YEAR IN REVIEW: Barry O'Rouke delivers on all promises
IT WAS the first week of December last year when political newcomer Barry O'Rourke secured the seat of Rockhampton for Labor.
His victory followed a tightly fought political contest involving a steep learning curve for the former regional housing director.
Since taking office, Mr O'Rourke pitched himself as the nice guy of CQ politics, refusing to weigh into mud slinging and gradually warming to the task of representing Rockhampton and delivering on his election promises.
"It's been a huge adjustment but one I'm warming to and every day it is a privilege to stand up for and help people in our community," Mr O'Rourke said.
"Labor for me is all about standing up for the underdog.
"All my working life in the housing department I've worked with people who, for various reasons, have been struggling. So this desire to help is ingrained. It's part of me."
He was amazed by how much of a difference he could make as a member of parliament by listening and taking up an issue on behalf of someone who really needed help.
"It's the most satisfying thing about the job - advocating, guiding, picking up the phone and being able to resolve a problem or work towards a solution," he said.
"Most of what you do as an MP goes on behind the scenes and you can't talk about it because that would be betraying confidences, but it is incredibly satisfying to make a real difference in people's lives.
"Certainly no-one could accuse me of being a polished politician, but I have always been a good listener and I've made it a priority to be accessible. My door is always open."
Another perk of the job was being able to meet inspirational people who work on behalf of the community and don't seek anything in return.
"It's an honour to work with them as a community representative and to make sure they get every assistance as they work to make lives better," he said.
One of the biggest differences, Mr O'Rourke says, is that although he had lived in Rockhampton for many years, and was responsible for thousands of properties and managed 180 staff, he was largely anonymous prior to the momentous events that led to his election.
"Now my face is on the television and in the paper and lots of people know who I am," he said.
"My family joke that I have a face for radio.
"It has taken a lot of getting used to. I'd never spoken to the media before."
There was a number of projects Mr O'Rourke would like to to see through to completion including the Rookwood Weir, the Rockhampton Hospital car park and the upgrade of Capricornia Correction Centre.
"It's important to keep the dollars flowing into the city and I'm always looking for opportunities to make Rockhampton an even better place to live," he said.
"One of my priorities is to build relationships and consensus so we have all three levels of government working together.
While it was great to see some positivity returning in recent months, Mr O'Rourke said unemployment is still too high and there are too many people in the community with casual jobs rather than full-time permanent employment.
"I know how hard it is to get a home loan if you've only got a casual job," Mr O'Rourke said.
"So I'll be working hard every day to attract investment into Rockhampton and get more people into work. I'm just getting on with the job.
"I'm really just getting started."
Projects that are under way or fully completed since the 25 November 2017 state election in the Rockhampton area:
$10 million investment over three years for hub based at CQUniversity's North Rockhampton campus, which uses existing infrastructure to act as a central central coordination point, focused on supporting and expanding existing manufacturing businesses, to create more jobs and increase their global competitiveness. .
New Art Gallery
$8 million over two years to support a new Art Gallery in Rockhampton (total of $10 million) spend. (Photo attached)
$66 million allocated in 2018-19 out of a $352 million total spend to support the construction of the Rookwood Weir delivered in partnership with the Australian Government.
- $1 million in 2018-19 of $2.75 million to upgrade home economics block and refurbish classroom at North Rockhampton State High School.
- $1.6 million enclosed area with two multi-purpose courts at North Rockhampton State High School.
- $1.2 million upgrade of Rockhampton State High School air conditioning.
Browne Park development
$150,000 has been allocated to complete a scoping study for the development of Browne Park.
Yeppoon Rail Line upgrade to JBS abattoir
$4.1 million in 2018-19 to upgrade and reopen a section of the Yeppoon rail line, to allow a Rockhampton abattoir to be serviced by cattle trains, work is due for completion in 2019.
Rockhampton Courthouse (Photo attached)
$6.5 million in 2018-19 out of a $12 million total spend for upgrade and repair work at the Rockhampton Courthouse.
Gracemere permanent fire and rescue station and co-located regional firecom upgrade
$2.1 million for New Gracemere Fire and Rescue Station. Includes $800,000 to complete the upgrade of the Rockhampton Fire and Rescue Station and Communications Centre in 2018-19.
