sugarworld waterslide park, seems to accurately symbolise the state of the popular, yet neglected facility.

Cairns printing company manager Raj Patel, who set up a Facebook group to rally support follow the closure of Sugarworld waterpark in the southern suburb of Edmonton, has questioned the reasons behind the Council's sudden action.

Acting Mayor Margaret Cochrane and Division 2 Councillor Nancy Lanskey announced the shock closure 9am on Friday 23rd April.

More than 9,600 members have now signed up on the Facebook group, however it appears that Council as governing landlord over the property and popular facility, has been negligent in regular strategic maintenance, according to Raj Patel.

Serious concerns with the structural integrity of the slides, which are now over 20 years old, lead to the sudden closure. Sugarworld opened in 1989, and has entertained thousands of locals. It was purchased in 1995 by the then Cairns City Council.

Managers and lessees, Jesse and Ersilia Phipps have expressed their anger that no prior notice was given.

DOWN AND OUT: Local resident Meg Male is disappointed about Sugarworld's closure.

Last Wednesday, local Councillor Nancy Lanskey moved that Council supports the re-opening of Sugarworld and "workshops options as a matter of urgency."

"The closure has hit the local community hard," Nancy Lanskey says. "An operational decision to immediately shut down the facility was made owing to concerns in relation to the slides' structural integrity."

"We need to let the Cairns Regional Council know that Sugarworld is a very important part of family life in Cairns and the Far North," Raj Patel says. "They must put it at their highest priority to repair the faults and re-open it."

Patel believes Cairns Council have a substandard asset management system in place.

"It needs to be looked at, as Councils are mandated to do so, but this council appears to have no clear asset management policy," Raj Patel says. "The figure to fix it is about $4 million which I don’t know how they are going to fund considering the money they are allocating to the cultural precinct over $10 million."
The lessee has said that a structural report done four years ago, identified problems that needed attention, and nothing was done by Council at the time. The March 2010 engineering report highlighted the same problems. The whole thing is the incompetence of reacting to and implementing known problems.

Patel is also very critical of the Cairns Post's blind support for the new cultural precinct.

"I have finally understood how important CairnsBlog is, considering the propaganda the Post is running on the new [cultural precinct] centre. It is even better then what Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine would have run. For the Cairns Post to ask for new designs for the cultural precinct is laughable. They should have thought of it before presenting the volcano idea. They really should keep quite about the precinct till Sugarworld is fixed," Raj Patel says.

Raj Patel also believes that the Mayor should target her deputy, Margaret Cochrane for Sugarworld's sudden closure. "If Val is smart she should blame Cochrane for the whole mess. She heads the committee in charge of Sugarworld," Patel says.

Raj Patel has a valid point. Such infrastructure, owned by Council, should have undergone regular maintenance audit, and repairs or replacement, should have occurred. It's inexcusable that the Council should not have been alerted to potential dangers, to avoid such a closure.

Sugarworld's lessees, Jesse and Ersilia Phipps are also angry about how the closure came about last week. Last week they wrote to CEO Lyn Russell asking for immediate intervention.

"We wish to express our concern at the recent immediate closure of the waterpark. As long-term lessees, we were shocked at the news, and disappointed that no prior notice was given," Jesse and Ersilia Phipps said.

"We have a minimum of seven staff from May till July, and up to as many as 15 in the Summer time – September till April. These people are now unemployed."

The Phipps' say that Sugarworld Waterpark is a huge regional and domestic attraction, bringing people from all over Australia during the school holidays.

"It's on the list of things to do in Cairns, and it is not uncommon to see people from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Alice Springs here," Jesse Phipps says. "These people regularly comment on what a great day they have had, and how lucky Cairns is to have such a facility, and that it is affordable and family friendly."

"Many people came as kids, and now bring their own children," Jesse Phipps says. "There are countless community, Indigenous, youth, vacation care, and sporting groups, along with about
90% of schools in Far North Queensland, who have visited Sugarworld at least once a year. This includes the School of Distance Education (School of the Air) which have a yearly booking, and many from remote destinations to meet at Sugarworld."

