The Precinct FAQ

We have collated some of the most common questions regarding The Precinct project below. Click on the question you are interested in to open the answer.

If you have further questions that aren't answered below you can contact The Precinct team at

Why is Council building a new performing arts centre?

The Cairns Civic Theatre was built 40 years ago and extensive independent studies and consultations have identified the ageing theatre's shortcomings. It no  longer meets the needs and expectations of the community, and its functional limitations reduce its capacity to adequately serve this city as a performing arts facility, and to meet the needs of local, regional and national performers.

A refurbishment of the existing Civic Theatre was considered in the initial planning stages but redeveloping the building would have involved a number of risks. While the 40-year-old building is generally in good condition for its age, an engineering assessment showed that the redevelopment option required 85% of the facility to be demolished. 

This option was not considered to be cost effective given the cost and time required to carefully dismantle the building with erection of associated temporary works, as well as the real possibility of latent risks (both time and cost) for both Council and the building contractor which are commonplace during the renovation of old buildings.

Demolishing the existing building and starting with a clean slate was considered to be the best way of achieving the project's goals in a cost-effective manner. In this way, two major strengths of the theatre – its central location and recognition in the community that it is integral to community life – will be retained. Preliminary architectural and design work on the new CPAC has drawn on independent studies, community consultation and consultancy advice commissioned for previous proposals.

Core improvements include:

  • Increasing seating to 900+ people, incorporating balcony seating
  • Significantly increasing the foyer and public amenities
  • Creating a blackbox that can double as a 400-seat performance space, rehearsal and warm-up area
  • Improving back of house facilities, including more change rooms and toilets, a cross over, higher and covered loading bay
  • Building a deeper stage, more spacious wings, higher proscenium arch, higher fly tower and more fly lines
  • Significantly increasing the orchestra pit and providing better piano storage
  • Improved acoustics

Why is Council redeveloping Munro Martin Park?

Munro Martin Park has, at different times, been a key gathering spot for the Cairns community and has played host to international cricket matches, visiting rugby clashes, Anzac Day commemorations and countless picnics.

There hasn't been any major works at the park in recent years and consequently it has been underutilised.

The Precinct project will re-establish Munro Martin Park as a premier community gathering space. As part of transforming the park, recognition of its links to the past will be strengthened and celebrated.

Munro Martin Park will be transformed into a lush, tropical parkland featuring shady areas, vine-covered walkways and pergolas. It will provide a much-improved entry statement at what is a key intersection in the city and the advent of the new facilities will generate more commercial activity in that specific part of the city.

The redeveloped site will include an entertainment space and open lawn area that can be used for performances and small events. A covered stage and small external amphitheatre will be used for smaller concerts and performances, and the wide lawn area will be used for other community gatherings and events.

How much will The Precinct cost?

Updated: 17 November

The State and Federal governments have announced a combined $25 million in funding for the Cairns Performing Arts Centre: $15 from the Federal Government under the National Stronger Regions Fund, and $10 million from the 2016/17 State budget.

The funding commitments allow Council to reallocate $25 million to other community projects.

Updated: 16 December

The original estimates for The Precinct project – which includes Munro Martin Parklands and the Cairns Performing Arts Centre – was $65 million.

Once the full scope of the project was done and design completed, the cost of Munro Martin Parklands was increased by $2 million.

The estimated cost of the CPAC was based on the concept only. Once detailed discussions were conducted with the users of the facility, changes were made to the original concept to fulfil these desires, incurring additional design costs and some costs to the construction of the building.

The CPAC has been costed at $66.5 million taking into account $53.2million to construct the building. Additional funds have been allocated to cover design costs to date and in the future, management of the contract, and an appropriate contingency fund.

The cost to deliver The Precinct project is $76.5 million.

Can Council afford the project?

Council is committed to creating a state-of-the-art regional performing arts centre that will meet the needs of the Cairns community for the next 50 years.

As such, The Precinct will be funded from Council's capital works budget over the next 3 years giving the community certainty that the project will proceed. Previous proposals for a performing arts precinct have been dependant on contributions from other levels of government.

Council will approach the State and Federal Governments with a view to entering into a funding partnership for the project which, if forthcoming, will allow Council to redirect some of its funding allocation to other works.

Updated 17 November

Council has received funding commitments totalling $25 million towards the project - $10 from the Federal National Stronger Regions Fund and $15 in the Queensland Government's 2016/17 budget.

This funding will allow Council to reallocate $25 million to other community projects.

Will my rates go up to pay for this project?

