‘White elephant’ Covid quarantine facility that housed 730 people and cost taxpayers more than $220 million is being dumped by state government
- The QLD government does not want to renew the lease on the Wellcamp base
- The Covid quarantine facility has cost taxpayers $220 million
- It has housed 730 people since it opened last February
The Queensland Government has decided not to renew the lease on the taxpayer funded Wellcamp Covid quarantine facility when it expires next month.
The 1,000-bed facility near Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, opened in February 2022 to quarantine international arrivals entering the country.
At the time, it housed only 730 people and cost taxpayers more than $220 million in construction and operating costs.
In the first months after opening, it received an average of 30 guests per week.
A spokesperson for Queensland’s deputy premier Steven Miles confirmed the base will be dumped by the state government when its contract expires next month.
“The facility will remain available until the end of the current lease, after which future use will be determined by Wagner Corporation,” the spokesperson told the ABC.
Palaszczuk government will scrap Wellcamp Covid quarantine facility (pictured) that has cost taxpayers $220 million
They added that due to the center’s location, the “other use” was not “straightforward” in the future.
The facility was built by the family-owned Wagner Corporation on private land also owned by the Wagner family.
The Palaszczuk government gave the Wagner Corporation $48.8 million to build the facility.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath defended the Palaszczuk government’s decision to build the center at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Wellcamp is a very important facility that we had to commit to,” she explained.
Ms D’Ath suggested the state was forced to build the base due to a lack of support from the Morrison government in quarantining overseas arrivals during the height of the pandemic.
“The Commonwealth did nothing at the time to help us quarantine people at risk of getting Covid, which would have meant Queenslanders would have been exposed to Covid before our community was vaccinated,” she said.
“We did what we had to do.”
The Palaszczuk government used the center to house overseas arrivals during the height of the pandemic. The government gave the Wagner Corporation $48.8 million to build the facility (pictured, Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk)
The 1,000-bed facility has housed 730 people since it opened last February. Shortly after the opening, an average of about 30 people per week stayed at the base
John Wagner, chairman of the Wagner Corporation, said the base will be used to house farm workers once the lease with the state government has ended.
“We are dealing with a number of (agricultural) operators who are desperate to find housing for… workers,” he said.
“Some of these slaughterhouses just can’t find housing for the workers they bring onto the land.”
Mr Wagner said he did not expect the state government to renew the 12-month lease once it expired.
He added that the company plans to leave the facility where it is for the “long term.”
Since the end of Covid restrictions, the base has been used to temporarily house flood victims and Ukrainian refugees.