Wednesday 16 May 2012

Mayor Bob Manning addresses new Cairns Regional Council

Newly elected Cairns Mayor Bob Manning, addressed Cairns Regional Council today.  Here's his full speech...

NEW TEAM   The new Cairns Regional Council  -  Mayor - Bob Manning OAMDivision 1 - Steve BrainDivision 2 - John SchillingDivision 3 - Rob PyneDivision 4 - Terry JamesDivision 5 - Richie BatesDivision 6 - Linda CooperDivision 7 - Max O'HalloranDivision 8 - Jessie RichardsonDivision 9 - Greg FennellDivision 10 - Julia Leu, with CEO Lyn Russell.    Photo: CRC

I recognise within our midst today Ron Davis AM, a former Mayor of Cairns.  Apologies have been received from Hon Warren Entsch MP Federal Member for Leichhardt; and Mr & Mrs Ron Ireland OAM – an outstanding citizen of this city and a dear friend and mentor.
I also recognise former councillors of the Cairns City Council, Mulgrave Shire Council and Cairns Regional Council; Citizens of the Year awardees; and a number of people who in a number of capacities have given sterling service to this city over many years.
I also acknowledge the family and friends of elected members who are here today to share in this meeting.

Firstly, on behalf of the newly elected Council assembled here this morning, I wish to thank you for attending this statutory meeting. Whilst this is a very significant moment in the lives of those people in whom you have placed your trust and confidence for the next four years, I recognise that this is also a very important and indeed an historic event in the life of this city and its people.  

It is important to celebrate events such as these. It is not just about pomp and ceremony, but about a declaration of trust. 

Today’s celebration reflects the importance of local government and its relevance in the modern political arena.  

We can also celebrate something many take for granted, and that is the ability for the community to instigate change. The recent elections on both a State and local level sends a resounding message from the community for a mandate to restore confidence and stimulate growth within our region and we do not take to this task lightly.  

On behalf of the team of councillors who sit in front of me, I acknowledge and accept the enormous trust you have demonstrated in us and on behalf of this elected group I commit ourselves to not disappoint you nor to let you down. 

At this early point I wish to acknowledge the contribution of the former Mayor Val Schier and her Council over the past four years. It is never easy to be involved in public life, let alone at a time when many unfavourable externalities impact the community. 
I extend to Val and the retiring Councillors best wishes in respect of their future endeavours.

Today’s meeting signals the beginning of a new administration.
There are a couple of points that I want to make very clear, and up front, in regards to the current make-up of the elected Council:

Firstly, the people of Cairns have elected a majority team to this Council and I will address that point a little more fully later.

Secondly, I am committed to leading an apolitical Council, and in this regard, my door will always be open to all. I recognise the democratic decision made by the electors of Divisions 1, 3, 6 and 10 and welcome their representatives as equals in every respect.

I believe the local government election result sent a clear message to us all. The people of the Cairns Regional Council area have spoken very clearly about what they expect from their Council over the next four years. 

Voters have told us that they will not stand for a dysfunctional Council; they will not accept lost opportunity; and they will not accept a divided Council which demonstrates internal bitterness and infighting.

We (each of us who have been elected) have an overriding responsibility to serve this Council to the very best of our ability, at all times placing our corporate responsibility before any personal, sectional or other interest. This concept is fundamental to everything we do and the manner in which we act.

Put simply, if we are true to this fundamental principal, then we will have done our best for this region and its people, and we will look back over this term of Council with a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.

During the election campaign, Unity gave five key pledges which will underpin Council’s operations and performance over this coming four-year term.
I repeat these pledges today because our compliance with these will be the yardstick by which we will be measured. They will also be the beacon by which we and management will operate –

1) To deliver a cost competitive Council with an emphasis on achieving a low cost base operation and efficient and friendly service delivery
2) The restoration of business confidence in our city and region with a view to attracting investment, generating business activity and creating jobs and opportunity for all – Australia and Asia Pacific will know that Cairns is ‘open for business’
3) Placing the highest priority on re-establishing Cairns as a safe and friendly place to visit and live
4) Working with State and Federal Governments, the private sector and other bodies to diversify our regional economy with particular emphasis for example on, tourism, defence, marine industries, aviation, international education, agriculture, mining, tropical expertise, retailing and sports tourism
5) The restoration of funding levels to properly maintain Council's assets

Implicit within the above pledges is a commitment to deliver our region a new performing arts centre during the term of this council. This will not be an easy task, but it will be done. I fully appreciate the disappointment of those who supported the Cairns Entertainment Precinct in its current form, the promotion of which became a divisive issue within the community. 

Your Council will work to address this matter in association with the State and Federal Governments, and with a view to ensuring a sensible and proper consultation process is undertaken, with the commencement of works as soon as possible - and in accordance with Council’s affordability. It behoves us all to now get on with this task in a new spirit of co-operation and understanding.

Similarly, Council will work with the State Government in not opposing the de-amalgamation of the former Douglas Shire should it be determined by the State Government that de-amalgamation is to occur. In the interim, Council will work closely with all residents of Division 10 in particular those within the former Douglas Shire, to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in any way whilst a final decision is being made. This will include a review of the proposed Port Douglas Waterfront Project in consultation with the Port Douglas community and affected stakeholders with a view to establishing a ‘go forward’ program and commitment as soon as possible. This project is considered vital to the future of Port Douglas and Tropical North Queensland.

I mention these two issues because they have served to divide this community like nothing I have seen before. As a Council and as a community we need to work together to resolve these complex matters. 

In recent years, this region has lost much of its ‘punch’ in economic terms. We have lost industries and many of our larger companies who were significant employers within our community. Our economic base is now far too narrowly focussed, and business confidence has suffered greatly. 

And yet we do have opportunities, and many of them, to re-establish and re-invigorate our regional economy. I am confident that with broad based support and co-operation, Cairns and Tropical North Queensland will again establish itself as one of the nation’s leading regions. The challenge for us is to not wilt, but to press on with a strong commitment to the task at hand. This in the past is what we have been known for.

This is a time for solid leadership and hard work, and I am totally confident that within our community we have this capacity. 

It's also a time for action and a ‘yes we can’ attitude by Councillors and staff as we join together as a team to work cohesively for the betterment of the entire region.

It is often the case that during challenging times good people rise to that challenge.

To my fellow councillors, and with you representative citizens of Cairns present here today as our witnesses, I say, let us together now resolve to get on with the job of restoring confidence and fostering growth which we have been given by the people of this great region, and let us be prepared to be judged in due course on what we do, and what we achieve.