Interview - 4RO Rockhampton

PRESENTER: Now, the state and federal government came to an agreement last week to get the first stage of construction underway in the Rocky Ring Road with a $280 million package. Can you tell me what's involved in that package as far as the scope of works goes?

KING: So what we've done is sort of package up the Ring Road and this is the first tranche of work and that's really about getting all the services moved. It's actually often the most complex piece of work you think of constructing such a large scale project as the Rocky Ring Road, it'd be the bridges and those sorts of things. But actually getting moving services that are existing there,  and there's years and years of where electricity, stormwater pipes, all sorts of things have been put in place.

And we've got to move all of that to make sure that the road doesn't block off access to any of those things. So really, that's what this first tranche of work is, getting those services moved and up and running so that they, when the actual construction of the road itself starts that it can be done smoothly and quickly. So services moving is really the first part of any work within infrastructure projects. So that's what these first $280 million will do.

PRESENTER: When is the first stage expected to be completed?

KING: Well, the first stage, it depends on what they find, to some extent. They've done very detailed design work as they've done the work. But obviously, when you start digging, you can find more. This normally takes, can take up to six to 12 months to do the services work. So that's really this first part, but the work, other things can commence happening as well during that process. But really, this is the first part of the contract to start that work on the Rocky Ring Road.

PRESENTER: When will the scope of works and the package be announced for stage two?

KING: Well, let's get stage one underway. I know you're always impatient for the next thing. We're announcing that bringing forward now,  getting that first early work underway. And really the idea is that this project will just start to roll out, stage one will roll into stage two and so on, so forth. So that's really the idea, you wouldn't stop start a project, but really, we're today announcing that bring forward of money to get that stage one initiated as a community asked us to do

PRESENTER: I'm sure you can understand it's a bit of a matter of urgency around town to get this going. It's very much the topic of the town and this project has been pushed back and things are not getting cheaper as time goes on with both inflation and supply chain issues. How much is this cost just by delaying it?

KING: Well, it hasn't been, that's the thing that really has been the issue with this project. When tenders came in it was almost a billion dollars more than had been budgeted for by either level of government. So both the Queensland Government and the federal government ourselves said look, we need to just pause this for a while until we can work out what we do to try and shake this tender out a bit to see if we can get better value for taxpayer money.

We've decided to start staging this so during it, those early works initially to get the work rolling and get the process started, while we actually look at where we can get some costs taken out of this project.  One example is that a large part of the increase in costs is about building temporary accommodation for workers. Now we're right in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. Why would we not use the opportunity of building in a permanent housing that might house workers for this project for a short time but actually then be offered on to the affordable housing market in Rockhampton afterwards?

So we're looking at all of those things to try and take costs out of the project. And that's given us obviously time to do that. And I think anyone you know, would expect if you were renovating a house and suddenly the builder came to you and said, guess what the quote's almost a billion dollars extra, you'd probably stop and pause and say, look, we'd better go and see where we can take some costs out of this project. And that's what we're doing in the meantime, is getting the work underway.

PRESENTER: Like I've said it's been the number one topic in the talk of the town over the past little while. Are there any assurances that you can give that the problems that we've had in the past we won't encounter again, because there is a lot of local businesses who plan for this to go ahead and who feel that they can contribute to the project?

KING: Yeah, absolutely. And you want to have as much local content as possible. And I guess what I'd say is this project's been on the books for a really long time. And my former mate, Kirsten Livermore, who was the member up there, she started this project, got the money for the business case. We basically had a decade of inaction under the Libs and now we've got two Labor governments, federal and state, and we're getting on with doing it.

So really, this is the start and you don't start a project and then stop it. You just keep rolling it through. But this is the first stage to really get those services moving. As I said, that's often the most complex part of just getting the you know, the engineering right and making sure you've got those services out of the way and still operating for the community when you're not blocking off any of those so that you can just get on with the build.

PRESENTER: How long is this project projected to take like far from go to whoa?

KING: Yes, it's an it's a long-term project. So, it's now in our projects that is over almost $2 billion. It's one of the single largest road projects in the state of Queensland and certainly one of the biggest projects we're funding in partnership with the Queensland Government. It is at this stage, I think, projected, I think it is. I'm just looking at my notes here, I think 20 no, I don't want to I don't want to muck you around with that. So, it will take a while to build. It's not something that's going to be done overnight. It is a very complex build with a large number of bridges. But this, as I said, is the start of the actual project.

PRESENTER: Catherine King, thanks so much for coming on the Boodles Big Breakfast this morning and chatting about the Rocky Ring Road with us. I really appreciate your time.

KING: Yes, thanks. And I just did also want to mention the terrible tragedy that you've seen - two police officers and people losing their lives overnight. It’s shocked, shocked everybody, not just near Chinchilla and surrounding communities, but the whole of Queensland and the whole of the country really.

PRESENTER: Absolutely. Our hearts go out to them. No doubt about it. Thanks so much, Catherine.