Updated 16 December

Council is in a strong financial position, recording surpluses for the past three years. It has the second lowest debt of major Councils in the State and can manage borrowings without having to put rates up any more than was indicated in this year’s Budget documents. 

Financial modelling over the next 10 years indicates capital expenditure of approximately $1.4 billion and annual rate increase of between 2% and 3.5%.

Why doesn't Council redevelop the Civic Theatre instead of pulling it down?

By demolishing the existing building and starting with a clean slate, Council can deliver a purpose-built facility with all the functionality expected by local, regional, national and international performers and a greatly improved audience experience.

By building a new facility, Council gains greater certainty of cost, time and functionality.

Advice from the project architect, based in turn on specialist theatre advice, engineering and quantity survey cost controllers, is that there is no guarantee that redeveloping the existing Cairns Civic Theatre building will achieve the full functionality required.

Further, it is estimated that about 85% of the existing Cairns Civic Theatre building would have had to be carefully dismantled and associated temporary works put in place. There is also the real possibility of latent risks for both Council and the building contractor that are commonplace during the renovation of old buildings.

Considerable work would also be required to bring the 40-year-old building up to relevant building and cyclone codes.

Why will this project succeed where previous proposals have failed?

The key driver behind The Precinct is creating a performing arts centre that meets the needs of the Cairns community. Redeveloping Munro Martin Park in tandem will enhance the area while providing a tranquil gathering place for the community.

This is a significantly different proposal to both the Cairns Cultural Precinct and Cairns Entertainment Precinct which incorporated retail areas and a museum, among other enhancements.

Unlike these previous proposals The Precinct will be located on Council controlled land and Council will be the sole occupant. By having full control over a financially viable development, Council eliminates a wide array of variables, providing certainty of the final delivery and timeline.

How come this is so much cheaper than previous options?

The key driver behind The Precinct is creating a performing arts centre for the Cairns community. Redeveloping Martin Munro Park in tandem will enhance the area while providing a tranquil gathering place for the community.

This is a significantly different proposal to both the Cairns Cultural Precinct and Cairns Entertainment Precinct which incorporated retail areas and a museum, among other enhancements.

The core needs of a modern performing arts centre however remain the same, with The Precinctproject drawing on the technical and audience requirements identified in previous proposals

Why build the theatre on the same site rather than previous proposals near the waterfront?

Community engagement conducted by independent consultants as part of previous projects has shown the Cairns community appreciates the central location of the Cairns Civic Theatre and sees the theatre as an integral part of the city's cultural fabric.

Building on the existing site has shown to be cost effective while meeting the technical and audience requirements as set down in the Savill report and other earlier investigations.

The former CEP proposal was to locate the facility on what has been documented as strategic port land adjacent to the Cairns waterfront. Both the Civic Theatre and Munro Martin Park are on Council-controlled sites eliminating the need to purchase land and dependence on co-occupiers.

The site will provide a strong entry statement at what is a key intersection into the city and it is hoped that the advent of the new facilities will generate more commercial activity in that specific part of the city.

940 seats is still less than Townsville and Mackay, why not make it bigger?

Advice from theatre consultants and consultation with regional and national performing arts organisations is that an 850-seat theatre is financially viable for touring performances. 

The Cairns Performing Arts Centre will hold 940+ patrons split across ground floor and balcony seating. Introducing balcony seating will create a more intimate theatre that can deliver a better audience experience. 

A key aim of the design will be to maximise the experience of the theatre patrons while ensuring that theatre productions have appropriate stage and orchestra space.

What improvements will be included in the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre?

The following table compares the identified shortfalls of the existing Cairns Civic Theatre with improvements to be achieved with the new CPAC.



The stage size is the smallest in regional Queensland. 

Increase from 9.5m depth to 12m depth plus minimum 2.5m wide crossover with further consideration to side stage options.

The theatre's 669-seat capacity has commercial impacts and is low by comparison with other regional facilities.

A minimum 900-seat capacity required with revised row spacing/layout and potential balcony seating.

Inadequate dressing and changing room facilities.

To accommodate minimum of 100 performers noting specific peak requirements such as eisteddfods.

Disability Discrimination Act compliance

Improve access for patrons and performers including accessible amenities.

Inadequate rehearsal facilities particularly for larger performances.

Include a blackbox that can double as a 400-seat theatre and rehearsal/warm up space.

Current foyer configuration provides for only 200 people. Similar concerns about bar configuration and the need for a covered Porte Cochere.

