Tuesday 13 July 2010

What is Kevin Byrne thinking?

Under the last editor of the Cairns Post, Andrew Webster, we hardly were allowed to forget our former mayor Kevin Byrne. However, soon after Lyn Russell, the new CEO for Cairns Regional Council arrived in town, words were exchanged and KB was put out to pasture.

So it seemed. John Macenzie still gives Kevin a hearing, anytime he can fit him in between Mary of Brinsmead and Barry from Residents Against Crime. God help us.

Kevin is angry. He doesn't want the new curltural centre built over his dead body.

Now I've not written much about the new cultural centre planned for the waterfront, as my view is rather simple. It's not a bad idea. It will be a stunning addition to our city, regardless of what "looks" like. Cultural centres aren't a big driver for tourists so much as they are for attracting locals. In that I mean people often choose where the want to live, or retire, based on what facilities are available for enjoyment. A first-class cultural precinct would be a determining factor. If we don't use this waterfront site for the people, then there's no doubt in my mind, that you can expect some more high rise residential towers and the public will have no access to that area.

However, there are many in angry opposition. Most notably is Kevin Byrne.

I can't help but surmise that much of the argument is coming from the anti-Val Schier gang. or more importantly, from those that won't look at the broader long-term view. They're wrapped up in bashing an idea because of where it's come from.

The anti-Schier gang is increasingly losing any credibility, as we enter the second half of Schier's inaugural term. Schier didn't enjoy a honeymoon period after being elected in March 2008. She had a CEO working against her and a weak and ineffectual communications department under the influence of malicious councillors, which included Alan Blake and even the Deputy Mayor, Margaret Cochrane. Bonneau also tried to play a role, but is more cunning that the other two at hiding.

However, the times they are a changing. It wasn't that long ago that the Cairns Post was trying to make Schier into a laughing stock over a ukulele festival when it was first mooted. Egg of their face now. Blake of course has been exposed using the council-supplied mobile for various business over the last ten years. Maybe some sweet justice.

Needless to say, the cultural centre idea has the backing of all local industry and tourism groups, and the State and Federal governments. It will be a reality, but not if Kevin Byrne has his way, when he runs again for the mayoralty in 2012.

Here's a letter he scribed recently, that I'm sure you'll fine interesting reading. Don't tell him I've got a copy.

  • From: Kevin Byrne
    Sent: Wednesday, 9 June 2010 10:20 PM
    To: Editor, The Cairns Post

    Dear Sir,

    I have not had the pleasure of meeting you and may I extend to you a welcome to Cairns.
    I write to you expressing my concern that you have without blinking just followed the editorial line adopted by your predecessor of blindly supporting an untested and flawed project without the slightest scrutiny. It is well known around the city that the project has the enthusiastic support of the Manager of the Cairns Post but I was hoping that your appointment might have ushered in a new era of some decent scrutiny at the Cairns Post before rushing off to print.

    The Cairns Post occupies a privileged and powerful position in this city and is of concern not only to me but also others that your paper is quoting overwhelming support for this project when this is unproven, untested and frankly wrong. There has been no public scrutiny of any detail and certainly no community consultation canvassing the pros and cons. A cursory look at your web page will give you some idea of the depth of feeling in this community about this project.

    The front page of your paper yesterday was the very worst example of misrepresentation and spin. All that was certain is the government has allocated a little over $2M for the design of this facility. The land is nowhere near the valuation the government has placed on it and in any event is port leasehold land and to my knowledge not freehold. That article was a beat up and only served to give the community an unrealistic view of the present circumstance. The announcement of the land transfer was made in September last year.

    There is a long long way to go even if the proponents eventually have their way. To suggest that a start is imminent is wrong.

    Your paper should be asking some hard questions of the Chamber of Commerce, Advance Cairns, State Parliamentarians and the Council about some real issues that will impact on economic diversification. Where are these people in the wake of recent decision re cape Alumina, the failure of our community leaders to support Noel Pearson and the indigenous communities in their fight for a fair go in the Cape, the failure to support the AIMTEK bid to sub contact to the navy frigate building programs, the failure to secure some lasting agreement about air navigation charges affecting our airport and destination competitiveness, the disparity of capital expenditure between Cairns and Townsville occurring year after year at the State level and recently at the Federal level and the list goes on. This community is screaming out for better sporting facilities, better local road infrastructure and the Council has a huge bill in front of it in relation to upgrading it's sewerage treatment works ($140M) and other infrastructure that is partly completed and needs to be completed like the upgrade of the Botanical Gardens precinct.

    Whilst I acknowledge that the city needs a new performing arts precinct this is an extravagance we simply cannot afford.

