Thursday 18 November 2010

First cultural planning meeting turns into circus

The first public meeting of Cairns Regional Council's new standing committee for the Cultural Precinct, turned into a sham yesterday.

The proposed Cairns Cultural Precinct, that now has State and Federal backing, along with the support of the State Land owner, Ports North, has caused a storm in recent months, even though Council unanimously decided to back the project, the planned waterfront site, and engage the community in extensive consultation of an 18 month period.

The conservative lobby of Councillors Bonneau, Blake, Gregory and Cochrane, attempted to hijack the proceedings at the inaugural standing meeting. They decided that they would not even vote to "note" the report from the Project Control Group, which caused a rebuke from the Mayor.

"I suggested that they could pretend that they hadn't read it and ignore the hour long discussion we'd just had," Mayor Val Schier told CairnsBlog.

It appears now that such behaviour is simply showing these councillors up as grandstanding and trouble-makers, in light of the prior decision where the Council voted unanimously to support the project at the waterfront site.

The councillors stacked the meeting with dissenters including Martin Tenni who heckled from the back. Notably, the predicable anti-Val team of Robin and Niki Johnston, was there of course. A few supporters, such as Maurice Milliner of the Yorkeys Knob Residents' Association, valiantly applauded during the politically-charged two and a half hour meeting.

One of the agenda items gave the extensive history of consultation and feasibility studies over the past 16 years, yet this was largely ignored by those in opposition to the cultural precinct project.

The mood of the opposing councillors at the meeting was adversarial. Someone in the public gallery went so far to suggest that Cairns Regional Council should return the $40 million back to the Federal Government. Such an idea could be seen nothing more than a sick joke in the current unemployment situation that the region is still experiencing.

Councillor Di Forsyth says she was shocked by the "disrespectful, and at times, belligerent behaviour" of some of the people in the public gallery. She wondered what was their agenda.
"I felt sorry for the people in the gallery who were there because they genuinely wanted to find out more about the Cultural Precinct and were interested in hearing how the project was developing," Di Forsyth told CairnsBlog. "My concern also was for Council staff who have put in so much time and effort over a very long period of time to ensure Cairns has the best possible performing arts centre and museum, for now and 50 years into the future."
The mid-afternoon meeting time also was questioned for restricting interested residents attending.

"Some suggested to me that more people who genuinely want to participate in the planning process, to make this an exciting world class facility, would attend if we had the meetings at a later time," Di Forsth said.

Forsyth says the project is worth fighting for, as it's a significant and a very important development for the community of Cairns.

"Who remembers the criticism of Tom Pyne and his council when they agreed to build new Council Chambers in Spence Street? They then called is Tom's white elephant," Forsyth said. "And let's not forget the lagoon and Esplanade developments. I would like to personally thank Tom and his Council for having the guts and foresight to stand firm and overcome the negative and often unfounded criticisms, and thus leaving a legacy that we can feel proud of. The Esplanade is now much loved by locals and tourists alike."

Councillor Robert Pyne was more direct in his criticism.

"If Council can not deliver these much needed projects, due to such dysfunctional behaviour – the Minister should seriously considering dismissing the whole Council and appointing an Administrator," Rod Pyne said. "That may be her only alternative."

At yesterday's meeting, Councillor Gregory again backed the idea for a different site, something Councillor Blake has been leading the campaign for, yet in contradiction, both voted to support the project and the waterfront location in a previous Council meeting.

The Cairns Ports North chief has also come out in support of Council's intention to utilise the waterfront site.

The Cairns Cultural Precinct has been planned, talked about and discussed around the Council table, for over 16 years. It is hoped that we can get on with building the Performing Arts Centre - the first stage of the precinct - on the waterfront land gifted to Council by the State Government, in the next year. We should be taking advantage of the $40 million dollars promised by both Federal and State Governments, and create a facility that we will all be proud of, and at the same time, creating jobs for hundreds of people.

These continual obstructions have nothing to do with good decision making, and more about narrow-minded political games.


Leigh Dall'Osto said...

It will be a real shame if the project is derailed by Councillors who aren't brave enough to make a decision on something that this city is desperately in need of. There will possibly only be one chance to do this and I hope that they don't let the chance pass us by!!

Colin Riddell said...

I went along yesterday and it was noted the only supporters were val s gang of laborites on council.
There were three people in the gallery there in support .
I was not there as part of a group , just a ratepayer.
And it is clear no one has any more money to pay out in these hard times.
The ones for this project need to be the ones that pay for it , traders ,user groups and the ones sucking up to val and her labor mates .
Rob pyne was a shock.
Or the bloody labor government Not the ratepayers .

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Germaine. Kevin Byrne is waiting in the wings. He more or less let the cat out of the bag today on the McKenzie show.

So we'll have a new council under Byrne with the likes of Blake,Freebody, Cochrane and Martin Tenni. The we can move right back to the Bjelke Pedersen area.

It is a terrible pity that the current council is so dysfunctional.

Charlie said...

