So, the V8's are being considered for the Cairns region. I have read the online comments everywhere on the subject and those in print and it seems to have plenty of support. I'm not sure what happened to the idea of having the large stadium but it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the bid for a once-a-year car race.
That being the case, I thought I'd look up some detail on the current situation in Townsville, as an interested local of Cairns who would like to see some grand plan for the future make its way here. While I remain unsure of the repercussions of having an event here which is fairly obviously an environmental nightmare, I'm sure that Cairns could re-brand itself if required. Can't really profess to being a sustainable city with ecological marvels if we run a SuperCar race for three days a year.
So, here are the facts. Townsville ratepayers have forked out almost $2.5 million since the
first Townsville 400 V8 Supercars race - on top of their initial $30
million investment. It should be noted that the track actually cost $55 million but funding from the State Government of $25 million meant that Townsville's portion was only $30 million.
In the three years it has been running the council has spent $2,423,313
on maintenance, rates, water and in-kind event support at Reid Park and have received just $133'000 in revenue. That means it costs rate-payers to keep the race. It also receives funding of 2.5 million per year from the State Government to remain operational. This money is in question at the moment which is one of the primary reasons, along with the 5 year contract renewal, that Townsville is unsure of its future viability.
Mackay is also lobbying to take the V8's from Townsville. They believe they have the infrastructure and space to cater to the event, a claim that Townsville denies as they are of the opinion there is little in the way of accommodation choices in the Mackay region.
Almost all parties acknowledge that for one week per year, Townsville fills up hotels and restaurants for the event. The current concern is that the money made by businesses is offset by Rate input into the track and to spend so heavily on a venue which operates for 3 days a year total is something all parties are worried about. They are however, considering other events (suggestions include a cultural festival and music festivals) which could utilise the space throughout the year.
Townville also has a significant problem at the moment which is the prime cause of the conversations around the events viability. Their Council has extremely high debt. In documents detailing the sustainability of Council coffers it states that debt as at May 2011 was $380 million and with good fiscal management and annual Rate rises of 6% it is forecast to drop to $250 million in 2021. This is because Townsville Council has continued to build infrastructure on a large scale over the past several years and has simply added the cost of the Dairy Farmers Stadium, Reed Park facility, Strand development etc....... to their borrowings.
In comparison, a similar document on Cairns Regional Council states that the total debt is $83 million, much lower than Townsville. The borrowing capacity for Cairns is therefore much higher and while this document includes the CEP as it was forecast to occur when the document was written, Rates would rise by 6% in this region also as the debt was to be paid off much quicker.
Both Councils have increased Rates by significant amounts in past years, with Cairns having the lowest Rates rises over the past 4 years, but rises of between 9 and 12 percent for the four years prior to that. At the same time, Townsville rates have risen by an average of 9-12 percent over the entire 8 year period.
Also worth noting, Cairns Regional Council is projected to have low maintenance costs over the next 4 year period as the previous 4 years saw new water and waste infrastructure built at significant cost but now requiring little in the way of future maintenance. Townsville will spend double the amount of Cairns on maintenance of assets each year.
All of this indicates that Cairns is well placed financially to borrow 30-60 million to build a V8 track. It is doubtful that the Cairns community will allow for further borrowings for a stadium, and certainly will not allow any borrowings for a replacement to the Civic Theatre. It is now vitally important that Cairns locals decide on their priorities. With jobs so desperately needed and new infrastructure the best way to kick-start the economy, one of the three projects will need to begin as soon as possible.
Obviously I would prefer a replacement to the Civic Theatre first. As far as I am aware, the current sporting facilities are not in danger of crumbling and have appropriate wheelchair access. That said, there is no denying that Cairns is as much a sporting city as it is an artistic one. To my mind, V8's do not belong in Cairns and I would happily allow Townsville to keep them, even helping them lobby further so that Mackay loses out and the people of Cairns can still attend. I'll happily lobby for a sporting stadium locally if that is what the people of Cairns would prefer as I firmly believe it is needed here and our population would support it.
If the Civic Theatre closed it's doors tomorrow due to safety issues, similar to what happened to Sugarworld, would it be that day when people finally realised the importance of the facility? I don't know. Maybe not.
Still....... we have options here in Cairns. Now is the right time to explore them as our finances are good and the future looks bright. Which facility would you utilise most?