Wellcamp quarantine facility to open this year

Palaszczuk announces Wellcamp quarantine facility construction underway

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says building a quarantine facility at Wellcamp 'is a no brainer'.

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Ground has broken on a dedicated regional quarantine facility at the Wellcamp precinct west of Toowoomba, with the expectation that the first phase of the hub will be operational by the end of the year.

With a grader working in the background and planes flying overhead, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had been advocating for a regional quarantine facility for a long time.

"It is a no brainer," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"We all know that our hotels were not built to deal with the Delta strain of this virus, in fact what is happening in New South Wales and Victoria is a direct result of the Delta strain coming in and essentially breaching hotel quarantine, so we need regional quarantine facilities.

"How do we know they work? Well, look at Howard Springs. Howard Springs has been a brilliant example, you've seen our Olympians come back and stay there, it's spread out, it's fresh air for people, people don't have to stay in rooms without balconies."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday morning that a dedicated regional quarantine facility would be built at the Wellcamp precinct west of Toowoomba. Pictures: Hayley Kennedy

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday morning that a dedicated regional quarantine facility would be built at the Wellcamp precinct west of Toowoomba. Pictures: Hayley Kennedy

Ms Palaszczuk said hotels were not meant to be the last line of defence to deal with a global pandemic.

"We have agreed with the Commonwealth about Pinkenba... and the Commonwealth is building that facility," she said.

"My government has reached agreement with John Wagner and the facility in Toowoomba will be built.

"Our cabinet has given the go ahead and... construction is underway today. This is going to be a great boost for our defence against the Delta virus in this country."

In January, Queensland Country Life exclusively revealed Wagner Corporation and the Queensland government were in talks to build a quarantine hub.

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The facility will have a 1000 bed capacity, with Wagner Corporation expecting the first stage of the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre to be delivered for use by the end of 2021.

"I've been calling for this since January, it could have been built by now, but we are going to have this facility starting to be up and running by the end of the year with 500 beds, and 1000 bed capacity by the first quarter of next year," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"This is a commitment by the Wagner family, working with the Queensland government, to say to the people of Queensland 'we want to keep you safe'.

"The best way to keep you safe and keep Delta out of Queensland is to build as quickly as possible a regional quarantine facility and as soon as that facility is built, we are ready to put it to use."

Deputy Premier Steven Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner at the construction site of the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner at the construction site of the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre.

Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner thanked the Queensland government for "having the confidence in us to go ahead with this facility".

"The fact that we're going to move ahead with this facility, which was mooted a long time ago and as the Premier suggested it could have already been built and operational.

"As the landlord of this facility to the Queensland government, we are working through the final design criteria to make sure we have the best fit-for-purpose regional accommodation facility for return travellers that there is in the country, or in fact the world.

"This is going to be a great economic boost for Toowoomba, it will create a lot of local employment, our local producers, just by the fact that we have to produce 3000 meals a day, will really benefit from this.

"And it will help get Queensland out of COVID and on the road to economic recovery, which we desperately need."

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the land adjacent to Wellcamp Airport was "the perfect location for a regional quarantine accommodation facility".

"It is buffered from the community, it is a greenfield location but ready for construction, in fact early works are underway as we speak, and it is adjacent to an airport," Mr Miles said.

"It will be the first facility after Howard Springs to be completed and be accommodating returning travellers.

"The talk about this facility has gone on for too long and the Premier gave me a very clear instruction to get it going, make it happen, and that's what we're announcing today."

Mr Miles said the fact that hotel quarantine capacity is currently stretched thin with more than 5000 people, underlines the need for Queensland to have facilities like this.

"We do hope that flights will be able to land here at the adjacent airport, we would expect that once the facility is built, we would have support to be able to do that," he said.

"We do know that airlines and crew are happy to fly in here, and we do hope that once it's built and once the heat is out of the issue, that the Commonwealth would support that.

"If not, we currently bus arriving travellers from [the airport to] hotel quarantine accommodation on the Gold and Sunshine Coast so that would remain an option to get people here safely."

The financing arrangement for the project will be commercial in confidence, but Mr Miles confirmed that the government has an initial one year lease with options of extending that to two and three years.

"When you consider that the last lockdown alone cost more than a billion dollars in economic impact and compensation, you can see just what a fantastic value it will be if we can avoid just one lockdown, let alone more, with this new facility," he said.

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