State stops Cairns building contract

By Paul Hemsley

Cairns Regional Council cannot tender a managing contractor for its entertainment precinct due to a state government intervention.

Three Queensland-based tenderers were shortlisted but cannot progress to the final stage after Local Government Minister, David Crisafulli revoked the previously provided approval by the previous minister, Paul Lucas.

Cairns Regional Council CEO, Lyn Russell said the scheduled appointment of a managing contractor to oversee the construction of the Cairns Entertainment Precinct has been postponed following correspondence with the local government minister and Department of Local Government director-general, Neil Castles.

Ms Russell said the council cannot complete the tender process during the local government caretaker period as a result of this decision.

“Council will seek an urgent briefing with the Premier and Minister for Local Government to clarify the state government’s position,” Ms Russell said.

Ms Russell said council will work with the state government to ensure the funding allocation of $57.3 million to replace the Civic Theatre “remains available to the region”.

Project manager, Linda Cardew said the previous minister for local government had given approval for council to make a major policy decision being the appointment of the managing contractor during the caretaker period.

“On the 11th of April, just before the council meeting at which the recommendation with the managing contractor was being considered, the new minister for local government revoked the previous ministerial approval,” Ms Cardew said.

Ms Cardew told Government News the council has been trying to get in touch with the minister and will be doing a briefing with the minister on Wednesday.

She said tenders cannot be discussed because the report to council is commercial-in-confidence, and due to council presently being in a caretaker period, speculation cannot be discussed on what a new council may or may not do in regards to the project.

Mr Crisafulli said the community should not be “locked into a set course on a contentious project” with appointing a managing contractor so close to the council elections on 28th April.

“Whoever forms the new council deserves the right to determine the way forward for the project and to be locked in to a course of action a few weeks out from an election is simply not fair,” Mr Crisafulli said.

According to Mr Crisafulli, the council should not have been given the power to make “such a huge decision” so close to the elections.

He said he would work with the Far North’s state and federal members of parliament and Cairns Regional Council to secure federal government funding earmarked for the project.

The project was originally set for completion in May 2015.

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