Strelow slams weak funding for the Browne Park expansion
WITH community concerns that Rockhampton was being bypassed for the big sporting and musical events, a push is on to increase funding to examine a Browne Park expansion.
Standing at the gates of Browne Park today, flanked by her trusty boxes of Krummies breadcrumbs, Independent candidate Margaret Strelow said the $75,000 promised by Labor's Barry O'Rourke for a scoping study into the Browne Park expansion was not the game changing announcement he claimed - it was "breadcrumbs”.
"$75,000 is a waste of money, it barely gets your documentation ready to go and get the design work,” Ms Strelow said.
"When we were asking for support for the art gallery, quite properly, we were given $2m and that takes the gallery design to fine design.
"This needs at least a million dollars, that's to get the design work done so we know where we're going so that we as a community can then go and advocate.”
Ms Strelow said the CQ region desperately needed this long talked about expansion of the 4000 seat stadium, with a 8000 person capacity, to go ahead.
"Here are at a facility that should cater for ten or twelve thousand people, we know we need extra seats, we know this is a popular sport,” Ms Strelow said.
"The Browne Park's trust tell us that this needs about a $30m development so at the very least, $15m from both of the majors, what about it?
"And then they can go and get federal money, that is the plan.”
She said if the Labor party or the conservatives wanted to do it, they would just put the money on the table.
"Some years ago when the Mackay Cutters needed a new stadium, the Labor party just trotted out $8m in the last days of the election campaign and that was to up the ante on a previous bid of $6.5m from the other side.”
Ms Strelow said when the parties want to give money, they make the announcements.
"It is our turn, we're sick of breadcrumbs,” she said.
"As a community, we should be demanding a proper sense of treatment from the majors, they've taken us for granted for too long.
Labor Candidate for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke said the refurbishment of Browne Park would create a major sports and entertainment hub and create jobs for Rockhampton.
"That's why I'm backing this project, a re-elected Palaszczuk Government will provide the funds to get the plans right and then will get the work underway,” Mr O'Rourke said.
"Margaret Strelow knew as Mayor you have to get the plans right before throwing more money at a project. Now that she's a parliamentary candidate she's conveniently forgotten all that.
"I'm disappointed Margaret Strelow continues to put politics, ahead of the interests of the people of Rocky.”
Mr O'Rourke said he has spoken to the Board of the Rockhampton Leagues Club down at Browne Park and made it very clear that a re-elected Labor Government will refurbish Browne Park.
"If Margaret Strelow thought this was a waste of money, then as Mayor did her own Council commit to $25,000 to assist with the study for Browne Park,” he said.
"Now she's plucking figures from thin air about the development which are just financially reckless.”
Rockhampton's One Nation Party candidate Wade Rothery said he could remember in the 90s when he was playing school boys football in Rockhampton and 4000-5000 spectators would be watching the finals and it was almost impossible to get a seat on the hill or in the grounds.
"I'd love to see a new stadium, but we're putting the cart before the horse because those days of packed out footy matches aren't there at the moment,” Mr Rothery said.
"I recognise the potential Browne Park has to offer, but we can only look at redeveloping the stadium if we have strong, local sporting clubs.
"We need to get the NRL clubs supporting our schools throughout Central Queensland in order for local football to return to those bursting 1990s crowds.”
Mr Rothery said Rockhampton had some amazing school teams that would benefit greatly from scholarships provided by the NRL, but scholarships go for all sports in the region.
"I can handle sitting on a grass hill or in the current stands for another few years if we direct funds towards growing our sporting groups again and making sport affordable for mums and dads,” he said.
"How great would it be to have home grown talent like a Samantha Kerr or a Jonathon Thurston come back to Rockhampton and assist with the next generation of upcoming sports stars.
"Let's create superstars in hockey, touch, trampolining and other sports. Clubs simply need help providing affordable sports that families can get back involved in. Sporting arenas can come later.”
Browne Park Trust chair Paul Hoolihan, who last week called on candidates to support the expansion in a letter to the editor, was fired up by Ms Strelow's comments.
"It's about time people who make comments about things they know nothing about put their time and effort into finding out the truth,” Mr Hoolihan said.
"Margaret Strelow has not spoken to anyone on the Browne Park Trust as far as I'm aware, nor anyone at the Rockhampton Leagues Club or anyone at Populous (the company set to undertake the study).
"Barry O'Rourke is the only candidate who got off his backside and did something.”
He said the $30m stadium build figure Ms Strelow quoted and which he had used in his letter was "almost 10 years old”.
Populous advises the stadium could cost as much as $60m.
"If the scoping study comes up that the stadium will cost $30m then I will dance for joy along East St.”
He said his political affiliations had nothing to do with his position.
"I am an independent chair of the Browne Park Trust,” Mr Hoolihan said.
"If Douglas Rodgers or Wade Rothery comes along and backs us, that would be great.”
Greens candidate for Rockhampton Kate Giamarelos said Rockhampton had a rich sporting history and by improving facilities such as Browne Park, it would open up Rockhampton for greater economic opportunities in tourism in sporting and events.
"We need to ensure these venues are multi-purpose facilities so we get the most out of our investment,” Ms Giamarelos said.
"As a student of sports sciences and an amateur athlete myself, I am passionate about fostering sporting events and venues in our region.
"In my experience I have seen sporting clubs compromise between maintaining facilities and providing pathways for their youngest members to excel in their sport.”
She said we couldn't have this conversation in isolation and that we need to talk about the future of our sporting clubs.
"In the absence of better pathways to funding and support, clubs are often dependent on poker machines to raise revenue,” Ms Giamarelos said.
"Gambling has real negative consequences for our community.
"If we want Rockhampton to benefit from a resurgence in sporting clubs and venues, we need to provide them with sufficient government funding and assistance.”
The other major party candidate LNP's Douglas Rodgers has been approached for a response regarding this story and all of the Rockhampton candidates have been asked for their positions regarding the proposed Browne Park expansion.
Their positions will be added to the story as they come to hand.