With the addition of Manning, the conservative or ring wing vote, will be split in what is shaping up to be a dramatic race for the Cairns Mayoralty.
Bob Manning, now business manger with Norship Marine, is expected to run under former Cairns mayor Kevin Byne's Unity Team, who have recently published a newspaper advert asking for potential candidates. Former deputy mayor and architect Terry James is co-ordinating Unity for the 2012 council election, and will himself run in division 4, the seat vacated by Kirsten Lesina who is contesting the State seat of Cairns for Labor. Unity plan to put up candidates across all divisions.
As the former CEO of the Port Authority, Bob Manning has long been a staunch opponent of the cultural and entertainment centre being built on waterfront land.
''The city’s economic struggles are not a good enough reason for using the port space for the [entertainment] project,'' Bob Manning told a Chamber of Commerce meeting last September. "When times are tough, people will take any rope they can get. We need to take on a much longer-plan view."
This is in stark contradiction to the current Port management who have supported and co-operated with Council to bring the project to fruition. Ports North CEO Chris Boland says the cultural precinct, if designed right, will satisfy all criteria.
"It is unfortunate that despite detailed personal briefings on Port operations and plans to numerous organisations and individuals, including to the former CEO [Manning], that the debate continues to be ill-informed,'' 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.
Besides incumbent mayor Val Schier, who has just launched her campaign website, other declared mayoral candidates include former Cairns Colonial Club developer Ian Thomas, who has recently returned to Cairns.
Thomas says it's time for a change. "It's time that the people of Cairns gained some control over the current issues and the future of this great region.''
Sitting Division 8 councillor and deputy mayor, Margaret Cochrane has also said she will contest the mayoralty.
Former mayor Kevin Byrne says he has not ruled out the possibility of re-contesting.
The Council election is likely to be held in the last weekend in March 2012, however the State Government may move this depending on when the State election will be called.