State rates stunt’

Con­ven­tion cen­tre fund­ing in doubt

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - by Bar­bara Lynch bar­bara. lynch@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

TOWNSVILLE’S pro­posed new en­ter­tain­ment and con­ven­tion cen­tre is in se­ri­ous doubt, with the State Gov­ern­ment look­ing in­creas­ingly un­likely to fund a $ 48 mil­lion share of the $ 150 mil­lion pro­ject.

Call­ing a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, Mem­ber for Thuringowa Craig Wal­lace launched a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion cam­paign in his elec­torate, with a flyer fo­cused more on ris­ing coun­cil rates than a pos­si­ble State Gov­ern­ment con­tri­bu­tion.

Mr Wal­lace said he would seek his elec­torate’s opin­ion on the is­sue by dis­tribut­ing 15,000 of the fly­ers which fea­tured the main head­ing ‘‘ Do we need higher coun­cil rates?’’.

Townsville Mayor Les Tyrell la­belled the flyer drop a ‘‘ dodgy’’ ex­er­cise, aimed at di­vert­ing at­ten­tion from the state’s lack of com­mit­ment.

‘‘ I think the ques­tion is loaded and I wouldn’t be sur­prised at all if he got a 100 per cent suc­cess rate,’’ Cr Tyrell said.

‘‘ He’s ob­vi­ously pad­ding the way be­cause he knows the State Gov­ern­ment won’t pro­vide one third of the fund­ing.

‘‘ He is us­ing this as a dodgy ex­er­cise.

‘‘ They aren’t go­ing to pro­vide fund­ing and they’re look­ing for some sub­stan­ti­a­tion for not pro­vid­ing it.’’.

Cr Tyrell said ratepay­ers should not have to bear any cost of the fa­cil­ity’s up­grade, when sim­i­lar cen­tres i n other cities in­clud­ing Cairns and Bris­bane were f ully funded by the state.

In his flyer, Mr Wal­lace claimed res­i­dents could face a $ 100 rate rise if the coun­cil was to con­trib­ute its share – equal thirds with the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

‘‘ This is a po­lit­i­cal stunt de­signed to get the an­swers he ( Mr Wal­lace) wants . . . a lot of peo­ple don’t want to pay more rates,’’ Cr Tyrell said.

He said Townsville res­i­dents were be­ing treated like sec­ond class cit­i­zens de­spite claims by the gov­ern­ment Townsvill e was Queens­land’s sec­ond cap­i­tal.

Mr Wal­lace said no money had been al­lo­cated from the State Gov­ern­ment to fund it, but he would battle for it if his Thuringowa res­i­dents were happy to pay an ad­di­tional $ 100 on rates.

‘‘ If res­i­dents want to pay, I’ll battle,’’ he said.

‘‘ It is a coun­cil is­sue, other­wise where is the money com­ing from?

‘‘ Per­son­ally I wouldn’t be c o m f o r t a b l e w i t h a n y amount.’’

Mr Wal­lace ques­tioned the need for an up­grade of the fa­cil­ity.

‘‘ I talk to peo­ple in my elec­torate ev­ery day of the week and they have had enough of rate rises and are sick of wa­ter rises. They’re do­ing it tough.’’

Townsville En­ter­prise gen­eral man­ager Scott Waters at­tended the launch of Mr Wal­lace’s sur­vey yes­ter­day, but l at e yes­ter­day, TEL is­sued a state­ment slam­ming the flyer’s con­tent as a di­ver­sion.

TEL CEO Trevor Gold­stone said it cast doubt on the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing the north­ern city as the state’s sec­ond cap­i­tal.

He said it was a way for the gov­ern­ment to side­step its com­mit­ment.

‘‘ We sim­ply can’t un­der­stand why a min­is­ter would bring into ques­tion the gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for a piece o f i n f r a s t r u c t u r e whi c h would help un­der­pin Townsv i l l e ’ s g r o w t h , ’ ’ M r Gold­stone said.

He said a loom­ing state elec­tion was al­ways go­ing to spark po­lit­i­cal games but he was sur­prised by yes­ter­day’s move by Mr Wal­lace.

‘‘ What we didn’t ex­pect was an un­der­min­ing of the pro­ject. A pro­ject that is iden­ti­fied as a top pri­or­ity in the Tourism Op­por­tu­nity Plan which the state spon­sored and sup­ported,’’ he said.

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