Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek’s big announcement yesterday that Cairns could have up to five new schools in the next 20-years is hugely disappointing given it contains no details on where the money will come from or where the schools will be built, says Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt.
“We have been waiting far too long for the Minister to give some attention to the explosive growth in the school age population in the Cairns southern corridor,” said Mr Pitt.
“Despite announcing a Schools Planning Commission to great fanfare, he then ignored the demand mapping for our region – clearly the Far North was not on his priority list until he realised the omission.
“Last November I pleaded with him to speed up the planning process and make funding available to build the new schools the region needs.
“Eight months on the Minister has finally woken from his slumbers to issue a statement confirming what we have all known for years, that there will be thousands more pupils in this high growth area in the next 10 to 15 years.
“This document was expected from the Department early this year but a cynic would say that the information was held over being released – and saved up as a ‘good news story’ for the Education Minister during Estimates.
“But Mr Langbroek’s statement was frighteningly light on detail and commitment. It is, effectively, a plan to have a plan. There are no decisions about funding and an admission that, after all this time, the demand mapping had been compiled using 2011 population projections that will have to be updated.
“It is an announcement that tells us nothing, commits the Newman Government to nothing and takes prevarication and ineptitude soaring to new levels,” he said.
Mr Pitt said under the previous Labor administration there was a rolling 20-year plan for school infrastructure that was updated annually.
“As long ago as November 2011 the Labor Government released its 20-year Queensland Infrastructure Plan which detailed all projected infrastructure needs, including schools.
“That plan said that Far North Queensland would require up to 14 new schools, the majority of them in the southern corridor.
“Mr Langbroek decided to scrap that work and appoint a Schools Planning Commission and now we have a delayed report which confirms the potential for significant growth in student numbers, but does not explain a remedy.”