Local tradies being held back from $176m job

POOR uptake of local tradies tendering for a slice of the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade has been blamed on misconceptions relating to big project best practice principles.

Under the guidelines, all projects covered by the Queensland Procurement Policy and worth more than $100 million must apply the principles.

Master Builders FNQ regional manager Sharon Vella said lead contractor Lendlease Constructions and Master Builders were committed to attracting local companies to the build but the task had been made more difficult by a recent Cairns Regional Council decision to apply a State Government designation process.

An artist’s impressions of the Cairns Convention Centre transformation. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
An artist’s impressions of the Cairns Convention Centre transformation. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Ms Vella was critical of the council's view that local builders could be forced out by southern rivals.

"(The uptake rate is) not enough because things like this make it tarnished," she said.

"(Lendlease) are working with local trades who have put in their submissions and they are working with Master Builders Australia because they are committed to having local engagement.

"(And) they are supporting the applicants through the process.

Master Builders Queensland's regional manager for Far North Queensland Sharon Vella in the company's Cairns office. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Master Builders Queensland's regional manager for Far North Queensland Sharon Vella in the company's Cairns office. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"They think that they are going to have to work by what they perceive as best practice policy and there is a misconception of what that actually means."

Though exact numbers of local contractors expressing interest in the project had not been released, Lendlease Building Queensland general manager Brad Protheroe said there were still opportunities for locals to snatch a slice of the multimillion-dollar pie.

"We strongly encourage subcontractors to visit (the online portal) and complete the relevant forms to ensure that they are putting their best foot forward," he said.

Mr Protheroe said about 200 local tradies attended an industry information session in January at the convention centre.

"From this, we have also had several businesses contact us directly to talk about opportunities. We will continue to engage with the local industry to promote additional opportunities," he said.

Lendlease Building Queensland General Manager Brad Protheroe (above left with Queensland Airports Ltd’s Chris Mills) said there were still opportunities for local tradies to have a go.
Lendlease Building Queensland General Manager Brad Protheroe (above left with Queensland Airports Ltd’s Chris Mills) said there were still opportunities for local tradies to have a go.

The Department of Housing and Public Works was contacted for comment.

In January, Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni made assurances that the 570 full-time jobs on offer would be filled by Cairns workers if locals had the skills to do the job.

"Our deal with Lendlease contractually requires them to engage local tradies on the opportunities to tender for convention centre works packages," he said.

Lendlease held an information session in January about how to apply for work.


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