CHRISTMAS PRESENT: Former Maroochy Shire mayor Alison Barry-Jones wants the Coast’s entertainment and arts centre back high on the list of local priorities.
CHRISTMAS PRESENT: Former Maroochy Shire mayor Alison Barry-Jones wants the Coast’s entertainment and arts centre back high on the list of local priorities. Brett Wortman

Former mayor wants to sell Christmas Island to Indonesia

CHRISTMAS Island should be sold to Indonesia and the funds used to pay for a new arts, convention and exhibition centre in central Maroochydore.

That is the unusual idea from former Maroochy Shire mayor Alison Barry-Jones.

Ms Barry-Jones has been pushing the economic and social benefits of a modern exhibition centre for the Sunshine Coast for more than 15 years, and has not totally discounted the "out of the box" suggestion to sell the island to generate some much-needed funding.

She believes the value of such a centre to the community is vastly underrated and can help to not only generate income and jobs, but also to create a central "soul" in a community.

"Selling Christmas Island will solve several problems and provide the Sunshine Coast with the funding for the arts and exhibition centre," she said.

"Moving this project back to being a top priority, along with the upgrade of the Bruce Hwy, will create the economic opportunities that our unemployed youth need and deserve."

The unusual idea to sell the island came from retired geologist Phillip Connard, of Verrierdale.

He put it forward as a solution to Australia's immigration dilemma before Ms Barry-Jones saw the potential for a funding windfall.

"Most Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel arrivals target Christmas Island - which is just 350km, or less than two days passage in a fishing vessel - off the Indonesian coast," Mr Connard wrote in a letter to the editor.

"The Australian mainland is a further 1600km to the south, and few vessels have attempted the voyage.

"Remove Christmas Island from the equation, and the problem of illegal boat arrivals goes away. So why not sell it to Indonesia?"

Mr Connard said the island had "no future economic value to Australia" and was a drain on our economy.

"Geologically the island is an isolated seamount, not part of the Australian continental plate, and has no petroleum potential or other mineral resources," he said.

Ms Barry-Jones said the entertainment and arts complex should be a greater priority than the planned expansion of Sunshine Coast Airport.

"It's a solution to our economic crisis, first and foremost, over and above the airport," she said.

"It's no good developing a big fat airport and having nothing more for people to do here. The airport would develop on its own accord because of the pressure from business."

Ms Barry-Jones argued a shortage of money was an easy fallback argument that seemed to have relegated the entertainment centre perpetually to the backburner.

"You can imagine the region without the university and without the TAFE and the Southern Access (Maroochy Boulevard) - at the time there was an outcry that we'd never get it because of the money," she said.

"Money gets spent elsewhere - we just need our politicians to fight for it."

She noted that the region seemed strongly focused on sporting events despite reports from Virgin Airlines that some 50% of travellers sought out cultural experiences.