$23m stadium announcement opens up can of worms
HAVING received a $23 million commitment from the Federal Government to build the new Rocky Stadium at Victoria Park, the Rocky Sports Club is being challenged on key details by opponents pushing the rival Browne Park bid.
Concerns have been raised about who would foot the bill for maintaining the new stadium and whether it would be a good idea to build it on a former dump site in an area prone to flooding.
Advocate for the Browne Park Stadium upgrade, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said he would support any federal government investment in Rockhampton, especially at the moment.
"But we need to know what the plan is for ongoing costs and repairs," Mr O'Rourke said.
"If the ongoing maintenance costs are around 5 per cent of construction, which is a low estimate, we'd be looking at more than $1 million a year to keep it going - who's going to wear that? Who's going to wear the cost if it floods?
"These should absolutely not be lumped on ratepayers - they need to come out today and explain what the plan is."
He posted a video onto social media capturing the flooding at Victoria Park in April, 2017.
Mr Shuker has previously addressed this issue saying previous flooding came from backed up water, which had since been countered by RRC's installation of one-way valves.
Mr O'Rourke reaffirmed his plan to deliver the feasibility study and a staged build at Browne Park, the spiritual home of rugby league in Rockhampton.
"Rockhampton Regional Council supports the Browne Park development," he said.
"I note that the federal funding is subject to council and state government approval.
"I'll be seeking a commitment from the federal government to cover the ongoing costs before anything goes ahead or at least an ironclad agreement that Rocky residents never have to pick up the tab."
Brown Park Trust chairman Paul Hoolihan echoed Mr O'Rourke's concerns on the cost of maintaining Rocky Stadium, saying facilities of this nature incurred substantial ongoing costs (around 1.5 per cent of construction) on an annual basis, which would fall to RRC.
"Has the Federal Government guaranteed the annual costs of any operational costs and ongoing maintenance and repairs?" Mr Hoolihan asked.
Co-President of the Rocky Sports Club Gavin Shuker told the Morning Bulletin that he had discussions with other stadiums and the costs quoted by Mr O'Rourke and Mr Hoolihan were exaggerated.
He made the assurance that the Rocky Sporting Club intended to carry the cost of maintaining Rocky Stadium.
Mr Hoolihan said the Victoria Park proposal covered many areas over which Rocky Sports Club had no entitlements or secure tenure, including much State and council land, with the stadium mostly falling within the RRC flood zone.
"Building any public amenities on leasehold land in a designated flood area on a dump site is a waste of public funding which will result in substantial costs over the years when it is damaged by flooding," Mr Hoolihan said.
"Any stadium construction which builds up the area of Victoria Park will result in heavy surface flooding alone for Wandal and possibly the CBD without the effects of the Fitzroy River flooding.
"Most people in Rockhampton and particularly supporters of past Brothers Club, the current lessee of Victoria Park, who have never been consulted, would be horrified at this outcome because the Sports Club cannot guarantee the cost of management and also any substantial costs of repairs from flooding which will fall to the RRC/ratepayers."
Despite the Victoria Park stadium site being accused of being a flood-prone former dump site, Mr Shuker said similar obstacles hadn't stood in the way of other prominent stadiums around the country.
"Suncorp (Stadium) is built on a cemetery, flood zone and a rubbish dump," he said.
"The $1 billion Optus Stadium was built on a rubbish dump and a floodway."
He said the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) and Redcliffe stadiums were also built on rubbish dumps and experienced flood issues.
"We've had extensive talks with the people around here about the still water, not flood water, about a drainage or pump system," he said.
"These people throwing negatives around, I would much rather if they concentrated on the positives for the community.
"As we have stated before, Browe Park needs an upgrade. We're fully supportive and if Barry can get them some money, I'll be the first person to congratulate them because that's something for the community."
Mr Hoolihan said it was "slightly disappointing" that the Queensland Government had taken so long to solidify its assistance to the footballing community and other proposed users of Browne Park in Central Queensland.
"But they have expressed their solid commitment to work with the Trust on the upgrade and any continuing costs will certainly not fall on the people of Rockhampton," he said.
"The Management of Browne Park Inc. are also still strongly committed to the Browne Park upgrade and it is still proposed to proceed to construction which will be on a sensible and non-flood affected area."
With Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson both claiming the credit for securing the funding commitment for the stadium at Victoria Park, the crowd gathered at the Rocky Sports Club on Monday morning looked on with interest to see whether the political rivals would share the stage for their stadium announcement.
In the end it was Senator Hanson who went first, handing over the cheque to the delighted Mr Shuker before Ms Landry led a separate press conference, pledging to ensure the money was fast-tracked to the project.
Clutching tightly to his cheque, Mr Shuker said he looked forward to getting on with delivering the stadium for the community, before explaining what would happen next for the project.
"It's talking, getting all the approvals in place with the council," Mr Shuker said.
"Full credit to council, they're already up and running and they're fully on board with it, so I can't see too many issues with it, especially if everyone unites.
"We've done extensive research with the builders so it's not going to be a blow out like other projects, we're very confident about what we've done and from there it's 10 to 12 month build time."
He said local workers would be first in line for jobs when it came time to start building.
When asked about what would happen to the Rockhampton Brothers football club, which leased the land on which the stadium would be built, Mr Shuker said discussions with the club and council were ongoing.
"We've got Brothers who have been here a hundred years so we're making sure we're working with them to ensure the status quo (continues) that they run the field here and we want to make sure that stays the same," Mr Shuker said.
"I've already met with Brothers, they're in a good place, they're fully on-board."
The Brothers committee were expected to meet on Tuesday night to discuss their plans with Mr Shuker going forward.
Queensland Senator Matt Canavan hailed Ms Landry's successful effort to deliver the stadium to CQ while also recognising the support provided by One Nation.
"Rocky will be getting a new sports stadium because of her hard working efforts. This community facility will attract sporting events and jobs to our region," he said.
"Thanks to Gavin and his team at the Rocky Sports Club for their tireless efforts."
Rockhampton Council responds to announcement
Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow said the funding commitment for the Rocky Stadium was a wonderful announcement which was very much welcomed.
"It's important to remember that this isn't just an election commitment - this is the Federal Government putting money on the table. So it's real," Cr Strelow said.
"I know there's a bit of a battle going on about who gets to claim this, but the reality is that the money is being put up by the Federal Government so my thanks is to Michelle Landry.
"Council had not committed funding to either stadium bid. When we discussed the competing stadium proposals recently we decided we would try to stay neutral and lend our support to whichever project secures funding."
She said there were would need to be resolved including approvals and land tenure.
"However, my conversation with Michelle Landry is that the Federal Government understand there are further discussions to occur, which can now be had with the backdrop that the money is already committed and the stadium is on its way," she said.
"I don't see any problems that can't be resolved. The land tenure likely will need State Government approval as well but I expect that would be forthcoming."