Queensland’s new leadership to review Gabba, key Olympic projects

Featured image credit: Queensland Government

The A$2.7bn (£1.41bn/€1.64bn/$1.77bn) redevelopment of The Gabba, along with Queensland’s wider infrastructure plans for Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, have been placed in doubt after incoming Premier, Steven Miles, pledged a review of the projects.

Miles is set to assume leadership of the state on Friday after Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her resignation, and retirement from politics, on Sunday. Currently serving as Deputy Premier, Miles yesterday (Tuesday) announced that under his leadership, an independent infrastructure agency would be established to deliver projects for the Games.

Miles today confirmed that this would mean major infrastructure projects for the Games, including the revamped Gabba and the A$137m redevelopment of the RNA Showgrounds’ Main Arena as its temporary replacement, would undergo a review.

“I want there to be a review of the major venues master plan,” he said, according to the ABC. “That will again look at the Gabba and those displacement issues. Every other time I’ve asked those questions, the advice has been that the Gabba redevelopment is absolutely necessary to host Brisbane 2032.

“But I think it’s reasonable for us to be absolutely assured of that before we finalise those tenders so that process will happen. I also want to make sure that we have a good displacement plan for the Brisbane Lions and our cricket teams to make sure that they have somewhere good to play in the time that needs to happen.”

The Palaszczuk government had previously opted to install an Olympics Coordination Office instead of a cross-government agency overseeing infrastructure projects. When questioned on the Gabba project, Treasurer Cameron Dick today indicated that there would be a “pause” on projects while a review takes place.

“We’re going to pause on the projects, we’re just going to have a review,” he said. “We’re going to take our time to consider that and we’re going to set up that independent authority. There are some moving parts there, that we’re going to reflect on as a new government.”

The Queensland Government last month announced it was seeking out design and construction partners for the complete redevelopment of the Gabba Stadium after the project to transform the venue into the centrepiece for Brisbane 2032 was approved.

Miles announced completion of the Gabba Stadium Project Validation Report (PVR), with the historic cricket and Aussie rules football venue set to become the focal point of ‘East Bank’, a new name for the broader Woolloongabba urban renewal precinct, which covers much of the suburb.

The PVR provides detail on how The Gabba will be fully deconstructed and rebuilt to support Queensland’s long-term sport, community, and entertainment needs before, and for decades after, Brisbane 2032.

In 2018, before the successful bid for Brisbane 2032, a Stadium Taskforce Report found that The Gabba is a ‘tired’ venue that would come to the end of its useful life by 2030, indicating a rebuilt Gabba should be considered irrespective of the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved Brisbane as the home of the 2032 Games in July 2021, culminating a process that stepped away from the traditional contests for the hosting rights. At that time, redeveloping The Gabba was expected to cost A$1bn (£523m/€601.7m/$656.8m), but this figure rose to A$2.7bn as the Australian and Queensland Governments in February unveiled a A$7bn funding agreement to overhaul the state’s sporting infrastructure ahead of the Games in Brisbane, focusing on redevelopment of The Gabba and construction of the new Brisbane Live arena.

However, the Gabba project has been a contentious one with heavy criticism from local community and political groups, chiefly focused on the need to demolish and relocate the nearby East Brisbane State School.

In September, the Queensland Government rejected calls for a review of plans to redevelop The Gabba, while officials behind the delivery of the 2032 Games in August defended the scheme during a federal inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to stage the Olympics.

Earlier this month, Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner resigned from the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games Intergovernmental Leaders’ Forum and criticised the Queensland Government’s plans to redevelop The Gabba ahead of the Games.

Schrinner said he would be resigning from the forum with immediate effect, adding that he would no longer “fall in line” and support the Government’s current plans for The Gabba.