Ex Aurizon employee Wayne Wright
Ex Aurizon employee Wayne Wright JACK EVANS

Laid off Aurizon worker reflects on day of panic for many

WHEN 180 Aurizon workers were told the Rockhampton rail precinct would be closed within the year, Wayne Wright, an Aurizon worker at the time, described a scene of panic and uncertainty amongst his fellow workers.

Wayne was knocking on the door of retirement when he was made redundant, and Aurizon's 2017 decision to lay him off was the final push which made him pack away his high-vis uniform for good.

However, many of Waynes work mates were were left high and dry as almost 200 workers flooded the Rockhampton job market overnight.

"It was sad, you know, when they shut the workshops there because long term manufacturing jobs went down the drain, and there is nothing else around here like it,” he said.

The softly spoken retiree said he noticed the local economy slump almost instantly with other associated local businesses taking the hit.

" Local business dropped a hell of a lot because all of those pay packets went,” he said.

"People had to find jobs that simply weren't around and a number of people left town.

"This announcement gives me a bit of hope for the future.”

The announcement Wayne was referencing was a $15million Labor buy up and refurbishment of the once doomed Aurizon rail precinct which was on a fast-track to dereliction.

The plan announced Labor, if elected, would acquire the site of Aurizon and turn it in to a manufacturing hub to home a manner of existing and emerging industries including defence, mining, renewables and hydrogen fuels.

Despite the earmarked industries, MP Brendan O'Connor, who would assume the role of Employment Minister if Labor takes parliament on May 18 said Labor, said he would be open to accommodating other industry.

"They are the key areas that I think we'd be looking at but of course there are others,” Mr O'Connor said.

"It makes perfect sense to us to support these particular industries and I think the local will welcome this.”

Aurizon spokespersons had previously told The Morning Bulletin the company was actively seeking a potential buyer of the site.

Upon entry to the site, this was made apparent with banners almost complete surrounding the property advertising for expressions of interest.

Mr O'Connor was confident the Government would be the best potential buyer and the acquisition process would be smooth.

" I know that Aurizon wants to do the right thing,” he said.

"The fact is there is many people who lost their jobs as a result of some of (Aurizon's) decisions.

"I'm advised that Aurizon wants to ensure that the engage with purchasers and the commonwealth will be very well placed.”

Labor's Candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson said he was glad to have the opportunity to deliver the announcement.

He hoped the site could become the manufacturing institution that it once was.

Mr Robertson believed the program would help "train people for the future, in future skills, abilities and a more modern style of economy.”

As for Wayne, he had no plans on returning to work if the facility went ahead, instead choosing to hone his lawn bowling ability and spend time with his grand children.

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