House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Constituency Statements

Groom Electorate: Housing

9:55 am

Photo of Garth HamiltonGarth Hamilton (Groom, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Toowoomba, like the rest of Australia, has been facing a housing crisis. We've had one solution on the table now for over two years, but if we don't act on it we are at risk of losing that funding.

Toowoomba has similar problems to those we've seen elsewhere. We've got vacancy rates of 0.9 per cent. PRD reports that buyers are still having to offer well above the listed price just to get in. For this, and many other reasons, the Railway Parklands Project was chosen as a project to go in with the City Deal back in March 2022. I was very happy to have secured that funding, and I'm very happy to see that that funding and that project receives the continued support of the current Prime Minister. In fact, this project has almost universal support. Over 31 years ago, Peter Eldridge, who was on the then Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce, came up with this idea. He's been working feverishly ever since to try and push this idea forward. I was happy to stand beside him and Mayor Paul Antonio, in my first 18 months, and secure funding for this project.

The engineer in me could see the benefits of this project. This was about unlocking an area of Toowoomba that has not seen development and that is right in the heart of Toowoomba. It doesn't just provide solutions to housing but it gets more foot traffic into our existing CBD, making our city stronger and more vibrant. It provides a breadth of options: social housing, medium density and high-end inner city apartments. Todd Rohl, the Toowoomba Chamber CEO, said this would provide a huge confidence boost to CBD businesses. We have the TRC itself acknowledging that this will drive housing investment in our region, which is exactly what we need. The current Prime Minister says that he looks forward to advancing this important initiative, noting the housing spike that it will help unlock.

But absolutely nothing has happened in that two years—absolutely nothing! Every milestone required for Toowoomba Regional Council to hit, they have missed. I can't be any clearer on this: these funding envelopes do end. If we don't act on them, if we don't deliver against them, that funding is no longer made available. For us that end date is 2027. We've had five years; we're now down to three and there is no sign whatsoever that Toowoomba Regional Council is acting on this.

I cannot be more clear: this is not a political issue. This has support from every side of the political spectrum. Supply of housing is a good thing; inner-city supply ensures that vulnerable people are closer to the facilities and services they need. It provides social housing and it invigorates our beautiful inner city. These are all very, very good things. The Prime Minister could not be clearer that it is the Toowoomba Regional Council that is now responsible for the development of a business case that will serve as a catalyst for precinct regeneration, housing and investment. We've won the funding. The federal government continues to support it. The ball is in the council's court. We need new councillors to commit to this very important project.