Concept art for the Veterans First Military Museum Project, which has received endorsement from the Toowoomba Regional Council.
Concept art for the Veterans First Military Museum Project, which has received endorsement from the Toowoomba Regional Council.

Plan for $70m military museum hits major milestone

A MAJOR military museum and war veteran employment project slated for Toowoomba has hit its first milestone, after the council endorsed the plan.

The Veterans First Military Museum Project, a community-led plan to honour the region's military and re-skill returned servicepeople, will be able to establish an ambitious museum along the Toowoomba Escarpment near Spring Bluff, just outside Highfields.

The museum and surrounding site could cost up to $70 million to build, with organisers looking to the Federal Government for the funding.

The councillors voted yesterday to enter into a lease agreement with the project on the land, which was bought by the TRC in 2018 and banked for future development.

Councillors were glowing in their endorsements of the project, with Mayor Paul Antonio calling it the perfect location for the museum.

The proposed Veterans First Military Museum project, which is slated for a parcel of council-owned land just outside Highfields.
The proposed Veterans First Military Museum project, which is slated for a parcel of council-owned land just outside Highfields.

Toowoomba businessman Bernie Baz, who is one of the key driving forces behind the project, said he was thrilled that the council was behind it.

"This is a critical step - the first thing the Federal Government needs is to know the local community is behind it," he said.

"The council staff did a thorough look at the project and it's already past its first hurdle of scrutiny.

"It sends a clear message to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Toowoomba will step up to support the Federal Government."

Along with recognising and preserving the region's military history, Mr Baz said the project would employ between 4000 and 5000 veterans over the course of several decades, through running tours, managing the planned surrounding gardens and eventually working with the council on the region's wider parks network.

"What we've done is we've blended a need for regional tourism and a need for veterans rehabilitation into the one project," he said.

"The parks and gardens around the museum is the first step, but then you'd look at other parks and gardens projects, like the Quarry Gardens.

"These are very long-term plans, but the beauty of these projects is it gives us the confidence to say we can provide on-the-job training, skills and experience for veterans that they can take to other employment opportunities.

"Stage two would be partnering with the council to build and maintain the wishlist of garden projects it has."

Bernie Baz unveils his concept for a museum, art gallery.
Bernie Baz unveils his concept for a museum, art gallery.

Mr Baz called on the Federal Government to fund a business case into the museum.

"We've had high-level funding modelling done, and that was independently audited," he said.

"It said somewhere between $50 to $70 million would give us a project bigger than the planned War Memorial extension.

"Assuming that the council continue to provide that same level of enthusiastic support, we would look to ask the federal government to fund an in-depth business case for us."

Toowoomba museum plan: Bernie Baz is ready to turn his dream into reality
Toowoomba museum plan: Bernie Baz is ready to turn his dream into reality