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

Why council allowed housing plans at CQ's horror orphanage

AFTER a public backlash against a decision to allow house plans at Neerkol, councillor Ellen Smith has defended council's decision to approve the development.

On Tuesday, Rockhampton Regional Council approved a material change of use for the abandoned orphanage in a Planning and Regulatory meeting.

Cr Ellen Smith says Rockhampton Regional Council played a small part in the new developments to the Neerkol orphanage.
Cr Ellen Smith says Rockhampton Regional Council played a small part in the new developments to the Neerkol orphanage. Allan Reinikka ROK190717aspringe

Cr Smith today said council had a small part in the new plans for the site which has been closed since 1978.

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

Cr Smith said the only reason the proposal came across their desk was because all of the 57-hectare Neerkol area was zoned as heavy industry land when owned by Stanwell Power Station.

As the development would be against council's planning scheme to build on heavy industry land, Cr Smith said the proposal had to be approved by council before any soil was turned.

Cr Smith said the huge property was initially leased off the Stanwell Power Station by the new grazier owners, the Coombs family, to run their cattle for several years.

"The Coombs family purchased the whole property recently as grazier land and own other properties in the local area,” she said.

Cr Smith said the land was plentiful for holding cattle and had a history of running dairy and beef cattle even when Neerkol was in operation.

The two buildings highlighted in red are both planned for redevelopment by the new owners.
The two buildings highlighted in red are both planned for redevelopment by the new owners. RRC

Despite the unsettling history of the historic orphanage, Cr Smith said the new owners wanted to focus on the land as a great place to hold their abundance of cattle.

She said any new developments to the land was now out of council's control and the Coombs family could develop the land at their leisure.

"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.

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

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

Statues for the Neerkol Memorial Garden. Photo Melanie Plane/The Morning Bulletin
Statues for the Neerkol Memorial Garden. Photo Melanie Plane/The Morning Bulletin Melanie Plane

Cr Smith said the memorial garden erected at the bottom of the property would still be open for the public to visit and pay their respects.

The Morning Bulletin has attempted to contact the Coombs family.



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