The development industry in Queensland hasn’t really been feeling the whole Olympic “golden era” vibe lately.
And understandably so.
But there could be worse ways to start the day than it did on Friday.
Waking up to the news that the Queensland and federal governments had reached a $7-billion-plus funding agreement to supercharge preparations for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics is certainly not one of them.
Even through the thick cloud of uncertainty and slew of challenges the industry is facing, the announcement has provided the first real sense of that golden era and its opportunities for growth.
Not least because of the proposed expansion of a key Olympic inner-city Priority Development Area and promise of “major urban renewal delivering thousands of new homes”.
“Growth is good,” says Brisbane property identity and Consolidated Properties chief executive Don O’Rorke. “And we should enjoy the benefits and meet the challenges of growth.
“As an industry, firstly, we welcome the fact that the financial commitment for the
Olympics is now fully underwritten through the partnership between the federal and state governments.
“And, secondly, we welcome the work and money that will come through this program.
“That’s great news for our industry and for the state.
Olympics has a significant intangible … it shines a light on Brisbane and the south-east corner as a destination for capital, immigration and tourism.
“So, one of the great benefits is the region’s recognition enhancement worldwide.”
▲ Consolidated Properties chief executive Don O’Rorke says developers should enjoy the growth and challenges to redevelopment of the area will bring.
The funding agreement announcement follows recent warnings from the Queensland property development sector that time was running out to have projects finished in time for the Games.
Only a day earlier, another of its major developers, Mosaic’s Brook Monahan, publicly expressed concerns over the tardiness of getting Olympic infrastructure under way, particularly given the current backdrop of critical labour and materials shortages creating delays in project delivery.
“I’m a huge advocate for the Olympics,” he said.
“[But] a nine-year runway to deliver what we need to deliver on the infrastructure piece is very short, in my view, and I do think the state government is well behind the eight ball there in terms of delivering.”
With the money—an almost 50-50 funding split between the two tiers of government—now on the table, however, that Olympic development race is firmly in the starting blocks.
The industry’s big concern, however, is the amount the Games infrastructure program—as it hits its straps—is going to pull out of the already acutely insufficient ranks of the skilled labour market between now and 2032.
“As with all growth stories, it comes with challenges and we must rise to meet these challenges,” O’Rorke says.
“The principal challenge is capacity of our construction industry to deliver this pipeline of work. Governments at all levels need to focus on this issue and be proactive in filling the labour shortage that is clearly apparent.”
Under the co-funding agreement, the Queensland government will stump up $2.7 billion for the revitalisation of inner-city Woolloongabba and The Gabba stadium, including the creation of an active travel corridor to
South Brisbane and the CBD.
The federal government will contribute just over $3.4 billion, including $2.5 billion for the new
Brisbane Live entertainment arena at Roma Street that will seat between 17,000 and 18,000 people. It will be the venue for the Olympic swimming events to be staged in a temporary “drop-in swimming pool”. ▲ More than $7 billion will be spent on the precinct to the south of the CBD.
A further $1.8 billion-plus in shared funding will be used to build or upgrade another 19 venues throughout Queensland for the world’s largest sporting event.
“I know, as a Sydneysider, the difference that a Games can make, and here in Queensland, this will consolidate this great city as a global city, as a global powerhouse,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Friday’s media conference in Brisbane.
Confirmed as the home of the
Brisbane Olympics, The Gabba—a famed cricket ground dating back to 1895 that over the years has morphed into a much-loved sporting and entertainment mecca—will be demolished.
It will be replaced by a new 50,000-seat stadium, providing the anchor for a major urban renewal project delivering thousands of new homes, including social and affordable housing.
Significantly, the existing Woolloongabba Priority Development Area will be expanded to encompass more of Woolloongabba and the Stanley Street precinct to South Bank.
Along with its connection to
Cross River Rail and the future Brisbane Metro, it also will deliver a walkable connection to South Bank and Brisbane CBD via Brisbane City Council’s new green bridge.
Unveiling the plans, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accelerate the infrastructure and housing we need to support a growing Queensland”.
“Woolloongabba has the potential to be the next bustling precinct, but that can’t happen without a co-ordinated approach,” she said.
“It’s important we further capitalise on major transport projects already under way like Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro.”
Deputy premier Steven Miles added: “The 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games will change Brisbane the way Expo 88 did. It’s fitting that we will extend the much-loved South Bank precinct to the Gabba and back to the City via the [Botanic] Gardens.
▲ Queensland premier Anastasia Palaszczuk said The Gabba is “not up to scratch”.
“Expanding the existing PDA will see a more integrated and coordinated planning approach for the whole suburb.
“The Gabba will be more than just an events stadium. We want it to be activated 24/7 so that living near it will be exciting and fun.”
But Brisbane Greens councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan argues that with much of the precinct surrounding
The Gabba zoned for 20 to 30-storey buildings there is an Olympic-sized omission in the overall plans.
“There’s no shortage of developable land surrounding The Gabba,” he says.
“On the existing privately-owned sites surrounding the Gabba PDA that are already zoned for high-density development, there is existing latent capacity for a further 4000 dwellings to be constructed—plus room for another 2000 along Logan Rd and Jurgens St.
“What we’re really missing is public green space and community facilities.
“If the government wants to cram that many more apartment-dwellers into central Woolloongabba, they also need to create more public parkland and community facilities to ensure a decent quality of life for people who have more compact private dwellings.
“So, it will be important to set aside a significant proportion of the Gabba PDA land for public green space.”
Sriranganathan also notes demolishing the Gabba and building a new stadium in its place will “likely put upward pressure on surrounding land values” as well as “use up a significant amount of construction workforce capacity, materials and equipment … making it slower and more expensive to build housing elsewhere in the Greater Brisbane area”.
To make way for the redevelopment of the precinct, East Brisbane State School will be permanently closed and its heritage-listed buildings refurbished, repurposed and integrated into the operations of the new Gabba stadium.
Palaszczuk said although the existing stadium had hosted sport for more than a century and was home to cricket and AFL most weeks of the year it was “not up to scratch” and was already losing out on major sporting events.
“It must be upgraded to maintain our competitiveness for international sport and events,” she said. “When it’s done, this stadium will shine for Queensland, and so will the area surrounding it.”