STADIUM SAGA: No clarity on Browne Park feasibility study
TECHNICALLY, Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke has delivered on his 2017 State Election promise to conduct a feasibility study examining the viability of a stadium upgrade at Browne Park – but there is a hitch – we still don’t know the study’s outcome.
With two rival bids to build stadiums in Rockhampton, either at Victoria Park or Browne Park, the Queensland Government made the construction of a 10,000 seat stadium its priority, committing $150,000 towards fast-tracking the feasibility study in March 2018.
Since then, Central Queenslanders have paced the waiting room for years, sweating on their stadium test results coming back.
The Morning Bulletin understands the study has been completed and over the years, has followed up with Tourism Minister Kate Jones’ office and Mr O’Rourke to learn of the study’s outcome.
As yet, no details have been provided by the Queensland Government providing clarity on the results of the study.
It is still unknown when the feasibility study officially started and was completed, whether the project stacks up, the estimated cost, seating capacity, whether it would be a staged upgrade, a project timeline or if any concept plans exist.
As residents edge towards another state election, The Morning Bulletin has unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a phone interview with Ms Jones in recent weeks to get clearer answers to these longstanding questions.
Ms Jones responded in a short emailed statement reaffirming her support for the Browne Park Stadium upgrade project.
“The government made a commitment to investigate the viability of a major upgrade of Browne Park because we know how valuable new infrastructure can be when it comes to creating jobs and pumping cash back into local businesses,” Ms Jones said.
“But we have to do the due diligence on major projects like this to ensure best value for taxpayers.
“This process is ongoing. The government will consider a major upgrade of Browne Park and will make a decision in due course.”
Last July, Mr O’Rourke took Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to visit Browne Park when she revealed the stadium project had her support and the next stage was under consideration by the Cabinet Budget Review Committee.
“I’ve been here before but actually now it all fits in and makes sense. It will have to go to Cabinet and I would like to see it being considered by cabinet by the end of the year,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Mr O’Rourke expressed his frustration in February about the lack of progress with the project, especially given the need to stimulate the post-COVID-19 economy with job generating projects.
In June there was optimism an announcement would take place “within weeks” but it failed to materialise.
Proponent for the Browne Park Stadium upgrade, Browne Park Trust chairman and former-Keppel MP Paul Hoolihan attempted to explain the delay in February, saying it usually took years to put this sort of infrastructure in place.
“I have concerns at any delay but any spending needs to be considered to give people the best bang for their buck,” Mr Hoolihan said.
“I have confirmation that the proposal is being considered in budget deliberation which means the planning is still on track. If the full proposal is not funded, the Trust is hopeful that the upgrade is considered as a staged building program and our community secures a stadium of which it can be proud.”
Mr Hoolihan said he understood the long awaited feasibility study was nearly complete but the designs originally proposed as part of the study were being revamped to meet various planning and community requirements.
As we build towards the October election, Rockhampton’s LNP and One Nation candidates’ voices are expected to grow louder in support of the Rocky Stadium rival bid at Victoria Park, ramping up the pressure on Mr O’Rourke to deliver.
One Nation’s candidate for Rockhampton Torin O’Brien spent today door knocking along Murray St, directly across from where Browne Park Stadium would be built.
“Obviously it’s an absolute debacle, it could cost up to $100m and we still are having a feasibility study hidden from us, promised in 2017 when Labor narrowly won the seat,” Mr O’Brien said.
“But today the news was even worse, not a single resident has been approached about what they thought, and the answer was a resounding ‘no’.
“Parking and congestion would be out of control and seriously impact the surrounding blocks quality of peace.”
He was concerned with information he obtained from a property evaluator who believed nearby house prices may plummet if the stadium upgrade went ahead.
“Shame on any party that doesn’t consult the people who would be directly and seriously impacted,” he said.