Mayor stands by plans for Cairns performing arts complex, despite losing government cash
MAYOR Bob Manning is confident the private sector will come to the rescue of his beleaguered performing arts complex, which was stripped this week of the last of its government funding.
The Cairns Post revealed yesterday the Federal Government was pulling its $40 million share of the project leaving it without any funding because the three levels of government had failed to work together on getting it built.
But Cr Manning insisted the announcement would not derail his plans for a smaller and cheaper version of the entertainment precinct.
Cr Manning said his council would first ensure the new project was viable and then seek government funding or a partnership with a private company.
"We will go forward with a proposal that is properly located, which is properly costed, which is appropriate to this region so that it is not a large cost impost," he said.
"I can assure you we are not backing away from it. This will go ahead."
Cr Manning's preference is to build the complex as a public/private partnership, possibly without the need for government cash.
The Cairns Chamber of Commerce labelled yesterday "a sad day for Cairns", saying the region would have to galvanise in favour of a new performing arts complex if it wanted any chance of securing further funding for it.
Cr Manning's predecessor, Val Schier, condemned the council for letting the money slip away.
"We got that money because of our fierce, hard and concerted lobbying. And also because we had the highest unemployment rate in the country,'' Ms Schier said.
"Bob Manning's first action as mayor should have been to stand with the local politicians and tell the new Premier that he could make his savings in southeast Queensland, but not here in Cairns because we've done it harder than everyone else.''
And Ms Schier was backed by independent councillors still in power, with Linda Cooper expressing devastation over the lost funds.
"The reality is that it is extremely rare to get such significant funding from the state and federal governments, which is why I decided to support the project back in December,'' she said.
"I'm happy to be proven wrong but I don't believe a public/private partnership will be viable. I am concerned that whatever solution is found will be a Band-Aid attempt at providing a public facility that this region desperately needs."
Councillors will today have their first briefing with project officers who are working on a feasibility study for a performing arts theatre on land opposite the Cairns Convention Centre.
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This will go ahead: Cairns Mayor Bob Manning is committed to building a performing arts complex.