Tourism Minister ducks key Sunshine Coast casino question
TOURISM Development Minister Kate Jones will meet Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson next month to discuss tourism opportunities for the region as pressure mounts for him to rule out the sale of land in the SunCentral CBD to a casino operator.
Ms Jones failed to address questions about whether her department or any other government department or agencies engaged in discussions with Malaysian gaming entity NagaCorp, which visited SunCentral last November, or if she saw a casino as a good fit for the region's tourism brand.
"Currently, the government is considering proposals for two Global Tourism Hubs in Queensland - one in Cairns and one on the Gold Coast which is set to go to market this year," the Tourism Minister said. "However, I'll always engage with parties keen to invest in tourism infrastructure in our great state.
"The Sunshine Coast is an important part of our strategy to make tourism a cornerstone of Queensland's economy.
"So we're motivated to meet with local stakeholders to make sure the Sunshine Coast has the infrastructure it needs for growth in the tourism sector.
"Extensive community consultation would be part of any major tourism infrastructure project for the Sunshine Coast.
"I'll meet with Mayor Mark Jamieson to discuss tourism opportunities on the Sunshine Coast next month."
Fisher MP Andrew Wallace's call for Mr Jamieson to rule out the sale of land in the Maroochydore CBD to gambling interests during his current term came as Ms Jones acknowledged the State Government played a significant role in the visit by NagaCorp executives and casino architect Paul Steelman.
Mr Wallace has written to Ms Jones and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking for any detail of the mayor's involvement with the Department of State Development discussions with NagaCorp or any other overseas gambling entities.
Ms Jones said the government's Special Projects Unit had met NagaCorp and other international investors to promote investment in Queensland.
She said Nagacorp had been provided with an overview of the state's requirements for Global Tourism Hubs in Queensland by the Special Projects Unit.
Mr Jamieson has said there was nothing unusual about NagaCorp's visit and that approval of a casino was a matter for the government.
"I can assure you that right now, there is no opportunity to establish a casino on the Sunshine Coast," Mr Jamieson said.
Mr Wallace said the mayor's statements about the potential for a casino contrasted with his comments to the ABC and the Sunshine Coast Daily since 2013, which had made his intent clear.
He said it was "abundantly clear the mayor is trying to crab walk away" from the casino bid.
Mr Wallace said SunCentral was owned lock, stock and barrel by Sunshine Coast Council and it could decide who buys land there.
"The mayor could say 'as long as I'm mayor we won't sell land for a casino'," Mr Wallace said.
"Is he seriously suggesting the state would force the sale to a gambling company."