Foyer size to increase to accommodate increased patronage. Consideration to small balcony-level foyer as well to serve balcony seating.

Administration staff located in external demountable buildings.

Administration staff are to be accommodated within the new building.

The orchestra pit currently accommodates 16 performers, one entry/egress point and height is compromised in several places.

More flexible operational area with minimum capacity for 45 musicians. 

Height of proscenium arch and fly tower too low for major performances and only 21 manually operated fly lines.

Increase arch height and fly tower grid. Minimum of 45 fly lines.

Loading dock door is only 2.2 metres high.

Increase to 5m/6m.

Lack of suitable stage cross over space.

A cross over of a minimum of 2.5m in width to be incorporated.

Inadequate green room facilities and size.

Additional facilities to be provided.

Where will the increased number of patrons park?

Council is exploring options for increasing on-street and off-street car parking to accommodate increased visitation to Munro Martin Parklands and the Cairns Performing Arts Centre.

When will the theatre be closed?

The Cairns Civic Theatre will host its last performance in February 2016 and will be closed from late that month.

Rebuilding the theatre is expected to take 18 months.

Where will performances be held in the interim?

The Cairns Civic Theatre will close in late February 2016 for approximately 18 months.

A detailed transition plan is being developed, in collaboration with key users/hirers of the Cairns Civic Theatre, to identify alternative venues for performances during the construction phase.

Coinciding with The Precinct project, Council is currently implementing the Tanks Arts Centre Master Plan which will create a performance space in Tank 3 and reconfigure Tank 5 to increase audience capacity. The master plan includes climate control and improved back of house and technical components, making the venue suitable for a wider range of performing arts. Works will take place during the normal wet-season "shut down" and are due for completion at the end of February 2016.

Council is also looking at a Memorandum of Understanding with Arts Queensland to use the Centre of Contemporary Arts (CoCA) while the new theatre is being built.

Current users/hirers of the Cairns Civic Theatre have been invited to discuss their future performances with Council so suitable temporary venues can be identified.

Will normal "gigs" at the Tanks be affected due to higher use for performing arts?

No. As part of the Tanks Master Plan, Tank 3 will be significantly enhanced to accommodate a broader range of performing arts providing a "new" venue for local and touring performances.

Council is also investigating a Memorandum of Understanding with Arts Queensland for use of the Centre of Contemporary Arts (CoCA) during construction while there are other venues in the City that are available for hire.

What will Council do to limit noise from performances in Munro Martin Parkland?

Munro Martin Parklands is foremost a lush, botanic park that will be a relaxing, peaceful and informal community gathering point on the CBD fringe.

It is envisaged that the stage and amphitheatre will be used for small events and performances suitable to an intimate outdoor setting.

Careful consideration has been given to the location of the stage to project sound over Sheridan Street rather than towards businesses and residents and the tiered amphitheatre itself will act as a significant sound buffer. 

Strict sound requirements, similar to those at Fogarty Park and the Botanic Gardens precinct, will be set and any proposals for large events will be brought to a suitable Council meeting for approval.

What kind of events will be held in Munro Martin Parklands?

Munro Martin Parklands will be a premier gathering place and outdoor performance space for the Cairns community. Tropical plantings, vine covered pergolas and arbours and open-air plaza will encourage passive, casual use of the facility.

In keeping with the nature of the venue, Council envisages Munro Martin Park will be used for small events and performances that lend themselves to a peaceful outdoor setting.

Won't traffic noise interfere with events in the Parklands?

The tiered amphitheatre in the gardens has been carefully designed and positioned to provide sound deflection over Sheridan Street.

Major plantings along the Sheridan Street frontage, including arbours and pergolas covered in tropical vines, will provide a further noise buffer.

Council will continue to work with acoustic experts to ensure the parklands is a peaceful gathering place.

Will the obelisk be retained in Munro Martin Park?

Yes, the obelisk will be retained and refurbished.

The obelisk was officially "opened" in 1956 and dedicated to sisters Janet Taylor Munro (d. 1945) and Margaret Martin (d. 1948). The Munro Martin step-sisters made significant financial contributions to community facilities, including the botanic gardens. 

Margaret Martin's niece, Margie Hart Martin (d. 1953) left her estate to beautify the northern portion of the park and erect lighting.

What will happen to the time capsule at the Civic Theatre?

The time capsule is buried beneath the Centenary Peace Column on the Sheridan Street side of the theatre.

The current design of the Cairns Performing Arts Centre will leave the Peace Column and time capsule in place.

Last updated: 03 June 2015