Cairns hotel arts centre plan backed
LOCAL business leaders are backing Shangri-La's bid to build a performing arts centre in Cairns, but concerns have arisen about handing over public money for a private venture.
Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos wants the council and Commonwealth to join the State Government in seriously considering Shangri-La's proposal, which was revealed in The Cairns Post yesterday.
The luxury hotel chain says it can only go ahead with the $60 million theatre if the State, Federal and local governments come on board with a funding contribution.
"About time someone stepped up and put their money where their mouth is," Mr Mirotsos said.
"The people of our city deserve to have the Cairns Civic Theatre replaced with a world-class entertainment precinct."
Shangri-La's plan is in the early stages, but would include an 1100-seat theatre built in the northern car park adjoining The Pier shopping complex.
The Federal Government agrees that Cairns needs the infrastructure, but says work would already be under way on the grand Cairns entertainment precinct if the council and State Government had not shelved it.
"The fact is that Campbell Newman and Gavin King have turned their back on the city of Cairns by refusing to honour a State Government commitment to a new Cairns Entertainment Precinct," a spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said.
"There is only one shovel-ready project on the table and that’s the one agreed to by all levels of government prior to March this year."
Mr Swan has visited Cairns twice in the past three weeks – once for an economic roundtable with community leaders – but was not made aware of Shangri-La’s plans until yesterday’s story in this newspaper.
Shangri-La general manager George Wee said an approach was not made to Mr Swan because the company wanted to get Mayor Bob Manning's support for the project before shopping the proposal elsewhere.
"This is not just a project for Shangri-La; there’s a strong community need," Mr Wee said.
Despite Mr Swan's insistence that the Commonwealth is the only government with money still budgeted for an entertainment precinct in Cairns, Mr Wee says that project is dead.
"The leader of the city has made absolutely clear that we're looking at a smaller, scaled-down model and that's where we're coming from," he said.
"The sooner we can all get used to that and come up with ideas that can work, the better."
Mr Mirotsos said Cairns Regional Council should be open to Shangri-La's vision, given the council has no alternative to the scrapped CEP.
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.