    This is a small city with a limited capacity to pay and we need to temper our expectations accordingly. This project does not enjoy popular support in the wider community as you suggest. You have no evidence of this. In fact it is quickly becoming loathed as it is being rightly conceived as being imposed on the community by a political imperative rather than Council policy and supported without question by the Cairns Post. This is an abuse of your power as the only community daily. The project was created out of thin air with very little thought and was not even discussed on the floor of Council before it was trumpeted as a fait accompli.

    The community is rightly resentful at the way the Cairns Post is forcing the issue on it. This resentment is now widespread as is the loathing being expressed about those others who are imposing this project on this community without debate.
    There will be a lot more said on this issue in the months ahead and unfortunately it is not going to be pretty.

    The whole issue has been very clumsily handled and this community has been mugged.

    Kevin Byrne


Thaddeus said...

It's as obvious as the wig on wigboy's head...Byrne is campaigning to get his bum back in his old seat now that his Pakistani based "Capital Globe" has gone bellyup. It's his right, in a free country, however I detect a hint of malice in his communication with the Editor of "The Cairns Post."
Thanks to Mike for publishing this.
It provides us all with some rare insight into the issues the local media have to deal with. I, for one, won't be so harsh on the ole "Cairns Post" from now on.

Oliver Redlynch said...

I don't know who I'm more worried about getting into power: Abbott cancelling the National Broadband Network (and effectively killing any chance of a high tech industry in Cairns) or Bryne getting back in and concreting over all the remaining hillsides his developer friends hadn't got around to last time.

Tony Hillier said...

Who gives a stuff what Byrne thinks. He's yesterday's man!

Ardstarter said...

I agree with you Tony but one must consider Pemulwuy's suggestion for Byrne also, if not just for the added insurance.

CBD Warrior said...

Byrne has been unhappy and ineffective as a "company director", because like many politicians he doesn't play well with others. He thinks he's in the military still and gives orders instead of consulting openly. He's a sad old shell of a man with only a long slow decline into oblivion.

Destiny said...

I really think people should be more respectful of the previous, in fact, twice previous Mayor. Just as Australian homes in years gone by kept a portrait of the Queen on their walls, I have laminated pics of the former Mayor. One, I keep in the garden - it scares the toads away - and the other I keep handy in case I ever suffer constipation.

Al said...

What a sad sad old has-been. We all know it, he apparently doesn't.

KB :-) said...

Hey.., maybe Kevin has a point... Val like her left wing counter parts, that we have the displeasure of representing us at all current levels of government seem to think that they can do as they please with out the communtity approval or consultation... did I mention JG :-! at least when kevin was mayor he was actively involved in the community and was innovative in developing the future of this city and looking forward... Our current mayor seems intent on bringing us back to a small country town.... WAKE UP Cairns... we have one of the highest unemployment stats in the whole country... SME's which are the backbone of this community are being screwed over at all levels. We need someone with REAL vision that can drive us through this... we need REAL representation at all levels of government.. what we don't need is another waste of hard earned taxayers/ratepayers money... that we will spend years regretting not to mention paying off when it runs over time... over budget like all labor projects tend to do... :-(

Thaddeus said...

Everyone has a right to a "comeback" whether he's a muso, a political animal or a fat old fool posting here who is trying to wheedle, whine, and crawl his way back to his first wife.
We're all entitled to a second time if the relevant parties allow us.

Monty said...

Thanks for the comedy KB:-), I thought for a second I was listening to Rugnut's Radio Show.

Cairns Resident said...

Surprised nothing has been said about the proposed alternative designs mooted by the Cairns Post.

I'm no architect but, comapred with the uninspiring boxes presented by a couple of local building desingers the volanco looks like a real winner for me.

I am all for having a local Architect design the centre as it would be great to see this project comissioned to some of our great local architectural talent as opposed to the southern based Cox Rayners, Architectus's of the world.

I sincerely hope the council realises what good talent we have in our Architectural ranks locally and persues this course as opposed to sending our hard earned elsewhere. Though maybe raise the bar higher than local building designers.

I'm not an architect by the way!

Tony Hillier said...

As Council has consistently articulated, the "Valcano" is NOT set in concrete. I agree with "Cairns Resident", all well and good if a local architect can come up with a better design. There's too many bad examples of southern architects imposing inappropriate designs on our tropical vistas. Any design should involve plenty of trees and greenery.

Jan from Kewarra said...

Re KBs comments said,

You must have been hiding under a rock in a dark dark cave between 2004-2008.

"he was actively involved in the community and was innovative in developing the future of this city and looking forward."

If this statement were true, then Val would not have won on the Northern Beaches electorate, and he would not have felt the need to storm out of a community meeting that he deigned to be a "set up", just because there was an uproar from residents when his then protege Unity team member praised Sno Bonneau!!.

He is not consultative nor empathetic or interested in any resident's opinion, should it differ from his own arrogant, egotistical viewpoint.

No thanks, Been There, Done that!

