By any fair minded analysis Cairns had a good few days this July. The Premier was here with her cabinet colleagues and for three days there was frenzied activity with press conferences, town hall style meetings, promises here, new announcements there and speeches everywhere. There is an old adage and that is: you get between a politician and a microphone at your mortal peril, be you a journalist or a protestor. There were lots of “announceables” with dizzying dollar values bandied about. That is the easy part. The harder part is the “deliverables” and that is where we must now focus our efforts.
At long last the worst kept secret in town was released and we learnt that we can dredge the inlet to allow bigger ships into the port with no impact on the environment. What a surprise. We have been dredging this inlet since Cairns was established. Final approval for that project is expected by the end of December for work to commence soon after. The tourism industry is happy at confirmation again, and again and again, that the Cairns Convention Centre is to be expanded to lift it to the next level of excellence. This is not just tourism infrastructure, but vital community infrastructure as well, so this is really good news.
Long suffering peak hour commuters from the Northern Beaches are expected to get some respite from their daily traffic woes with the construction of a bypass road avoiding the Smithfield roundabout to link up at the Yorkeys Knob roundabout, but not until 2020 on current predictions. They were the big ticket items. There were other announcements and re announcements as well for the region that were largely made in the recent budget, so nothing new here. This whole Government exercise was carefully and clinically managed and it was refreshing to see the engagement with so many interest groups and the ease at which these groups engaged with the Premier, Ministers and senior staff. It was a good exercise that has been replicated in other regional areas.
Whist these events are an excellent PR exercise, we need to remain focused on having governments deliver on a narrative that provides for real opportunity for our regions to grow their wealth around real job creation opportunities in traditional and developing industries that will deliver long-term regional economic diversification.