FLY- IN, FLY- OUT BOARD Airport’s fate rests in out- of- towners’ hands
THEY hold the fate of Townsville Airport in their hands, but none of Queensland Airports Ltd’s board members live in Townsville.
The seven board members of the Gold Coast- based company, which owns and operates the airport, typically meet in Townsville once a year.
QAL also owns and operates the Gold Coast, Mount Isa and Longreach airports.
While a $ 40 million redevelopment at Townsville Airport has been held up by stalled negotiations with Qantas over a proposed $ 3 per passenger levy, QAL is spending $ 300 million on a redevelopment of its Gold Coast Airport.
It comes after anti- Adani comments by a QAL board member amid Townsville Airport’s fight to become the flyin, fly- out worker hub for the mining company’s Carmichael coal mine project sparked discussions between the chairwoman of the board and Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill.
Earlier this week, QAL board member Jonathan van Rooyen told the Bulletin he was concerned using taxpayer funds for Adani’s coal mine and rail project could hurt other coal regions in Australia, specifically Newcastle.
Mr van Rooyen is general manager of investment at The Infrastructure Fund, which counts QAL and the Port of Newcastle among its assets.
Cr Hill said QAL chairwoman Annabelle Chaplain assured her this week that the board was “fully committed” to Townsville and the North.
“Anyone on a company board has a responsibility to support decisions that are in the best interests of the company,” Cr Hill said.
“Mr van Rooyen serves two masters and given his recent public comments, there could be a perception that decisions could be made that are not in the best interest of Townsville. The QAL chairman has reassured me that won’t be the case and QAL is right behind Townsville.”
QAL chief executive Chris Mills said the organisation employed “a highly professional executive team and Chairwoman staff at Townsville Airport”.
“The Townsville team are closely connected to and involved with the local community, which ensures strong alignment between the airport’s objectives and those of the community,” he said.
“Senior staff such as Townsville Airport chief operating officer Kevin Gill are strong advocates for Townsville and he attends each board meeting.”
Mr Mills said the board was appointed by QAL’s shareholders, drawing on expertise in aviation, property, finance and law.
“Board members are drawn from different parts of Australia and bring significant and diverse experience to the table with a focus on getting the best outcomes for each region in which QAL operates,” he said.
“The board typically meets monthly, with at least one of those meetings each year in Townsville, preceded by a local stakeholder event.
“In addition, individual board members travel to Townsville at different times of the year.”
Mr Mills said the organisation was “committed to en- suring Townsville Airport drives economic growth and creates jobs in the region”.
“QAL is investing in priority projects at the airport to increase passenger numbers and to progress our objective of ensuring Townsville Airport enhances its position as a major FIFO hub for the mining industry,” he said.
“QAL has invested significantly in Townsville Airport and will continue to do so.”
QAL would not reveal how much of its expenditure is spent on each of the airports it operates. The board is to meet in Townsville next month.
STALLED: An artist’s impression of a redeveloped Townsville Airport.