Friday 12 November 2010

Cairns Cultural Precinct land-owner slams opponents

The Chief Executive Officer of Ports North has put out a stinging attack directed at those that have questioned alternative sites for the planned Cairns Cultural Precinct, including councillors and the former CEO, calling them ill-informed.

Most notable objectors to the use of waterfront land, is former Ports CEO Bob Manning, and Cairns Regional Councillor, Alan Blake, who has led a campaign against using the waterfront site.

However, Ports North CEO Chris Boland says that given the continued community debate surrounding the Cairns Regional Council’s planned cultural precinct, and its location on Ports North land, he should set the record straight.

Boland says that Ports North, as the Planning Authority, Land Owner and Lessor, has put in a considerable amount of work with the Council to ensure the proposed precinct and design is compatible with the Cityport Masterplan.

"Ports North has in place Plans that will allow for doubling of the general cargo wharves in future years if necessary and there is space for the expansions of the Port’s traditional cargo operations as business opportunities arise," Chris Boland says. "The criteria for assessing any land development adjacent to critical Port facilities are that it must be consistent with the Cityport Masterplan and the Seaport Strategic Plan; must not interfere with the Port’s ongoing operations; must not restrict or prevent the Port’s future expansion and Port operations."

Boland also says that it must provide an appropriate commercial return to the Port to enable the ongoing development and operations of the Port’s maritime infrastructure.

"The Cultural Precinct, if designed right, will satisfy all four of these criteria," Boland says. "It is unfortunate that despite detailed personal briefings on Port operations and plans to numerous organisations and individuals, including to the former CEO, that the debate continues to be ill-informed."

Chris Boland says the site that is set aside for the cultural precinct, is a transitional zone. Port documents show that in 1994, the Cairns Port Authority identified and recommended that the precise site for the proposed Cultural Precinct be cleared of the molasses tanks as they were incompatible with the new Convention Centre. These documents show that the location in dispute today was identified in 1994 as a landscaped buffer zone.

"It is unfortunate that Bob Manning, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Port, has sought to incorrectly claim this is not the case. It is important to set the record straight in this regard," Chris Boland says.

A Heads of Agreement between the Queensland Government and the Cairns Port Authority was signed in 1994 to facilitate the construction of the Cairns Convention Centre, which has specific clauses related to the molasses tank removal, that committed the Queensland Government and the Cairns Port Authority to $2.1M relocation costs. This same agreement also specifically identifies the area east of Wharf Street, extending from approximately Wharf 4 to the General Cargo access road, as a landscaped buffer zone. This is the location of the proposed Cultural Precinct.

"Notably, Mr Manning, as the then CEO of the Cairns Port Authority, recommended and signed the Heads of Agreement which included the following clause," Chris Boland says. "Critically, the proposed Cultural Precinct is setback from the load restricted heritage-listed wharves to enable them to be continued to be used for Port activities."

Boland says that the cultural precinct must be designed so that it acts as a physical and sound barrier between the city and wharves 7 and 8, and that wharves 4 and 5 must remain available for cruise, ship servicing and the occasional coastal trade operations.

"You can be assured that Ports North’s commitment to ensuring the future operation and expansion of the Port is central to use of this site as a Cultural Precinct," Boland said. "In this regard, Ports North entered into a Heads of Agreement with the Cairns Regional Council in November 2008, with regards to the establishment of a Cultural Precinct on a waterfront site."

Boland says that Ports North, following a Council requested feasibility study, has agreed to enter into a lease, subject to compliance with a number of critical conditions.

What makes Councillor Alan Blake's vehement objection and his campaign against the cultural centre being built on land, is astonishing.

He has pushed to locate the cultural building on the land where the current Ports North office is located, across the road from the convention centre.

Blake's contradictory campaign, appears more to be a plan to simply have an apposing view to the mayor, but it falls down in detail and accuracy of recent history.
The full Council agreed some time ago, to consult with the public over 18 months. Councillor Blake supported, along with all other Councillors, stating that they "believe that the waterfront site is ideal and does not impede future port development and maritime activities."

It is about time that the Council show some solidarity and stand behind their decision to uphold their own agreements. Such disruptions simply present some as dysfunctional leaders that are hell-bent of personal politicking instead of agreed outcomes for the whole community.


Bryan Outlaw said...

As noted by the Hillbilly blogger, there is some real funny business going on concerning the cultural precinct project. Its more than just hating Val, who's increasingly steady. When guys like Bob Manning trash their reputations knowing full well they're just lying thru their teeth, you know big money is pulling the strings. Manning should hang his head in shame.

Steve Brech said...

It seems the failings of the old Cairns Port Authority over the past decades and now "Ports North" are catching up with the powers that be.

The cultural precinct is a political hand grenade. It will be tossed backwards and forwards and used in the future by those who haven't had the political courage or the will to once and for all display to the people of Cairns just what Cairns is here for.

It would be interesting if "Ports North" could publicly answer just a few of these questions. What would the environmental impact be on the coastline and the fragile ecological system surrounding Trinity Bay if it were dredged? Why does Cairns not have 'Ro Ro' facilities? or even the capacity to load and unload containers?

This is a fight business leaders have been waging with themselves, underground, for decades. Now, with the cultural precinct bringing debate out in the open, it seems a bit strange and slightly fishy for the umming and arhhing to be coming from them at this late stage.

Val seems the most steadfast and unwavering in her support for the cultral centre and the planned 16+ storey hotel / residential tower opposite the convention centre (thank you Mr Byrne). If they can indeed provide a buffer zone to the loading and unloading of millions of tons of cement. Val and others better hope it suits International Purveyors. Let's pray they don't take their business back to Darwin.

If it is the short sighted and fearful business interests who kill the golden goose of the cultural precinct. Let's hope for the sake of thousands of workers in Cairns, they can give birth to an equally endowed item of poultry, a working serviceable port (although I personally, would be happy with the status quo,) for the sake of thousands of Cairns workers and their families who rely on mining interests here and overseas most of whom either directly or indirectly support the service and retail jobs that come from the mining sector.

I wouldn't worry too much about local politicians who don't know whether to be against something or oppose it. In the end they follow the biggest pot of money or whom ever has their hand on it.

Or, is there a way to adapt here in the far North that actually requires unpalatable decisions to be made, real sustainable planning to occur and doesn't end up with ex-Labor and ex-Liberal politicians leading our business community down the business as usual path with no thought to the consequences for our future?

Alison Alloway said...

I agree something is suspicious....

Martin said...
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