(We're hoping they think about a name change).
Most we spoke with were cautious - no one likes to get too far in front of the bus - that's how people get mowed down. But the caution was tinged with resignation. Virtually everyone agrees that "secret planning" has been underway for some time and that it probably can't be stopped (although no one suggests it SHOULD be stopped).
Most of the negativity surrounding the project turns around the "real" economic benefit for the region. The most pessimistic locals said things like "everything will be Chinese - the airlines that bring them here,the buses that collect them from the airport, the largely 457 visa staff at the resort, the restaurants, the reef boats. We're not going to see shit from these people". (If Qantas/Jetstar/Virgin are too stupid to take advantage of this project on behalf of their companies, they deserve to fail).
Everyone we spoke to however voiced sentiments from concern to anger that our MP's and City Council members have been busy negotiating - not for US, but for THEM. And while Bob "Sleepy" Manning moved to assure business leaders that there would be "consultation", we know what that means. Some big meeting where a couple dozen of biggest blockheads get up to harangue the Council, to no result.
We need something better.
We need something more concrete.
WE NEED A PACT.
With John Mackenzie and our various government representatives genuflecting and kow-towing to the developers, some have said making and demands on the project will "send them looking somewhere else". Bullshit. Mega-casino projects around the world face special and tough demands on them from the sites where they've been located. If we want to protect Cairns and protect our PROVEN SUCCESSFUL tourism product, we've got to get our demands on the table, not just some nonsensical consultation.
We KNOW the State is going to get their cut. There won't be any gaming licence without it. And you can bet they'll have THAT in writing!
Michael Trout, Minister for Tourism Jann Stuckey, and Mayor Manning along with representatives from TTNQ, the Chamber, and other parties, need to start addressing our issues, and negotiating for US. (It's clear Gavin King has been shut out - no doubt calling Chinese "freaks and weirdos" hasn't positioned him well).
WE NEED A PACT.
In Singapore, the city/state leaders, wary of the issues surrounding mega-resort casinos, linked the casino licences to specific performance targets - in part, requiring the developers to develop and enhance the local non-gambling related attractions. Under the Singapore mandate, the two casino operators have added theme parks, museums, and theaters for the public. These mandates were made part of the Singapore Casino Control Act. Singapore and the casinos there both agree that promotion of Singapore as a "family resort" and not just a gaming resort is the future of their marketing.
In Macau, the tourism boards of China and Macau have signed and expanded tourism pacts as the casino business expanded in Macau. It outlawed corrupt practices that have begun to plague the Chinese tourism to Cairns - included "forced shopping" in Chinese-owned stores with inflated prices.
There is adequate precedent for a Cairns Tourism Pact between Aquis and the Cairns tourism industry. A whole range of issues are being raised by the existing Cairns businesses, and I've already heard firsthand Michael Trout responding "well, we'll take care of that". A letter to Chamber members from their CEO has claimed that a "collaborative approach" would be established.
But no one believes anecdotal nonsense. We need it in writing. If Queensland is going to be "a leader and innovator in tourism investment", we need an agreement that delineates what Aquis can do, so that other investors can come into the region confident that they will be able to share in the bonanza.
WE NEED A PACT.
Ultimately, the goal is to make Tony Fung's vision work in harmony with Cairns, not in conflict with it. That does no one any good.
However these issues need to be put on the table and dealt with as part of the planning process, not as part of the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" North Queensland way of doing things.
Who's going to put their hand up and start negotiations on behalf of US???