Cairns Mayor calls on construction industry to discuss solutions with his council
Mayor Bob Manning has called on the local construction industry to talk to councillors about their concerns and put forward “innovative solutions” to help stimulate building activity.
As part of an in-depth interview with TropicNow about the state of the Cairns construction industry, Cr Manning acknowledged small local businesses in the sector were doing it tough.
While companies directly involved in major projects such as Crystalbrook Collection’s $370 million hotel developments, the Cairns Aquarium and council’s own publicly funded projects such as the Cairns Performing Arts Centre were doing well, Cr Manning said many small businesses were not yet feeling the flow-on effects.
Our sit-down with the Mayor followed a series of stories by TropicNow and other local media about the dearth of privately funded, small-scale construction developments beyond those major projects.
A range of industry players who contacted us this week also raised concerns about a “two-speed market” where international investors were seemingly afforded more support from council than local builders and developers.
Deputy Mayor Terry James yesterday called on his fellow councillors to do more to support locals in the sector.
The Mayor said council’s most recent development incentive scheme, which includes waivers or deferrals of headworks charges, was geared specifically towards attracting and securing new hotel investment.
“In terms of council’s support for projects like those by the Crystalbrook Collection, we knew there was a bed shortage looming on the horizon in this town so we specifically set out to target hotel investment,” Cr Manning said.
“Previously our incentive schemes (such as headworks waivers) have targeted outlying areas such as Gordonvale. But in the latest round we knew we needed more beds because there’s hasn’t been anything built in the CBD for a very long time.
Despite his confidence in a bright future for the Cairns economy, the Mayor said he was fully aware of concerns in the industry and understands many businesses across a range of sectors would struggle until the benefits and spending generated by major projects trickled down.
He also pointed to contributing factors outside council’s control such as the banks and valuations.
“We are pro-economy at this council, and we do everything we can to support businesses, and it started with us getting our finances in order when we were first elected and then keeping rates as low as possible ever since,” he said.
“I know small businesses are doing it tough, and small businesses are always the first casualties of any downturn or flat period such as the run we’ve had for some time in this city.
“But I have every confidence we are on the cusp of a great period for Cairns, particularly when you compare us to every other coastal city north of Brisbane.”
The Mayor described council as having an “open door” policy and urged the local industry to talk with council about solutions that were both beneficial to the local economy and ratepayers.
“If people come to us with some innovation about their project, whether it’s a commitment to bring the project forward by a few months or shorten the construction period or guarantee a high percentage of local labour, then we’ll absolutely look at it,” he said.
The Mayor and other councillors will attend a meeting at council on Monday with local certifiers to discuss the issues associated with the local construction and building industry.