A business group will be formed of imminent business leaders within days to fast track plans to develop a sports tourism industry in the Far North.
The announcement follows high level talks Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has had with Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland, Cairns Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Tropical North Queensland last week.
The local leaders say action needs to be taken sooner rather than later to diversify the economy.
“There is no argument that we need to diversify the economy and we need to do it quickly to protect the economy from the boom and bust cycles. Sports tourism is an industry that can be developed easily as it fits into our already established leisure tourism industry. We want to establish the Far North as the Tropical Campus for the Australia Institute of Sport (AIS), all we need is the infrastructure to support our existing facilities to make it happen,” said Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.
The imminent business leaders who will make up the business group will be head hunted within days.
“It will be set up as an ‘apolitical’ group with a ‘business’ focus. Let’s take the politics out of the equation here and inject some business acumen into it so the community can get a realistic and costed business proposal ready quickly. The groups first task will be to progress plans for a Sporting Precinct in Cairns to work in parallel with plans for the Performing Arts & Cultural Precinct. They will also be charged with the task of compiling a list of ‘shovel-ready’ sporting projects that we can start on immediately to support the construction industry in what is a very deep trough they are going through. We need to get our builders out there working tomorrow, not in two years time,
“The reality is the town deserves a new performing arts centre and a state of the art rectangular stadium. We also deserve a new hockey centre, covers over the tennis centre, an upgrade to Tobruk Pool and an upgrade to the Cazalys AFL grounds. We want it, we need it, we deserve it, it is long overdue and we need to be brave enough as a community to make it happen,” said Mr Entsch.
Warren Entsch says International standard infrastructure is what we need so we can start bidding for large scale sporting events. “We will also be well positioned as a tropical conditioning location for elite athletes prior to Commonwealth and Olympic Games if we get the recipe right.”
The Federal Member said he is heartened by Mayor Val Schier’s willingness to finally listen to the community who have pushed for better value for money and a fast tracking of projects with the $240 million Cultural Precinct project.
“I welcome Mayor Val Schier’s concession to finally downsize the Cultural Precinct and engage with community on what they want. But we need to expect the same level of investment and more from the State and Federal Government as we deserve two jewels in our crown with a performing arts centre and a rectangular stadium,
“We need to hold the Federal Government to its commitment of the $40 million promised for the Cultural Precinct and let’s not forget the additional $7.5 million announced during the 2010 federal election for the first stage of the AFL stadium and the upgrade to the junior rugby league grounds. We as a community need to demand the full $47.5 million from the Gillard Government,” Mr Entsch said.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, TTNQ and Cairns Chamber of Commerce have expressed their support for the initiative in preliminary discussions with Mr Entsch.
“We need to demand that only local companies are awarded the work to ensure the money stays in our town and creates employment. This is not negotiable in my view. A downsized version of the Cultural Precinct means we will have additional funds available to provide urgent work in the town via the ‘shovel-ready’ projects in the sporting precinct. This money is already in the bank and we need to start using it to commence these smaller elements of the overall Sporting & Cultural Precinct while designs and community consultation is finalised. The town cannot afford to wait any longer. Let’s get this show on the road. I look forward to working with all key stakeholders to get the best outcome for the town and some activity commenced in the town immediately,” said Warren Entsch.
The push to create the sports tourism industry sooner rather than later has the full support of sporting codes including AFL, Netball, Rugby League, Swimming, Mountain Biking, Rugby Union and Tennis just to name a few of the growing congo line of supporters.
The sports tourism industry is expected to fill the gaps in the current trough periods being experienced by the tourism industry.
“Once we have the key infrastructure in place, the ability to attract large numbers to the region for high profile sporting events is made much easier. Sports tourism will give us the capacity we need to fill the empty hotel rooms and fill our restaurants and tourist attractions during the off peak periods. This is exactly what the tourism industry needs.”
Warren Entsch says the capacity to form a sports medicine element to the town is also high on the agenda.
“We need to be prepared to think big and get our ideas and costings on paper. Once that is done it is much easier for me to head to Canberra for funding support. Let’s not forget that there is $10 billion in funds available to develop regional areas. We need to be prepared to ask for our fair share of that pie,” said Mr Entsch.