And to think people pay money for this kind of "consulting"!
At the core of the transport issues are an analysis of the road impact based on "Level of Service" (LoS). This concept is explained in the report that show photos depicting the level of traffic that comprises these impacts. The entire 74 page report from Flanagan Consulting Group is predicated on this statement, made on page 24: "The Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) would ideally trigger upgrade of road links when the links are consistently operating at an LoS of D or worse".
This misstates the DTMR Road Planning and Design Manual (2005). The manual states clearly (4.2.3) "In rural areas, a design Level of Service of B is desirable, but it should not be less than Level C. . ."
Is this just a catastrophic error by Flanagan Consulting Group and Aquis, or a deliberate attempt to low-ball the requirements for infrastructure triggered by this project?
Cairns is replete with Main Roads-controlled highways that should have been "triggered for upgrades" years ago.
As anyone living in the Northern Beaches knows, the Cook Highway operations are at Level D now, not Level B as asserted in this report. Aquis proposes to add another lane to Yorkey's Knob Road - which won't make a whit a difference to the stop-and-go traffic that is a daily occurrence between Yorkey's Knob roundabout and the city at morning and afternoon hours. The slow operations of the Cook Highway and the Western Arterial Road (also Level D now) are exacerbated by the 40km/hr school zones on these major roads.
And while the report freely admits that the Western Arterial is already overloaded and Level E, the poor representation in the Barron River electorate for the last several governments is among the reasons why this road has never been duplicated as should have been "triggered". The report also indicates that even the construction period for this resort and CASINO is going to make several roundabouts and road segments dysfunctional as early as next year. Where are the commitments from the LNP State Government and Campbell Newman in support of this project? Even without Aquis, much of the road network north of the city is substandard by the DTMR's own standards.
Upgrading of Yorkey's Knob Road to four lanes has been suggested by Mayor Bob "Sleepy" Manning as the Council's investment in the road network, and yet the EIS shows that even four lanes won't be enough to service the resort and CASINO. (Figure 24-24)
In figure 24-4, an estimate of 242,143 truck trips to the Aquis site is proffered. Read the fine print - this doesn't count "return" trips. Huh? You mean the trucks make their delivery and then just get driven into the ocean? Such is the deception contained in this EIS. And many of these trips are planning to use the Cook Highway to haul excavation from the Aquis site to the AIRPORT, to be used to kill mangroves. Heavily loaded, slow moving dump trucks clogging the Cook Highway from 7AM, 6 or 7 days a week. Where is the mention of this impact in the report?
And yet Flanagan Consulting (run by Pat Flanagan, a former Cairns Council officer), comes to the "conclusion" (figures 24-15 and 24-16) that Stage One can be "accommodated" by the existing road network.
This doesn't pass the laugh test. Unless the majority of the workforce is housed on-site, as they would if it was mostly Chinese workers. Oh, really?
And the result of this huge transport analysis? Aquis offers to pay, based on a grossly inadequate Cairns Non-Regional Council Policy, a measly $16 million for its share of road infrastructure upgrades, less their demand for CREDIT in raising Yorkey's Knob road above flood level.
$16M - this is about eight days of predicted PROFIT from this casino.
$16M - for what's likely $500 Million to $1 Billion in road upgrades.
$16M - Tony Fung graciously offers from his "tip" jar.
AQUIS WILL DESTROY THE CAIRNS CBD
AND CAIRNS TOURISM BASE
The last statement on page 24-12 of this report states clearly the goals of the Fung family and the resort. "The operational phases of Aquis Resort and CASINO will create a traffic spectrum that will be dominated by the movement of guests and the transport of staff to and from the resort".
Table 24-13 clearly shows what many in Cairns already suspect - with a three-day average visit to Aquis by foreign tourists, Aquis is planning that they will leave the resort only ONCE during this time. Given the promotion of Cairns and the resort as "The Great Barrier Reef", it's likely that this one day away from the resort will be a reef trip. No Kuranda. No Daintree. No Port Douglas. NO CBD. They expect the tourists to spend their entire visit in THEIR "table lands", emptying their pockets.