"All levels of government should see how necessary it is for Sugarworld to get allocated funding, and to be operational, as soon as possible," Jesse and Ersilia Phipps say.

They say that Sugarworld contributes to the local economy, and at a time when unemployment levels are at their highest, have questioned the closure.

"Do you think it would be wise to close such a facility? The impact of not having Sugarworld will be felt throughout the community. Shopping centres, and accommodation will all be affected by this," Ersilia Phipps says.
  • Sugarworld attendance figures:-
    2007 - 69,047
    2008 - 70,310
    2009 - 67,527
    2010 - 19,450 (to March)

These figures indicate paying people, and school groups and night functions, free entry is granted for parents/children or supervisors who are not using the waterslides. In addition, many people choose to use the parkland, which is free. Visitor numbers peak from September to April.

"The waterslides are so popular, some claim that getting a picnic spot on the grass at Sugarworld is a bit like visiting Bondi Beach and finding a towel space in the middle of summer," Councillor Nansky Lansky.

"When our tourism-dependent economy is in a deep trough and unemployment levels in our region are the highest in Australia, it makes complete sense to renew such an iconic asset with an established history of accruing significant widespread social and economic benefits to the region. We cannot afford to lose Sugarworld," Nancy Lanskey says.

Mulgrave Labor MP Curtis Pitt congratulated the Cairns Regional Council for passing a
motion to give in-principle support to the reopening. He says the waterslides are a valuable community asset for residents in the southern suburbs that attract tens of thousands of families each year.

“The south side of Cairns has a rapidly growing population and it is important to have quality
recreational facilities that are affordable and within easy reach for families,” Curtis Pitt says. “I look forward to the outcome of the workshop that will look at the cost of repair or replacement of the slides.”

“I grew up going to Sugarworld with school trips and on weekends. My favourite slide was always the Banana Bender.

Jim Turnour's second cousin, Andrew Turnour who is the Labour candidate for Kennedy against incumbent Bob Katter, has also joined the cause.

"Sugarworld must be preserved as a tropical joy of being in North Queensland," Andrew Turnour said. "This is a vital community asset, that like my family and many friends enjoy from a distant Ingham and other parts of FNQ. I support this and will investigate a means to retain such a valuable community treasure functioning for the Edmonton community for many years to come."

Questions to Paul Freebody, who is planning a controversial waterpark in the flood-prone Barron River delta, that is subject to a legal appeal, has not commented about Sugarworld's closure.


labor sucks and crc said...

I Know where sugarworld is you local non doing non helping sellout members is .
It is next to the super clinic promised eons ago .
Oh no it is not it is just a piece of vacant dirt.
cr kranskey and parachute pitt should get off their arse and do something ,you are bloody hopeless representatives, you to need to get the arse!
sugarworld should be top priority.
We should withhold our rates until it is fixed .
I drive past every day it is packed with kids that don,t have a pool and families having kids parties.
So you useless lot do something you duds.

Jamie G said...

There's an online Sugarworld petition here.

Jude Johnston said...

Firstly, One has to wonder why routine maintenance has not been done, and if it has, why has this only been picked up now?
Secondly, Is there some tie up between this sudden demise of Sugarworld and the new waterpark on the South side going through its state and council planning issues?
Thirdly, why has Councillor Cochrane who has been so supportive of Paul Freebody's water park not swumg into action on this one?

Margaret Cochrane's Big Toe said...

why shouldn't we be surprised that Margaret Cochrane run the sport and rec committee that looks after Sugarworld and also was the most vocla advocate for Freebody waterpark that will NEVER HAPPEN - yet all the way along during that debate - she - who would probably get stuck working out what maintaince needs to be done, like if she was sliding through the Banana Bender waterslipe!

Cochrane - you've been exposed for what you are - again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CBD Warrior said...

Once again, the blog "search for the guilty" misses the point entirely. Given how shitty things are built in this town, we should be asking who built this thing. Like the big ass composter that hasn't run in months, the builders of Sugarworld are likely to have been Hedley, or CEC, or CMC, or one of the other government "mates" companies. This is the kind of shit you get when government's shovel money at projects.