Tony Hillier said...

What is more, fellow blog posteriors, our late despot of a mayor was nary a true supporter of arts & culture in the region, even though his place on the Regional Art Gallery Board might suggest otherwise. He was very rarely spotted at exhibition openings, concerts or other cultural events, unless he was designated to speak, and even then he invariably beat a hasty exit stage left, mobile pressed to ear, making a beeline for his favourite watering hole (Villa Romana).

Val Schier, by contrast, is an inveterate and enthusiastic supporter of arts & culture in the region who attends as many events as she can. That was the case long before she decided to throw her hat into the mayoral ring. Methinks Yesterday's Man is pissed off 'cos his preferred site for the cultural centre — next to what will become residential tower blocks on the vacant block next to the Court House in Sheridan St — has been well and truly bypassed.

Al said...

As for the building's design, I'm old enough to remember the brouhaha over the Sydney Opera House - cost and design. It is now the signature building of Sydney.
Now, if only we could do something like that.

Syd Walker said...

I'd like something adventurous, designed for sustainable living, constructed largely out of the wonderful local marble.

That's what the ancient Greeks did. Find a good marble quarry and build to last.

Also, if it does end up under water, it would make a fine 22nd century aquarium.

Jude Johnston said...

I agree with you Jan, and how short memories are. When the Byrne Council were in, meetings were held at 1730 on a Thursday, they were over by 1815 at the very latest. The unsuspecting public had no idea of what was going to be on the Agenda until the morning of the meeting. No chance to put in a submission or email councillors. Open and transparent, consultation with the public, ROTFL. Projects supported by the KB Council, were moved, seconded and passed in a blink of an eye, and under this regime the "community were mugged".

nocturnal congress said...

Oh how quickly people forget!

The Headless Horseman said...

Kevin Byrne is almost a tragic figure. It's been two-and-a-half years and he still hasn't got over the fact he lost the last election. Anything Val tries to achieve for Cairns, you can count on Kevin Byrne, Dennis Quick and all the backroom boys in their clique are ready to knock it down.
I agreee with Mike that the former CEO, some senior staff loyal to Byrne and the LNP hardliners (who are destroying their own party locally) ensured Val didn't enjoy a honeymoon period as Mayor. She was under attack from the very start. Val was even attacked for a proposal for a Ukulele Festival - an event that has come to pass and was a monumental success with hundrds of people coming to Cairns for a friendly and heart-warming musical extravaganza.
The reason Val succeeds is that she is always positive and approachable even when under vicious attack. The cash-for-comment scandal, the notorious secret plot by Blake, Hull, the former CEO whose name I forget, Cochrane and Bonneau, blew up in their faces.
The Cultural Precinct will be an economic and social bonanza for Cairns. Since when has Byrne opposed economic development? He's the bloke who destroyed our CBD with rotten development like Trilogy and Harbour Lights. Yet here we have a wonderful proposal for a cultural precinct to add value to our town.
I conclude his opposition is based on one thing only - his immature hatred for Val Schier.
Sorry, Kevin, I share Val's dream of a better Cairns for all. Many others share this view - and we vote.

David Anthony said...

I agree with Tony Hillier. Trees and greenery will perfectly represent our city's place in the tropical paradise of the far north.
I would go on to suggest the building design reflect something of the old worlde grandeur of Cairns. A stylistic flourish of the Barbary Coast as part of an overall modern design.
And something else from left field. I reckon something in the precinct - the theatre, a restaurant, the plaza or whatever - should be named "Sirocco" as a tribute to Errol Flynn - a man of adventure and of the arts. The kind of person who has passed this way since our city's early days. "Sirocco" is an exotic whirlwind of name synonymous with adventure and derring-do and the daring.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Dave Anthony who got the contract for demolishing the Cairns Yacht Club ???

Alison Alloway said...

David, naming something "Sirocco" after Errol Flynn is brilliant. Don't forget Errol's son, Sean also passed this way too. Sean was good mates with Martin Stuart-Fox, the son of the then Anglican Minister of Cairns. Both Sean and Martin were journos in Vietnam. Sean went onto Cambodia where he was killed. Perhaps a bar could be called the "The Flynn" after both father and son, or as a tribute to the journalists who risked their lives to cover the Vietnam conflict??

David Anthony said...

Good point, Alison. My distant cousin Sean deserves to mentioned too. Perhaps a theatre or a restaurant could be called the Sirocco and a bar called Flynn's.
By the way, Errol would have drunk at the Cairns Yacht Club for sure - and probably kicked as well. What a shame we lost that great CBD landmark.

The Headless Horseman said...

That's an uncharitable comment to make about David Anthony, Nick. I know David to be an upstanding member of the community and he would have done everything he could to have stopped the barbarians from further ruining the CBD. It is probably true that he demolished a few pints there though.