The so called leaders of our City are just just a mindless rabble. We, the people of Cairns have been given the land for the Cutural Precint by the State Government. We have been promised $100m by the State Government and $40m by the Federal for the Cutural Centre and here at our "leaders" about to throught it all back in the face of the Governments who have promised the money. The Councillors have all got their eyes on the next Council election and each is trying to ensure that they will get re-elected. Some of these Councillors even think they are Mayoral material. My advice to them is they won't get elected and especially those who are thinking of running for Mayor - none of you have a ghosts chance in hell and you won't even be re-elected. Get over it. We need this project to go ahead with a spend of $240k. Cairns needs this project to create jobs and confidence for this City. Lets see some leadership from Council and those who think they know what is best when all they are doing is ensuring the project dies and the City dies with it.

Geoff Holland, Machans Beach said...

Can't Afford Cultural Precinct?
Some ratepayers are complaining about paying $33m for the Cultural Precinct.

By my calculations it is about $20 per ratepayer per year for 20 years. Big deal. We need a new theatre anyway, and Mayor Val Schier has done well to secure $160m dollars from State and Federal government (equivalent to a $2000 gift for every ratepayer!). I don't remember the former Mayor Kevin Byrne ever attracting so much State and Federal investment for Cairns.

Anyway, this will more than be offset by increased revenue the CRC will gain from economic growth as a result of the Cultural Precinct. This extra revenue will reduce the need for rate rises in the future.

It has backing from the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Advance Cairns, and Tourism Tropical North Queensland amongst other business groups.

Think of what the Opera House has done for Sydney. It is the flagship icon of Australia. Have you heard of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain? Think of the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. We cannot compete with them of course, but we can still do something exceptional.

Personally I am not sure about "the volcano". Is it bold or too simplistic and kitsch like the Big Banana in Coffs or the Big Pineapple in Nambour? But this is just one preliminary option. We will have four independent designs to choose from, and if none of them suit the bill we can send them back to the drawing board.

Investing in Cultural Values and Assets helps to empower the community over time - less junk food, less obesity, less crime (assault, sexual offences, robberies), less alcohol and drug abuse, better ways to manage stress, less suicide, less personal debt, better entrepreneurs and higher employment, better design and better urban-natural environment. Any sociologist will tell you that.

Townsville is investing in a Casino Precinct (higher levels of crime, suicide, personal debt, child neglect). Cairns is investing in a Cultural Precinct. Let's revisit the respective quality-of-life indicators 20 years from now.

I think JCU, TAFE and U3A should be involved in the Cultural Precinct (not to mention the many arts groups in our community), and classes and short courses could be available and tailored for busy people with jobs and families, as well as for young people and retirees, as a form of relaxation and recreation. Affordable restaurants and cafes are necessary, as well as green areas to simply relax. Street theatre and spontaneous performing arts can be encouraged. It must not be exclusively for the privileged.

Cairns was built not by stingy whingers hoping to save $20, but by people of vision investing in the future.

Leigh Dall'Osto said...

It has been noted, and quite sensibly too, that the probable reason for not having many supporters at the meeting yesterday was simply due to the time it was held.

2p.m is not a good time for the employed or for parents picking up school kids at 3. It's been acknowledged that it was an error in judgement and the next meeting will be held at a more appropriate time.

Bring it on.

yk said...

The only person talking any sense at all about this project is Margaret Cochrane.

Oliver Deadlynch said...

Margaret is grandstanding to the public as she always does, taking any opportunity to undermine the left wing on the council - it is no secret she is running for mayor being groomed by the right wing and in the media, though how she'll respond to learning that Kevin is now likely to also stand will be worth hearing.

We've seen these tactics before from Margaret, last minute amendments trying to curry favour with the public (Water Park), keeping quiet during meetings and then going public to the press (Couch site) and issuing lots of press releases when Val's away - she's a commensurate politician who knows excactly how to "play the game".

It is really disgraceful how the cultural precinct is being used by all and sundry to play these party political games, score points, and further careers - when the opportunity to do something great for Cairns and its residents is being lost, and all the previous 16years of work and lobbying has been forgotten. The councillors, regardless of their leanings, have now lost the plot, and have forgotten who they are supposed to be representing.

I'd love to find out too whom that site was promised by the previous administration. Expect high-rise appartments or a hotel on the waterfront should the precint not go ahead, and should Kevin get in, wave goodbye to False Cape and all the remaining hillsides in Cairns.

Politicians - dirty little people doing dirty little jobs.

MG said...

Personally I dont want a cultural precinct. Fix the parking in the city and build a transit/wharf facility that can cope with buses and trains to and from the area

Cairns is only going to get bigger so lets start thinking big picture. Our roads and the southern access and northern access needs addressing to lessen the accidents and congestion caused by swift population growth.

Edmonton and Smithfield need satellite hospitals to cope with the inability of emergency crews to navigate the bumper to bumper peak hour drive to and home.

I imagine we would be able to save more lives by addressing multi lane access north and south and with satellite hospitals.

This would encourge more medical professional to make cairns their home and also create hundreds of jobs with construction for our flagging and sinking economy here in cairns

D.J.HUNT said...

