1,000 signatures reached
To: Premier Palaszczuk, Deputy Premier Trad, Treasurer Pitt and Tourism Minister Jones
Do Not Approve Aquis Mega Casino at Yorkeys Knob, Cairns
Dear Premier Palaszczuk,
We, the undersigned, are asking that you do not approve the Aquis Resort at the Great Barrier Reef Project, which was declared a Coordinated Project by the former Queensland Government on August 1st 2013.
The potential social, economic and environmental impacts of this mega-development raises serious questions. The project simply does not stack up.
We appreciate the need to boost the economy of Far North Queensland and to create employment in Cairns during these economically challenging times. However, gambling is not a dependable source of state revenue. Any income generated is dependent on the success of the economies of the Asian tourists you are trying to attract. Building a state dependent on casino revenue is not a sound approach to sustainable economic development.
Cairns should be moving to diversify away from tourism to other industries, not increase its dependence on it. Cairns Chamber of Commerce listed diversification as one of their top 5 federal election priorities in 2013. Turning the city into a flashy gambling hub has the potential to discourage the huge numbers of tourists who already flock to Cairns for the natural, not man made, wonders of the Reef and the Daintree.
Cairns already has a high number of problem gamblers, and it seems both unwise and socially damaging to open another casino, especially one on this unprecedented scale. The development is in the vicinity of three environmentally protected areas, and there a number of environmental issues which have not been adequately addressed.
Of most concern is the speed with which the development has been pushed through the proper approval process, being declared a Coordinated Project a mere six days after the initial application was submitted to the former Queensland government.
For a $8.15 billion dollar development this is alarmingly fast.
We ask that you choose long term, sustainable growth over short-sighted and short term economic gain and do not approve this development.
Why is this important?
Chinese billionaire and developer Tony Fung is proposing to build his Macau style mega-casino and resort, the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort, on the Cairns northern beach of Yorkeys Knob. The $8.15 billion casino will have 9 luxury hotels, a convention centre, 2 x 2500-seat theatres, golf course, sports stadium, shopping and mega aquarium. In August of 2013, the QLD Government declared it a ‘Coordinated Project’, giving it a streamlined approval process.
What will be Australia’s largest casino aims to lure Chinese and Asian high-rollers to gamble their fortunes on the pristine shores of Cairns. However, there are a huge number of concerns which are yet to be addressed, hidden behind the bold promises. In a media campaign which has prominently featured in Cairns media for the last few months, little is known about the mega development outside of Cairns although thankfully, this is changing.
There are well founded concerns about the impact of the massive development on the Great Barrier Reef, an irreplaceable ecosystem that is one of the most beautiful and unique in the world. Both the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre have expressed alarm at the size, scale and coastal location of the mega development. What the streamlined approval status given to this development really means is that it can circumvent the usual stringent environmental and social assessments required of a large development in an environmentally sensitive area.
Per capita, Cairns is Queensland’s highest spending pokie city, with the average resident spending $45.41 per month on pokies in 2012. Fung has claimed that he's trying to attract Asian high-rollers. But recent studies point to the fact that sooner or later, Australian casinos become dependent on the local pokies market. As seen in a recent Four Corners report, there's also a strong tie to high-rollers and organised crime. Cairns already has a large casino - how can a city of this size cope with another, given that Sydney has only just begun to build its second?
Proponents say that the Aquis casino will encourage badly needed investment in the region. However, many feel that Cairns should be diversifying away from tourism, not increasing its dependence on the tourist dollar. When you centralise shopping, restaurants, entertainment and accommodation into one facility, local businesses are impacted. With everything in one resort, Aquis visitors will have a significantly reduced need to leave the complex. This will suck the life out of the city, meaning small businesses may have to downsize or close altogether. Cairns Chamber of Commerce listed diversification as one of their top 5 federal election priorities in 2013.
Tourists, both domestic and international, continue to choose Cairns for reasons primarily centred around the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Recent research by Tourism Australia has shown that our natural attractions are by far the greatest driver for international tourism. Tourists come to Cairns for the beauty, the tropical environment, the slow pace and most importantly, because it is unspoilt. Turning the city into a tacky, flashy hub for Asian gamblers has the potential to discourage the huge numbers of tourists who flock to Cairns for the natural, not made made, wonders.
Further reading / watching:
'The local costs of Cairns' new casino'
'High rollers - high risk'
'Pokie-tourism: Campbell Newman's dream for our tropical north'
How it will be delivered
To the Minister for Tourism, Kate Jones