Once a World War II garrison city, Townsville has become a key battleground for the Queensland election.
Premier Campbell Newman and Annastacia Palaszscuk have both visited the seat, held by a margin of 4.7 per cent by the Liberal National Party’s John Hathaway, twice so far during the campaign.
The city’s economy relies heavily on the large Lavarack Barracks, the Townsville airforce base and the commercial port.
But it hasn’t been doing well – unemployment peaked at 10.5 per cent last year.
Mr Newman announced his plan to turn Townsville’s fortunes around on Wednesday by pledging $150 million in funding for a new sports stadium precinct.
He says the project will eventually include residential and commercial complexes that will transform the city.
“Townsville in the last year and a half has been through a more difficult period, this is the confidence boost it needs,” Mr Newman said.
Townsville is the centrepiece of Labor’s plans to win back north Queensland, where Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has spent the vast majority of her time campaigning.
Since the January 31 election was called nine days ago, Ms Palaszczuk has only been in the south-east for two days.
The key seats of Whitsunday, Barron River, Cook, Townsville and Cairns were lost to the LNP in 2012 and Labor is trying to claw them back.
The party is also trying to sandbag Mackay after the surprise resignation of Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mulherin last week.
Mr Newman was adamant Townsville was critical to Queensland’s economic future.
“It’s vitally important that Townsville has a clear path forward, a clear vision forward and that’s what we’re doing by making this announcement,” he said.
However, there’s still a shortfall in funding because the government plans to contribute $150 million, and the overall project will cost $210 million.
The premier is confident interested parties like the city council and NRL, as well as private sector involvement, will cover the remaining $60 million.
No matter who wins the seat in the election, the stadium project will receive funding because Labor has already pledged $100 million.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli also took a swipe at Labor’s pledge because it did not include an urban renewal project.
“The opposition flopped into town, picked a number out of the sky, had no way of paying for it, and had absolutely no vision about how they would energise the private sector to come on the journey and make this more than just one announcement,” he said.
But Ms Palaszczuk, campaigning on the Great Barrier Reef, said Labor’s plan was better for Townsville because they would not need to “sell-off” the city’s port to fund it.