Let’s build for Queensland not the Olympics

Brisbane skyline from Southbank. \ Newsreel
It's time to switch the focus back to building for Queensland not the Olympics | iStock

By Steve Zeppa

Remember 2025.

No, it’s not a tagline for Back to the Future 4.

It’s a date which burned bright before the kerfuffle that is the Olympics cast its all-consuming shadow over this city.

I am a big supporter of Brisbane hosting the Games, but we are now defined by them, as opposed to the Olympics and Paralympics being another great event Queensland will deliver.

The optimism Brisbane oozed in the decade from 2010, even when confined to our 5km Covid-limited strolls to grab a takeaway coffee, has dried up.

Back then everywhere you looked there were stories, podcasts and commentary sporting the #BNE2025 moniker and spruiking the plethora of infrastructure projects in the pipeline which were set to transform Brisbane … all of which were to be delivered by 2025, a shining beacon in the then-far-horizon.

It was that cauldron of optimism that encouraged the South-East Council of Mayors in 2015 to investigate the possibility of the region hosting the Games to fast-track the vital infrastructure needs of an area where the growing pains of a population explosion were intensifying.

The Olympics were to be a uniting force and a means to an end.

That changed on July 1, 2021, when then-Premier Palaszczuk leapt to her feet in fake shock (we were the only candidate) to cheer Brisbane being announced the hosts of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While our optimism around the Games remained for a while, signs of the shift in focus didn’t take long to bite with the #BNE2025 Facebook and Twitter feeds posts ending just weeks after the announcement.

The narrative had turned to delivering the Olympics and Paralympics and no longer leveraging the Games to build what our communities need.

So, let’s flip the script and again start talking about future-proofing our region.  If what we build can be used for the Olympics and Paralympics for a few weeks in eight years’ time, then that’s a bonus. Afterall, that is what the IOC wants, isn’t it?

It’s time to focus on business cases for exciting new projects.

Does a Victoria Park stadium stack up?

We now know the Gabba’s absolute use-by date is fast approaching, so why kick that problem down the road?  It will need to come down eventually and the Cross River Rail Gabba station patrons need somewhere safe to walk to.

How are we going to entice the next Taylor Swift to perform in Queensland?

How are we going to win back the first cricket Test each summer?

How are we going to attract mega European football clubs to play matches here? (It irked me to see a poster in the Valley promoting an AC Milan v AS Roma football match in Perth’s Optus Stadium in May)

Some argue Queenslanders are doing it tough and the regions are being neglected, but the social ills of the moment can only be fixed by brave long-term policy decisions and loads and loads of cash, unfortunately (and as ridiculous as it sounds) much, much more than the couple of billion saved by not building a stadium.

That sort of money can only be found in a burgeoning economy. Queensland needs drivers of activity. (Fun fact: Did you know Taylor Swift’s concerts down south lifted Australia’s retail turnover in February by 0.2% alone, that’s a $70m boost to in spending  clothing, merchandise, accessories and dining out in Melbourne and Sydney in one month)

We need to attract visitors to Brisbane. And they need to come via Brisbane if they are to be drawn into the regions. Unfortunately, no A380s will be landing in Rockie anytime soon.

Luckily, there is a second runway at Brisbane Airport to accommodate them, which, by chance, was one of those #BNE2025 projects.

Let’s look at that list to spark some inspiration and re-ignite the optimism.

Some are done and dusted, others may miss the 2025 completion date and a couple of newbies have been thrown it, but it’s a taste of what we can achieve with the right focus. #BNENOW

What does Brisbane and Queensland need? Share your ideas with Newsreel.

Steve Zeppa is the Editor of Newsreel. A journalist with more than 30 years’ experience, he was previously Editorial Director of APN Regional Media, editor of mX and Zone Editor for Quest News. He also held Executive communications and marketing positions in the Queensland Government, Goodstart Early Learning and The Australian Industry Group.