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Feedback for the Chinese Heritage Concept Plan for Grafton Street


Not wishing to appear at all dismissive of the contribution that the Chinese community played in the early years of the Cairns region, this article will argue that there is a better way of doing things for the Cairns CBD.


When I first came to Cairns 25 years ago, Grafton Street had a lot of natural character. Much of this natural character was to be found in Rusty's Market. Like a magnet, it attracted all types of people and in large numbers, and still does. There was nothing contrived about the old Rusty's Market - perhaps it was that, which was part of its magic.

However we should not take Rusty's Market for granted. In the last 25 years on at least two occasions there was talk of its permanent closure - something more "profitable" could be built in its place was the main reason cited. This could still happen.

This situation is not helped by the market's close proximity to two busy roads - Sheridan and Grafton Streets. The photo below says it all:

If Rusty's Market does go, what then? The effect upon this part of Grafton Street would be quite devastating as far as crowd numbers go. Therefore would another market in a better location be a good idea? Lets consider the parcel of land containing the old library site of the then Cairns City Council. This property faces both Grafton and Lake Streets, and can be seen below.




The history of this vacant site is that the Council sold it sometime ago. The owners did try to sell this property a couple of years ago but after a while took it off the market.

Their proposal was that the new owners could build two residential towers, similar to the one facing Grafton Street, shown in the photo above.

However because of the downturn in demand for inner city living in Cairns, the owners of the land are in a bit of a pickle.


This is where the Cairns Regional Council could show a little bit of courage if they decided to co-operate closely with the developer to construct a building on this site. The drawing below shows the location of the site and an elevation of a building concept:

This building would later be strata-titled, and the Council could purchase some of the lots, hopefully with the financial assistance of the State and Federal Governments. In the drawing below, are the bus routes that would use Grafton Street rather than Lake Street as they do now.

The creation of such a building would be beneficial for the CBD in the following ways:

1...The new bus station would have a single platform only. This enables easy and safe passenger movements. The station would be close to the centre of the CBD and also, the bus routes are similar to what we have at present so therefore the bus stops would would adjust easily to the present shopping habits of the passengers.

2...The dangerous exhaust fumes of the buses would be dispersed out of the building by powerful fans. Glass walls and glass sliding doors would also separate bus fumes from the passengers. Other cities, including Brisbane, have all this at their bus stations.

3...The new building would provide the shoppers with plentiful parking in this part of the CBD.

4...There would be more parking for shoppers along Lake Street once the buses are out.

5...The markets at this location would be safer for pedestrians than at the present Rusty's site. And the vendors would find it much more convenient to park their vehicles above the market and have the use of heavy-duty lifts (elevators) to move their produce.

6...The removal of the buses would provide more space in City Place. Such a spot would be the turn-around part of the bus lane near the City Place end.

Therefore, perhaps this new City Place design would be a better spot to place the Chinese Microsites to honour the Chinese community for their contribution to the development of the Cairns region? And if so, there would no need to close Grafton Street every Chinese New Year as the CRC did on the 9th of February 2013.



To assume that Rusty's Market will always be in its present location is dumb thinking. Furthermore, to assume that to put a road through City Place will bring shoppers back to the CBD is equally dumb when it is remembered that CBDs are dying in all provincial cities where there are large shopping centres in the suburbs.

Therefore the CRC must do a rethink on its planning of the CBD such that we have a CBD that not only has a wonderful tropical ambience, but importantly, has a public transport system that is truly convenient for passengers.

See footnotes

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