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Wellcamp quarantine facility to forge ahead without PM’s approval

written by Hannah Dowling | August 26, 2021
Wellcamp's passenger terminal will greet its first passengers on November 17. (Wagner)
External shot of the Wellcamp Airport passenger terminal (Wagner)

The Queensland government has finally signed a deal to construct a purpose-built regional COVID-19 quarantine facility near Wellcamp Airport, without Commonwealth support.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday the state government had struck a deal with Wellcamp Airport owner Wagner Corporation to build the new 1,000-bed facility on vacant land owned by the Wagner family, adjacent to the airport.

Construction is now already underway, with the first 500 beds to be available by the end of this year. The facility will be entirely completed by March next year, according to the Wagners.

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The Wagner family first pitched the idea of constructing the purpose-built facility on unused land near the airport terminal, also owned by the Wagners, in January, and promised it could facilitate construction to be completed within “the next four to five weeks”.

While the details on the funding of the project remain confidential, Queensland has signed a one-year lease for the facility, with the option to extend an additional two to three years.

“Our hotels were not built for the Delta strain of this virus,” Premier Palaszczuk said during the announcement.

“This is going to be a great boost for our defence against the Delta virus in this country, and in fact I believe we need regional facilities, right across the country. I have been advocating for this for a long, long time. It is a no-brainer.”

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The design of the facility will mimic that of the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory, and offer self-contained cabins with balconies, and no adjoining rooms or hallways.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said single, double and family-sized rooms will be available, and the facility will be designed to minimise unnecessary transmission between people in quarantine or to staff members servicing the centre.

While the state government has long been in full support of a regional facility to keep positive COVID cases leaking into its busy Brisbane CBD, the plan has been delayed by the Commonwealth, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly snubbing the Wagners’ proposal.

PM Morrison has said the site does not meet the criteria for a Commonwealth-funded quarantine centre as it is too far from a tertiary hospital.

Commenting on the Queensland government’s decision to go it alone at Wellcamp, PM Morrison said Premier Palaszczuk has “been at liberty” to fund and construct the facility “for months”.

“We’ve made it very clear that that facility did not seek to meet the national guidelines and that’s why we’re going together, forward together, at Pinkenba,” he said.

“They’ve made that decision and they could have done that months ago if that’s what they wish to do, but it’s good for them and I wish them every success.”

The federal government could still somewhat impede the success of the Wellcamp facility by refusing to allow regular international passenger flights directly into Wellcamp, however even without such approvals, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the centre will still operate.

Deputy Premier Miles said once the Wellcamp facility is up and running, travellers will be transported via bus from Brisbane Airport.

“We currently bus arriving travellers from Brisbane to hotel quarantine accommodation on the Gold and Sunshine Coast, and so that would remain an option to get people here safely,” he said.

The news comes less than two weeks after another purpose-built quarantine facility for overseas arrivals in Queensland was officially given the green light, with construction set to be completed by mid-2022.

The state government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the federal government to begin constructing the 1,000-bed facility on a 30-hectare site at the Damascus Barracks in Pinkenba, just metres from Brisbane Airport.

Under that deal, the Commonwealth will foot the bill for the design, construction and fit-out of the facility, while the Queensland government will cover the centre’s running costs.

However even at that time, the Queensland government continued to urge the Commonwealth to back its proposal for a regional facility at Wellcamp.

“If we have two facilities, we will not have to use hotels for quarantine,” Premier Palaszczuk said, stating that an additional facility at Wellcamp “would be of great assistance” to Queensland’s COVID response.

“Following countless breaches from the nation’s hotel quarantine system it’s clear there is an urgent need for more fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities throughout Australia,” Deputy Premier Miles added.

“With NSW and Victoria in lockdown, we cannot afford more leaks from hotel quarantine.”

“Until all Australians have been offered a vaccination, quarantine facilities will remain Australia’s frontline in preventing deadly new strains of COVID-19 from entering our community,” he said.

It also follows the news that the Queensland government has announced a two-week pause on its hotel quarantine system for interstate arrivals, due to overwhelming demand.

In fact, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Thursday that if the Wellcamp facility had been approved and built sooner it may have prevented the government’s decision to pause interstate arrivals.

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6 Comments

  • Lindsay

    says:

    Why don’t the I & C officials’ get bussed to Wellcamp?

    Wouldn’t that make more sense?
    Is there some reason(s) the aircraft can’t land directly into Wellcamp, from wherever?

  • Something very strange about the Welcome Proposal being turned down by the Prime Minister again. In this article it states that the reason for the Commonwealth not supporting the proposal to build it is because Wllcamp is not situated near to a Tertiary care Hospital (under the Australian definition). Yet Toowomba hospital is the nearest major hospital and under the Australian Government own standards appears to satisfy them completely.Toowoomba Hospital is the largest reporting hospital in the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service. It is a 444-bed hospital that provides specialist services in ear, nose and throat surgery, eye surgery, gynaecology, orthopaedics, urology, obstetrics, oncology, paediatrics and psychiatry.

    Indeed if Toowoomba Hospital is not a Tertiary Care Hospital, then Royal Darwin cannot be either as is in fact smaller than Toowomba hospital with only 345 beds.. Yet Darwin has Howard Springs (an approved Commonwealth Quarantine Centre)

    A few months ago, the Prime Minister indicated that the reason he was not approving the Wellcamp facility was that no International flights were using that Airport, and so the Border Force would need to deploy Customs and Immigration staff to that airport. That too is a fallacy, as Cathay Pacific have a regular flights into the Wellcamp Airport and the Commonwealth regular deploys Border Force and Immigration to meet these flights.

    Perhaps what the Queensland Government should do is insist that all Inter-State people coming into Queensland should use the Commonwealth provided site at Pinkemba (not due to be open before mid to end 2022, and in the meantime halt all International arrivals into Queensland until Towoomba is built then bus them by road. It only takes 1 hour and 51 minutes to reach Wellcamp from Brisbane Airport.

  • Rick

    says:

    If it smells fishy it usually is.

  • chris

    says:

    The CX flights into Wellcamp are the stretched freighter B747-8F. (HKG-Wellcamp-Melb and then the reverse).

  • Bill

    says:

    With talk about trial travel to selected countries, including low-risk destinations and Queensland’s hotel quarantine system is at capacity and that we have to learn live with the Coved 19 in the community. Townsville should be ready with a dedicated quarantine facility. We have a lot of land at the Townsville International Airport, close to Townsville University Hospital. 15minuite drive. You have Howard Springs, in Northern Territory, the Pinkenba site is appropriately close to Brisbane International Airport and all necessary medical facilities, including three major hospitals.
    Queensland been a vast decentralised state should have a quarantine facility built in Townsville.
    We must learn to live with Covid19 in the Community

  • Mark

    says:

    As usual Federal Government think they are always smarter than anybody else & will not accept any other better or possible proposal unless they thought of it, it’s just an embarrassment to them to look un-intelligent or incapable of providing a suitable solution. Not caring on cost or timeframe especially as QLD is Labour territory but if it was Libs it would have been done already. Call me sceptical but it’s really not good enough of the feds playing politics instead of doing what’s better or faster. Laughing at pollies! Our government is such an embarrassment!!!

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