Gavin King

Tropic Now editor

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Urgent call for changes to construction program at Cairns Convention Centre


Brisbane will be a beneficiary of the continued delays in the Cairns Convention Centre redevelopment, with a national conference forced to cancel its Far Northern event and host it in the state's capital instead.

A further two conferences scheduled at the convention centre later this year have been postponed until 2021.

It comes amid urgent calls from the National Basketball League and the Cairns Taipans for the project's schedule of works to be changed to save the club's season - or risk losing the national sporting team to the city.

Tropic Now yesterday revealed completion of the $167 million redeveloment of the convention centre has been pushed back by three months to February 2021, the third delay since the project was first announced in 2017.

ENGINEERING CONFERENCE MOVES TO BRISBANE

Tropic Now has confirmed the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia has been forced to cancel its event at the Cairns Convention Centre due to the redevelopment delays. The organisers were only informed they would need to cancel the event last week.

The event will go ahead on the same date in early November - but it will be held at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre in an unexpected economic coup for the state's capital. 

Local leaders are furious the project was delayed on at least two occasions before the coronavirus pandemic locked down global supply chains, with Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt announcing back in 2017 that construction would start after the Commonwealth Games in April 2018.

That timeline would've seen the project completed long before the arrival of COVID-19, which has caused delays in the supply of stadium seating and air-conditioning equipment from Europe.

Brushing aside questions about the repeated delays before COVID-19, Mr Pitt yesterday joined forces with the NBL and the Cairns Taipans to call for the schedule of works to be altered to allow the club to play home games when the season starts in December.

CALLS FOR CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE CHANGES

In a statement, the NBL said it would be "disastrous" for the competition and the community if the Taipans were unable to play at the convention centre. 

"The NBL and the Cairns Taipans are in discussions with the Queensland Government about the timing of the upgrade of the Cairns Convention Centre," the statement reads.

"While we welcome the redevelopment, we have asked the Government to schedule the relevant works after the NBL season is completed so as to minimise disruption for the Taipans and their fans.

“We intend to have fans back in venues when our season is scheduled to start later this year and the Convention Centre is the only viable venue to host NBL in Cairns and it would be disastrous for the competition and the community if it was not available." 

Taipans president Troy Stone said alternative venues, including suggestions of relocating to Townsville, were not viable.

"We've put our ideas forward to the government to see if changes can be made to the schedule of works," Mr Stone said.

"What we're saying is get the work cracking now, put a pause on anything in the project that will have an impact on us for our season, and then pick it up again once the season is over.

"The Taipans are the only club that hasn't been able to give the NBL our availability on dates so we really need to get cracking on this."

PITT PUSHES FOR CHANGE TO SCHEDULE OF WORKS

Mr Pitt said he had spoken to Member for Cairns Michael Healy and government ministers to push for alterations to the project schedule to accommodate the Taipans season.

"The Cairns Taipans have been the anchor tenant of the CCC for many years so when it comes to decisions around scheduling of works... the fact the Taipans have been the anchor tenant must be taken into consideration.

"Cairns can't afford to lose our national sporting team."

Mr Healy is yet to respond to questions from Tropic Now.