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  • Crispin Till

    Email Crispin Till

    City's leadership crisis deepens as council fires latest shot in bitter battle

    The Cairns Chamber of Commerce provided a measured view on today's upheaval and the rocky path ahead for the city.

    After Cairns Regional Council voted to axe its $300,000 a year funding contribution to Advance Cairns, chamber president Nick Loukas told TropicNow that the focus should be on working to improve the city's economy.

    "The chamber recognises the importance of an independent body to drive economic development in Cairns and that the council has a role in driving that as well," he said.

    "We have always thought the chamber and Advance Cairns should work closely together.

    "Closer ties between the chamber and Advance Cairns is the best structure to drive economic development in Cairns.

    "We have a good relationship with Advance Cairns and council too."

    Earlier, councillors voted to withdraw council's funding and platinum membership from the region's peak economic body after increasingly bitter tensions between the two sides, believed to have come to a head with the dumping of former CEO Kevin Byrne last month.

    In further signs of disunity, Division 5's Richie Bates was the only councillor to vote in favour of maintaining the funding, saying he was "deeply disturbed" by council's decision to cut the funding.

    Cr Linda Cooper also expressed concerns about council's decision, asking whether Advance Cairns had been given "the opportunity to respond to concerns raised in council's report."

    The council's funding made up more than one-third of Advance Cairns' annual budget, with the bulk of its bottom line coming from the memberships of local companies and organisations. 

    Mayor Bob Manning even suggested his council will step up to replace the group in the role of economic development and advocacy for the city.

    In an exclusive report by TropicNow last week, tensions between the two groups reached crisis point when Cr Manning sent a letter to Advance Cairns demanding it fall into line with the council's public positions and views.

    In a media statement after the vote, Cr Manning said council would "undertake a review of its own economic development strategy in light of today’s decision".

    “Council remains committed to ensuring there will be continued promotion of economic and business development in the Cairns region and that a focus of that function will be a direct dialogue with the business community,” he said.

    He said an updated economic development strategy and plan are expected to be presented to Council in March 2018.