Drone footage of the Neerkol Orphanage showing the remaining buildings with the two far left chosen to be developed.
Drone footage of the Neerkol Orphanage showing the remaining buildings with the two far left chosen to be developed. Allan Reinika

Acting Mayor backs controversial Neerkol development

IN one of his first decisions as Acting Mayor Tony Williams has backed a controversial housing development at Neerkol orphanage.

The Planning and Regulatory Committee moved a proposal last week for the new owners of the infamous orphanage to renovate two of the remaining buildings into a private residence.

 

Acting Mayor Tony Williams.
Acting Mayor Tony Williams. Chloe Lyons

In yesterday's ordinary council meeting, there was no discussion between councillors about the proposal which was moved almost immediately.

Acting Mayor Tony Williams said there was no need for discussion as council had no grounds to refuse the proposal.

 

Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol some years ago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol some years ago. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK191114aneerkol

"The new owners are looking to move forward from the orphanage's previous days and sad history," he said.

"They have taken the steps to develop and do something good with the land."

The announcement last week received intense public backlash form the Central Queensland community with many expressing their frustration on the decision the site should be "left in peace".

Local grazing family, the Coombs', leased the 57 hectare property off Stanwell Power Station to run their cattle for several years before buying the land recently.

Rockhampton Regional councillor Ellen Smith defended council's decision last week saying the only reason the proposal passed over their table was because it was previously zoned as heavy industry.

She said council had to approve the development before and soiled was turned by the new owners.

 

Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol some years ago and has since deteriorated. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Fire damaged the former girls dorm at St Joseph's Home at Neerkol some years ago and has since deteriorated. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK191114aneerkol

"They plan on upgrading the buildings that have been out of use for so long as these buildings are solid brick," she said.

"All the usual upgrades will be made to the buildings for them to be inhabited."

Cr Smith said the quiet family saw the property as prime land for cattle grazing and did not want to focus on the history of the orphanage which closed down in 1978.

The Neerkol orphanage was the site of horrendous child abuse during its operations.

"It's ultimately up to the Coombs family on what happens to the remaining buildings now," she said.

"They're a lovely, quiet family who will use the untouched land well."

Cr Williams reinforced the memorial would always be an important part of the site no matter what developments went ahead.

 

Neerkol Memorial Garden.
Neerkol Memorial Garden. Allan Reinikka ROK041116aneerkol

"The Neerkol Memorial will always be a component of the land and a reminder of the history for people to come and reflect at," he said.

The Morning Bulletin attempted to contact the Coombs family but they declined to comment about their decision to live there.



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