Residents say no: 'It's about the safety of our children'
MOTHERS stood alongside their children at the corner of Birkbeck Drive worried a drug rehab facility could be built in their neighbourhood and ruin life as they know it.
They joined the hundreds of residents who gathered in Parkhurst to protest the preferred location of a 42-bed drug rehab facility, which is planned for construction next year.
Leading the crowd was Riverside Waters estate managing director Mark Birkbeck who leaked the location on Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga's Facebook page on Monday.
"The message is that the local residents don't want to have a drug and alcohol centre at their back door," Mr Birkbeck said.
"Hundreds of young families are here. This is not the best place to put it."
The leak has sent both the community and government departments into a frenzy.
"This is not about property values, this is not about being able to sell your block of land, it's about the safety of our children and our families," he said.
On Tuesday, Queensland Health prematurely announced the location to be a 14.54-hectare site made from two vacant lots between Birkbeck Drive and Berry St in Parkhurst.
Residents moved quickly to stop construction by creating a petition to change the location of the facility - it went online at 6pm last night and it has collected more than 2,000 signatures.
A Mother's Response
RIVERSIDE estate mother-of-three Tammy Fairley attended today's gathering in a bid to stop the facility from being built in the area.
"I was quite shocked. I had no idea it was even happening and all of a sudden it was on our back door step," she said.
"We still want it to go ahead, but not near families and children growing up in their forever homes."
Mrs Fairley feared the centre would put an end to the family-orientated community they moved to be part of.
Edenbrook resident Noeleen Horan echoed her concerns - her message was the rehabilitation centre shouldn't be built in anyone's backyard.
"This decision doesn't just affect people of Riverside, this is the whole community," Ms Horan said.
She acknowledged Rockhampton Regional Council had no influence in the site selection process but she urged them to help move the location.
"The council have a responsibility to support us through this," she said.
Acting mayor Cherie Rutherford attended the gathering and stressed the council had no role in the selection of the ultimate site.
"We were willing to sell the amount of land requested to the State Government and offered a back corner of the (Music Bowl) site," she said.
"However Queensland Health suggested a layout that would have taken over the Music Bowl car park and placed the new facility right near the existing entrance to the Music Bowl."
She said the council were in negotiations with the State Government, but the two parties failed to come to an agreement on a specific part of the site.
Leaked location causes havoc
Health Minister Steven Miles did not attend the morning protest - Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington labelled his absence as disgusting.
While the community are up in arms, Mr Miles is confident once residents focus on the facts rather than Facebook comments they will see the proposed location is the right one.
"This is a health facility, it is for people seeking treatment, people who have decided with their families that they need healthcare," Mr Miles said.
The $14.3 million facility will provide residential rehabilitation, withdrawal management, residential rehabilitation for parents and families.
It will accept referrals from across the state, with priority placed on clients living in the Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Mackay and Central West Hospital and Health Service regions.
Mr Miles stressed the facility was a voluntary program, meaning patients at the facility wanted to be there.
"Once these facilities are up and running and built they hardly know they are there," he said.
"These kind of facilities operate on more densely populated covered areas in the state. There is no proven evidence that they lead to any community safety concerns."
Mr Miles said the community's concerns would be addressed during the consultation phase, which officially started on Tuesday.
According to Mr Miles, the announcement of the preferred location was supposed to coincide with letterbox drops and his trip to Rockhampton but started early because of the leak.
It is understood the location was leaked to Mr Birkbeck by a Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service employee.
Mrs Lauga sympathised with residents concerns - she said their reaction was understandable given the way they found out.
"If I found out on social media I'd probably react the same," Mrs Lauga said.
But she stressed the Parkhurst location was found to be the most appropriate.
The facility is proposed to take up a two hectare footprint on the 14ha site, leaving 7ha to act as a buffer on the outskirts.
The proposed location is classified as non-residential area.