Saturday 12 January 2013

Entsch fountain dream to save City Place

The latest plan from Federal MP Warren Entsch for a redeveloped Cairns City Place, is causing a stir.

City Place in the heart of Cairns CBD has been redesigned more often than a Baghdad shopping mall.  The latest pipe dream still has zero shade or tropical trees.  What next?  A giant mosquito?

Even Warren's pretend love-child, Jack Andrew Wilkie-Jans is far from amused.

"I'm sorry, I am a great supporter of Warren Entsch and he is a friend of my grandmother's and has always supported me, but Land of the Fountains is cray-cray!" Jans said this morning.

Jans says the proposal looks way out of proportion and too much emphasis on rocks, the characters used to symbolise Far North Queensland look to be a mish-mash of tourist souvenirs.

"So if Lake Street doesn't get opened up, we could get stuck with this?'  Jack Jans says.   "Please send in better ideas or designs for fountains!  If people want to go down the central, fountain approach then that's fine, but at least get the design to be apart of public art or something with sculptural artists such as Gianni Sabaini, to design a water feature/sculpture. Otherwise fountains depicting events of significance to our history will end up looking like a god-awful child's diorama."

The design and plan has been created by local architect Garry Masters, and Warren Entsch says it is part of a project called Land of the Fountains, which they say will bring both short and long-term economic benefits to Far North Queensland.

"Before going too much further, think about your photo album from a holiday overseas, whether these travel snaps are of ancient ruins, pretty villages or a modern city, there is a common theme – people love to pose in front of fountains," Warren Entsch wrote in today's Cairns Post.   "Then what do they do? They send their photos to friends all over the world, and in doing so are promoting the region at no cost to the tourism industry."

"Now picture a Far North Queensland take on this, with a network of 21 large, individually designed and constructed fountains depicting our early history and significant events. Located throughout the Cairns, Douglas, Cassowary Coast, Cook and Tablelands regions, they would provide a meeting place and hub for residents and visitors, Entsch says.   "These fountains would be built from a combination of reinforced concrete, polished granite and marble, bronze statues and natural materials such as the boulders seen at Mossman Gorge, with programmable light and water displays."

Warren Entsch says this is especially timely given that a public consultation process for City Place will take place over the next two months, where people have the chance to outline their vision for the CBD.

"As you can see from the artist’s impression, there’s no doubt that a spectacular water feature would provide a much-needed heart for Cairns," Entsch said.  "Just up the road, Munro Martin Park is another key CBD area that has never reached its full potential.   Wouldn’t it be great to drive down Sheridan St and see people having a lazy picnic on the grass around the fountain, while their kids play nearby?"

There was mixed support for the idea, which would mean the saving of City Place.

Local political and community activist Margaret Pestorius says it's a good idea.

"It's Lake St because there was a lake there. I reckon a system of water features and fountains would be great. Seems it may have been a meeting place - a food place. Water and food, sounds good," says Margaret Pestorius.

However Beverley Prescott says it's not correct to say that Lake Street was named from the fact of its being a lake.

"The street was named after Captain Lake, of the A.S.N. Company’s steamer, Victoria," Prescott says.  "The steamer, Victoria, conveyed the Government officials to open up Cairns as a port of entry, which was done in the customary style by a luncheon on the steamer on November 1, 1876."

As the debate rises over the future of City Place as a public space, Nickie Comley is pleased with the discussion.

"Keep community spirit alive and City Place is the perfect place to inject some real sense of spirit in this city...  Lets not just become another boring city with no soul."

Well said.

Douglas rate rise disputed ahead of de-amalgamation referendum

In just under two months, on 9th March, residents of the former Douglas Shire, which in part embraces the Division 10 of Cairns Regional Council, will have a referendum to decide if they will go it alone.

Estimates are that ratepayers will have to fork out up to $1,000 each extra in the first year to help fund the $9m cost of amalgamation.  Some proponents have argued they should have been returned to the financial position they were prior to joining up with Cairns Council.

Details and postal vote forms for the poll are available from ECQ.

Last week Friends of Douglas Shire wrote to State Minister of Local Government David Crissafulli and challenged the assessment by the Queensland Treasury Corporation about the future financial sustainability of a new Douglas Shire, with the QTC concluding that a new Douglas Shire is not financially sustainable in the long term.

"Friends of Douglas Shire vehemently disagrees with this assessment," Robert Hanan told CairnsBlog.   "We have commissioned an independent assessment of our own, using a highly regarded economics consultant."

In the report, the consultant commissioned by Friends of Douglas Shire found glaring anomalies in the QTC's assessment.

"There was a $100 million error in the assessment of the assets of a new Douglas Shire," Hanan said.   "The consultant has also raised concerns about an apparent significant over estimation by QTC of the annual costs of materials for the new Shire and an over estimation of the numbers of new staff to be employed, both of which add millions of dollars annually to the costs of running the Shire."

FODS has informed the Minister about these "errors and anomalies" and has requested he instruct the QTC to properly inform residents of Douglas Shire about how these costs estimates have been arrived at.

"The Minister has also been provided with a copy of the report of the independent consultant," Robert Hanan said.  "It is understood the Minister has referred the report to the QTC with a request for an explanation of the concerns raised by FODS.  These are serious matters and if they are not properly resolved could lead to mis-information being provided to the community in the lead up to the referendum on de-amalgamation.  Indeed this is already happening."

Hanan says FODS is adamant that a new Douglas Shire is financially sustainable.

"We will have the capacity to fund capital works and ongoing operational commitments into the future without any need to increase rates and charges beyond annual CPI increases," Robert Hanan said.   "Importantly, the assessment by the independent consultant supports this view."

"FODS is planning public meetings in the near future to inform the community about these matters.  We are  making every attempt to get more information from the Minister about how the QTC has arrived at its numbers and the justification for them."

Hanan is also asking those who support de-amalgamation to donate to the campaign in the led up to the referendum.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

'Insurance companies prey on Cairns' financial misery' - Darren Hunt

Katter's Australian PartyFar North Queensland spokesperson, Darren Hunt, has claimed that the multi-million dollar profits of insurance companies since the 2011 summer of disasters, highlights the need for the return of a state government insurance office.

“The recent announcement of the obscene amount of profit posted by insurance companies since the summer of disasters shows they are preying on the misery of Far North Queensland residents," Mr Hunt said.

"While they count their money like Scrooge McDuck, we still have people in affected areas unable to return to their homes and that is not good enough.  We are sick of hearing Warren Entsch, the Member for Leichardt, and others bang on about how bad it is and do nothing or call for another pointless review," Hunt says.

Darren Hunt says there is no need for another report or review.

"We don’t need one," he told CairnsBlog.   "We need an alternative that will keep these insurance companies to account. These companies are out of control and the only way to bring back affordable premiums for the people of FNQ is the re-establishing of a State Government Insurance Office.”

“Without the need to make multi-million dollar profits an SGIO could have taken the money received in premiums to secure or subsidise the cost of re-insurance."

Hunt says Queenslands have had enough and threatened to leave their insurer and join a State Government Insurance Office and watch how quick the premiums of the others would drop.

“A SGIO will be able to offer much more reasonable premiums as they don’t need to make these obscene profits we are seeing here and we call on the Newman government to implement this as a matter of urgency,” Darren Hunt says.