Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan announced a $50M commitment to a school in Cannon Valley. However, plans for the school are already underway under the current state government. Picture: Tony Martin
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan announced a $50M commitment to a school in Cannon Valley. However, plans for the school are already underway under the current state government. Picture: Tony Martin

Costo’s school pledge mirrors existing state project

JASON Costigan's proposal for a new school in Cannon Valley is already in the works by the State Government.

The Whitsunday MP last week announced a $50 million commitment to build a new Prep to Year 12 school in Cannon Valley.

"We all know the nearest state high school is at Proserpine which is almost 30 minutes away and it's not getting any smaller," he said.

"That growth is mostly coming from those communities outside Proserpine.

"Therefore, it makes perfect sense that planning begins soon for a new P-12 school in Cannon Valley."

The commitment would be funded by his party's $1 billion Building the North fund.

Mr Costigan said he had raised the idea of a new school several years ago and was concerned the State Government had not progressed with planning.

However, Mr Costigan's commitment to a new school is already in the works under the current State Government.

In 2017, then Division 2 councillor Ron Petterson started a push to establish a new school in Cannon Valley.

He moved a motion that was passed unanimously by councillors to work with the State Government to plan and deliver a state high school in the Cannonvale and Cannon Valley area as a priority.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan announced a $50m plan to build a P-12 school at Cannon Valley in the Whitsundays last week. Image: Supplied
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan announced a $50m plan to build a P-12 school at Cannon Valley in the Whitsundays last week. Image: Supplied

In May 2018, Mr Petterson met with Education Minister Grace Grace to discuss the need for a high school, which led to another meeting between council and the Queensland Schools Planning Reference Committee.

In August last year, Mr Petterson announced that as a result of the meetings, the QSPRC noted both a primary and secondary school may be required to cater for the region's growing population.

The QSPRC has since posted the demand mapping for a school in Cannonvale and Cannon Valley area on its website, stating meetings regarding the plans were set to continue earlier this year.

An Education Department spokesman this week confirmed planning for a new school in the area was still under way.

"The Queensland Schools Planning Reference Committee has considered the demands on schools in the Whitsundays, recognising the growth that is occurring and planned for the future," the spokesman said.

"The QSPRC identified that one new state or non-state primary school and one new state or non-state secondary school may be required in the Airlie - Whitsunday Statistical Area Level 2, which includes the Cannon Valley area, by 2031.

"The department continues to monitor growth in the Cannon Valley area."

Former Division 2 councillor Ron Petterson met with Education Minister Grace Grace in 2018 to discuss the need for a new school in Cannon Valley. Image: Supplied.
Former Division 2 councillor Ron Petterson met with Education Minister Grace Grace in 2018 to discuss the need for a new school in Cannon Valley. Image: Supplied.

When asked about the state government's pre-existing plans for a school, Mr Costigan said he "did not believe" it and referenced when he was "snubbed" by Ms Grace during her visit to Proserpine State High School in 2019.

"I don't believe it," he said.

"I don't believe the government.

"I don't believe the minister and I don't believe the government.

"I don't trust them."

Mr Costigan first brought the issue of a new school to the Queensland parliament in 2013, asking then education minister John-Paul Langbroek about the region's demand.

But during Mr Petterson's push for the school in 2017, Mr Costigan conceded a Cannonvale state high school may not be required in the short to medium term.

"The idea of a Cannonvale high school shouldn't be dismissed but we need to fill up empty homes between Mackay and Bowen and bring more people into the immediate community, then you have a stronger case for another school," he said in 2017.

Speaking last week, Mr Costigan said his renewed push for the school came since he was able to establish his own party, NQ First.

"I know that Cr Petterson when he was on local government was keen to see something happen. I escalated those concerns from him and others in the parliament when we got fobbed off," he said.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said he “wanted a school all along” but did not have support from the LNP. Picture: Tony Martin
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said he “wanted a school all along” but did not have support from the LNP. Picture: Tony Martin

"This is not something I invented overnight. We've had skin in the game here for a number of years and (I have been) listening to the concerns of my community.

"If people want to say I'm off my head with this project just for the sake of criticising me, I say to those people, 'You go and tell the Mums and Dads between Cannon Valley and Shute Harbour that this is stupid'."

Mr Costigan said he "wanted a school all along" but did not have support from the Liberal National Party, which he was a member of at the time.

"I think we saw the need, but in 2017 we weren't in charge of our own party so there's a lot that's happened since that," he said.

"I'm not with that team anymore and hence the commitment has been laid out, take it or leave it."

When asked whether he believed the demand was now there for a new school, when in 2017 he said the region needed to first "fill up empty homes between Mackay and Bowen", Mr Costigan said it was best to be "ahead of the curve".

"I think you'll find that by the mid-2020s it's no good playing catch up. Whether it's a pandemic or whether it's education, you need to be ahead of the curve," he said.

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"I've got no doubt the tourism industry will come back, it will take time, but the resources sector is keeping us going economically whether people like it or not.

"It's my view that we will see that first shipment of coal going out of the Galilee Basin, through the port of Abbot Point and we will have more people coming and settling in our community.

"Personally, I'd like to see our community being used as FIFO hubs.

"There's more people in the resources sector and agricultural (sector) coming into our community.

"They might not be living in the high rises in Airlie Beach, but they won't be too far away and they'll want somewhere where their kids can come to school.

"This school is not going to pop up tomorrow, the sort of things take years to being to fruition and if we don't start now people are going to say 'Why didn't we listen to Costigan when he set up NQ First and get on that bandwagon to build the new bloody school rather than play catch up?'."


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