JOINT STATE AND FEDERAL ROADS INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Capricorn Highway duplication - Rockhampton to Gracemere
$10.9 million in 2018-19 out of $75 million total spend to duplicate a section of the highway from two to four lanes, due for completion in July 2020. Part of the Northern Australia Roads Program, delivered in partnership with the Australian Government.
Capricorn Highway between Gracemere and Emerald
$10 million out of a $19 million total spend for overtaking lanes and other safety measures on the Capricorn Highway between Gracemere and Emerald.
Bruce Highway - Rockhampton - St Lawrence, Rockhampton Northern Access Upgrade
$40 million in 2018-19 out of a $121 million total spend on stage 1 of the duplication of the Bruce Highway from two to four lanes between Rockhampton-Yeppoon Road and Terranova Drive, due for completion in December 2019. Part of the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program, delivered in partnership with the Australian Government.
Rockhampton Road Train
$9 million in 2018-19 out of a $30 million total spend to complete improvements to intersections and road train access on Rockhampton roads, due for completion in December 2019.
Partially funded by the State Infrastructure Fund and the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program. Delivered in partnership with the Australian Government.
- $15.7 million in 2018-19 out of a $25.5 million total spend for a new four-storey, 597 bay Rockhampton Hospital Carpark. Jointly funded by the State Government, Australian Government and CQ Hospital and Health Service.
- Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service's 2018-19 operating budget of $610.4 million (almost $44 million more than the previous financial year)
- $9.1 million growth funding to meet projected increases in activity including emergency department presentations, elective surgery and outpatients
- $4.4 million for community mental health treatment services
- $1.3 million to improve gastrointestinal endoscopy services
- $200,000 to support the adult Step-Up, Step-Down facility being established under the Mental Health Connecting Care to Recovery initiative
- $600,000 for additional clinical staff to meet increasing demand for health services in Queensland correctional facilities.
First 5 Forever
$91,000 in 2018-19 to deliver the First 5 Forever family literacy initiative which helps improve development outcomes for children.
Regional Racing - Rockhampton to Cairns
Queensland Racing Industry regional provincial clubs standard stakes boosted by $2,000 per race and northern feature carnivals increased by $527,000 to be spread across carnivals from Rockhampton to Cairns.
$500,000 to RRC for Rockhampton Netball facility upgrade to Jardine Park under the Female Facilities Program. The council will use the investment to construct a new amenities block, which will include two new change rooms, nine toilets, four showers, parents' room, and a toilet and shower accessible for people with a disability.
Victoria Park Gymnastics and Trampoline
Victoria Park Gymnastics and Trampoline to enhance its facility upgrade with $100,000 under the Female Facilities Program. The club is using this money to construct female amenities including showers, change room and a unisex toilet.
Central Queensland Motor Sports Club Inc
$100 000 to the Central Queensland Motor Sporting Club to further advance motor sports in the region.
$93,000 to construct the Frank Haack basketball court with adjustable baskets which will assist with supporting both junior and senior teams in the Rockhampton area.
Over the past 12 months I have supported numerous not-for-profit organisations with their funding applications under the Gambling Community Benefit Fund. To date this figure is almost $1M for our region.
Community inclusion through sport
The showcasing of skills and the bonds to build community inclusion will see $100,000 funded in 2019 for all-inclusive sporting opportunities.
Works for Queensland Program
State Government funds provided to Rockhampton Regional Council under the Works for Queensland Program:
- $2.475 Million for the development of artificial hockey surface and associated access and circulation infrastructurefor Rockhampton Hockey Association.
- $500,000 for. Gracemere CBD Footpath upgrade works.
- $800,000 for Hugo Lassen Fernery - Structural reinforcement works.
- $500,000 for Macquarie Street Upgrade worksin the Gracemere Industrial Area.
- Reception Room at Rockhampton City Hall - Remove the mezzanine floor above the Reception Room to return it to its original state. This will restore the Hall to allow the conduct of civic functions - $1.3 Million.
- $500,000 for Gracemere SES Facilities Upgrades for construction of additional building capacity and amenities.
- $80,000 for Springers Lagoon works to stabilise and enhance the area.
- $100,000 for installation of Stapleton Park Flood Valves to mitigate the impacts of flooding.
- $120,000 for constructtion of Stapleton Park public toilets.
- $150,000 for straightening and replacement of street signage in the Rockhampton Region.