In the first real direction to come out of the months-old Cairns Regional Council, residents have been treated to a stunning attack on years of public consultations over development standards.
Even the most hardened opponents of former Mayor Val Schier recognised that her council fixed open-development slather that had been the hallmark of Kevin "Hiding from the Pakis" Byrne. The monuments to this absurd decade of development are all over the city - housing towers in the CBD with the design panaché of a prison, thanks to the bankrupt Hedley and CEC companies. Jammed together high-rise ghettos advertised as "resort living", jammed into residential neighbourhoods in Clifton Beach and Woree, courtesy of the bankrupt Udo Jattke's Glencorp. Housing developments on 350 square meter blocks with houses barely a meter apart, on streets with no place to park a car or tinny, and kids left without any proper outdoor places to play.
These degrading of development standards have continual affects on the public. Huge spikes in youth crime in areas surrounding the Glencorp ghettos, and CEC built neighbourhoods in Edmonton (largely now public housing) are just one of the consequences.
The Schier council largely fixed these abuses that occurred under Byrne, and the current acting (and soon to be permanent) city manager Peter Tabulo. The hallmark of the Tabulo-led development department was a chameleon-like ability to change their "professional planning advice" based on the political winds. More no-backbone leadership is hardly what sleepy Bob needs in the city manager position.
So Council yesterday began the assault on the Cairns Plan, and the concept of public consultation.
In an extension of a Schier-implemented stimulus, the Manning council has "doubled down" despite many believing that more stimulus is unnecessary with renewed construction planning already evident. Nevertheless Council has approved forgiveness of $10.5M of headworks charges, money that was never planned for in the budget. And keep in mind that most of this money is used by Council to provide infrastructure - so the shortfall to the Council budget could be up to $21Million! All and unbudgeted hit to the ratepayers, who will need to pay for this shortfall in the coming years (as the Council report notes.)
So now the budget blowout for the Manning council is $37 million! Is this the "fiscally responsible" council we were sold? Of course not, Manning is already spending like a drunken sailor, for dubious reasons. These fiscally irresponsible decisions are rapidly approaching the amount proposed by the Schier council for actual infrastructure, whereas the Manning$ Million$ are payments for developer mates and plain old debt. Where are all the MacKenzie hillbillies now, screaming for blood at this financial blowout? Mostly in a lie-induced coma.
Then the Mayor announced that the Council would support LNP plans to give local planning decisions back to the local council. Despite the very strong Cairns Plan, which has full and extensive consultation with the public before it was adopted, Cr. Julia Leu (Div. 10) objected to Council giving this support to the state without any discussion at Council level! She can't be surprised at this - with a majority of councillors instructed by Manning as to what their positions and opinions should be, the elimination of any discussion with the rest of the councillors should have been expected.
And then, in a harbinger of things to come, Cr. John Schilling (Div. 2) asked for the Cairns Plan requirements for dark coloured buildings on hillsides to be scrapped. This provision was among the most supported by the community when the Cairns Plan consultations were done. Schilling, who's "career" has been one of job hopping from one low-end builder to another, would seem to be clearly acting not on the opinions of his electorate, but his builder mates.
But this should be seen as the beginning of what could be a rapid erosion of all standards for construction in Cairns. Yes, the bad old days have returned.
Council should keep one thing in mind - it was this reckless, non-consultative developer abuse that got Val Schier and other progressives elected to the Cairns Council.