Can you imagine 75 or more slow-moving coaches on the Kuranda Range Road twice a day anyway? Fixing this road alone is known to likely cost well over $1B. An investment that Cairns-area MP's have refused to bring forward for over ten years now. Killing of all tourism to Kuranda is the likely outcome, and a desired result by the politicians.
There is also no estimate in the EIS for tourism transport other than the estimate of 1/3 of the guests per day. The report does mention Sunbus, which will be a long walk from the resort to Yorkey's Knob Road. There is NO provision for tourists to go to the Cairns CBD.
Aquis predicts a target of 800 staff per day will bicycle to Aquis. Fighting their way down Yorkey's Knob Road as hundreds of trucks per day drop junk into the road. Good luck with this dream. The EIS claims the Cook Highway has "wide shoulders suitable for bicyclists". Guess they haven't heard about the bicycle deaths on the Cook Highway recently.
Under this plan the Cairns CBD will be rendered all but dead by Aquis. The existing hotels will face declining revenues as the mid and high end are skimmed off by Aquis. The tourist-centric high-end shops at DFO, and the upscale brands at the Duty Free Stores will all have moved to Aquis - because business moves to where the money is. Hotel room rates in the CBD will fall dramatically. Merchants and restaurants will mostly leave, and the Esplanade Lagoon will be suitable only for locals and a backpacker market (that will be encouraged to come to Cairns by expanded visa programs to provide labor for this resort and CASINO).
In summary, the EIS presents a grim picture for life in Cairns both during the ten year construction period as well as the operational period after all construction has ended. Hugely overloaded roads - with much of the overload compounded by the fact that these will be heavily loaded construction trucks and, as operation begins, slow moving passenger coaches. Thousands of Cairns residents slogging thru slow-moving Sydney-like traffic day after day, going to their minimum wage jobs serving meals, cleaning rooms, and dealing cards to cashed-up Chinese tourists. Then returning over the same traffic-choked roads to some hovel in Edmonton or Goldsborough, to begin the cycle again the next day.
And imagine the Cairns Airport - six or seven jumbo jets of non-English speaking tourists arriving en masse at the international terminal (as the airport has no control over when they might arrive, and generally all Asian flights arrive at dawn). This after Aquis has moved nearly 4000 departing tourists to the airport via coach at 4-5AM (that's almost 100 buses, kids), and then these buses are charged with collecting another 4000 tourists from the clearly tiny arrival area at the international terminal. Cairns Airport says they can easily handle the air traffic - but they're completely ill-equipped to handle the ground traffic generated, as well as the traffic inside the terminal.
Can you spell C-H-A-O-S? I KNEW YOU COULD!
Is this the kind of Cairns you want post-Aquis?
The EIS should have addressed how this resort can be accommodated into the Cairns that currently exists instead of dictating a change in how Cairns "works". The biggest and most obvious issue is the convenient movement of guests when they arrive in Cairns, and between the resort and major tourism facilities in the Cairns CBD.
This requires light rail to be constructed, as we previously proffered almost a year ago.
Construction of a elevated light rail line from Aquis, across cane fields to the airport, and then on up the Esplanade would eliminate the need for many of the mooted road upgrades, moving both tourists and staff to and from the resort and CASINO. Light rail would allow this large guest pool to access the vibrancy and uniqueness of the Cairns CBD, rejuvenating the business community and making large-scale business movement to Aquis unnecessary.
This $300M investment (cheap, with cane land acquisition costs almost zero), is what will determine if Cairns will live - or die. This $300M is about 1/3 the cost of Minister for Marijuana Warren Entsch's plan to tunnel under the inlet so he could get to his land over there. $300M is about the amount of taxes the government would get with one year of legal marijuana sales.
And judging from the lame, uninventive, rubber-stamp, 19th century transport solutions proffered by Tony Fung, Pat Flanagan, and a cast of dozens too gutless to append their names to this report, we're well and truly fucked.