And word is Freebody is shuttering his "office" at Trilogy, as Freebody's Waterworld sinks slowly into the rest of Cairns over-promoted and unfulfilled projects.

Quien Sabe said...

According to:

Sugarworld has been around since 1989, far longer that those "fly by nighters" Hedleys, CMC (who are no more) and CEC....

That the place "was" still operating after 21 years, seemingly without the necessary repair and maintenance schedule by it's owners...."our Council",... is testimony to the orignal design and construction, and a damning condemnation of those entrusted with it's upkeep.

The Essence of Good Taste said...

The slides were locally designed and constructed as the original WaterWorks in Lake Street and moved to Edmonton in 1989. I understand they were an original design patented by Rogers Fibreglass here in Cairns and manufactured for several waterslide parks besides Cairns. I think they have stood up to about 30 years of water, sun humidity and humans very well and we should be proud of local ingenuity.

Miss Chief said...

Oh well, Sugarworld is in the 'southern suburb' of Edmonton - what do you expect? Anything south of Forest Gardens is outside the holy pale of the misnamed Cairns Regional Council.
Gordonvale is trying hard to retain it's identity and breath new life into the place but 'we the people' who live here have to go it practically alone! Council doesn't give a rat's rear end if kids from White Rock down have nowhere to go. I guess Edmonton kids are suffering the same fate...not to mention the other families and schools who have outings at Sugarworld. Shame on the Council yet again

Fi Fi said...

As soon as I heard this story I was immediately suspicious of CRC's motives.

Closed for maintenance, eh?

Yeah Right!

Johhny A on the northern beaches said...

and let's not blame the Counciul employees (workers) it's the leaders.. the team or department managers and of course the incompetent Cocrgrane and southern Councillors that have over seen that property over the last 5 years. THEY are the ones to blame.

These things don't happen overnight.

The quicker Cochrane gets the boot - the beeter for us all.... I mean., would you put her in charge of your own finances??? and the fact that she's so close and chummy with that wanker Freebody - is or serious concern.

Raj PATEL said...

HI All


Chris of Manunda said...

This I believe.

Chalk up another victory for the insurance companies.
Like many other fun places the councils insurers say to the council...."government regulation says you must have insurance if you are going to run a council"
That's ok with us but we don't want to have to pay out on injuries especially public's just too expensive.
So here's what we do.
You give us a bag of public money as premiums and we'll insure you.
Council says "great" here it much as you want.
Insuranceman, who is really a bookmaker taking a bet, says ok but first you have to remove whatever we see as a risk that might lead to claims for payout by the get rid of that "nasty OLD sugarworld thing"
Council says ok, done deal...nice doing business with you.
Insuranceman says "bye the way, when that nice councilman gets his "Waterworld" thing going have him drop is for a 'nice' quote for his insurance.
Done deal.
Surely people notice the fun dissappearing out of council parks and garden areas where we played as kids...and got hurt...and learned to be careful.
Insurance is the first and foremost form of gambling and no gambler wants to lose a bet.

Raj Patel said...

This morning at 8am I received a phone call from Cr Nancy Lansky who received an email late last night informing that despite the Council's majority resolve to give in-principle support to Sugarworld being re-opened, those opposed are making a serious push to keep it closed & not go ahead with the repair or replacement that is estimated to cost millions.

If the community doesnt' make a hard & serious push of support then we may see the slides closed for good.



Tomorrow at 8am (Thursday) the new Sugarworld Coles Supermarket is being opened & the media will be there at 8am.

Join me in a peaceful family demonstration outside the complex to SAVE SUGARWORLD. Please be there by 7.45am. Bring banners, bring the kids before school & we'll show the Cairns Regional Council just how much Sugarworld means to our Community.

Again, tell everyone you know.
If you are serious about keeping the waterpark open I'll see you there by 7.45am Thursday morning.

colin riddell said...

How can any council structure get to the point where it is closed immediately for safety , someone has to be sacked over this .
Start with the maintenance committee.
This is beyond belief there were no interim safety reports published!

Brett Andrews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.