I ask the people of Cairns this simple question. If the state government gave the same committment the Federal govt has to fund the precinct no matter where it goes, would we want to put it in the proposed location????

Anonymous said...

When the Cairns Yacht Club was demolished, the majority of Cairns people didn't care.

When caravan parks and beautiful traditional buildings were replaced with cheap, ugly, poor quality units, the majority of Cairns people remained silent.

Most of the developers who left us with these monstrosities have gone broke, leaving millions of unpaid debts and are now happily operating again under different names.

The majority of people in Cairns couldn't give a stuff.

Try and build something really worthwhile like building a cultural precinct and everybody is suddenly up in arms.

Try and change traffic management in line with most modern cities in the western world and there is no end to the moaning and whingeing.

Years ago we had the opportunity to get a brand new hospital. This was howled down by the parochial locals, whipped into a frenzy by the usual suspects.

Down the track we can probably look at some monstrosity that has been built instead of a new cultural centre and wonder how we managed to stuff up yet another great opportunity.

T. Asquith said...

I'm old enough to recall the brouhaha in the early 60's over the Sydney Opera House. It is now a World class cultural centre as recognised as the coat hanger itself.
I love Cairns, it's still a lovely small town but sadly inhabited by people with even smaller minds. Some of them are in Council.

MG said...

My family in Cairns goes back 7 generations and members have been part of the foundation of Cairns in the Chamber of Commerce and the Yatch Club.

I agree that those who wanted things 'gone' didnt care as I asked repeatedly for a photograph of my great grandfather that the family had provided to the yatch club and never even got a reply

As to the precinct its a bit like the federal icon of cairns central - look what the did to the central business district when it was built. Locals were up in arms and no one were lost businesses bankrupted and one person got to say I organised that...........

Is this what the mayor wants to be remembered by? a big white icon? or for listening to the born here and settled for good - locals?

maybe go to the hospital see the ambulances lining up and talk to the people in the waiting rooms about how long they wait for a procedure due to their low incomes......ask how many are misdiagnosed or die waiting

talk to the man on the street e.g. those who lost a job last week with DPI.

Talk to the health industry about the stresses they have and of the volume of people especially men who want to suicide as they cannot feed their family and feel like a failure as they have no job

Talk to the homeless go have a drive with Harold and see first hand the 'real' cairns and then lets start talking about how we can make a difference

its not the mayor who is going to slap you on the back and say its ok mate its your friend and neighbour who is looking out for you

look around and start taking an interest in something more important than a building

lets look at our community

cairns is in for a bleak xmas and in march a mate was talking to me and didnt believe me when i said if you think its bad now wait till xmas....he had coffee with me the other day and told me he never thought it could get worse but it has

Bazza said...

It is people like you MG why there has been no forward thinking in Cairns. There is a wonderful vision put forward by Val Schier and it is put down by those who are only freeloaders and parasites on our community. This precinct should not be cheapened because those of the conservative side of politics don't want the gov to build it because it will show them up to what they are and that is they are only interested in development that they and their mates can make money for themselves, certainly not for the community and future growth.

MG said...

Really Bazza

Then if I am so staid as you put it then why is it my ancestors that grace the pioneer cemetry and the next generation who went to war and are inscripted on the epitah on the esplanade and the other survivor who was a founding member of chamber of commmerce, yatch club, built the showgrounds from groundlevel all with vision, spit and hardwork.

They were followed by another who built businesses in Cairns and buildings and shopping complexes who employed many including indigenious and chinese. This followed by the next who built not one but 9 branches of business in cairns which then reduced to 8 and still stands employee hundreds up and down the east coast. Then now the current one who still runs businesses in more than one industry.

All these people have one way or another left their legacy behind quietly efficiently and with strength. They didnt need to blast a horn or proclaim their worth. They proved it time and again being there for others in the community.

I sat on the steps of my grandfathers business and handed out rations of food to the poor each week that my grandfather and his mates donated to help another.

As to my vision its not another iconic monument for those who want want want.

My vision is to see something that is decided and created by the people, made by the people of Cairns (not farmed out to a southerner), for the people of cairns to use no matter what end of the spectrum they are from or what income they earn.

There are other more pressing needs in cairns. All I am saying not now for the precinct and certainly not the site proposed as gifted.

If everyone in Cairns had a say and input into what Cairns needed and where then maybe we would have a coming together of industry, business, media that could promote this to the government.

I would love to know what Andrew Griffiths thoughts are of the unclear business plan that exists with council at present.

Maybe council should subscribe to the business bullet and learn something along their way

Andrew is a man of vision integrity and empathy who knows the hard knocks of life and gets up and keeps on going. The difference is he cares about others along the way and has is genuine in wanting to help others achieve.

If so many were opposed to the idea the other day then lets have a meeting the majority may attend in a larger venue - make it for the people and here the views ask for a survey at the meeting and analyse the feedback

Get a true picture of what Cairns people need rather than tell them what they need

stinhambo said...

I agree MG that Cairns' Business Plan is a failure and their goals are nondescript.

Managers in CRC do not pull together and any initiative to modernise it are ignored and eventually disbanded.

We need a Mayor like Ipswich's.