Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Re­gional Coun­cil’s air­port and aero­drome joint ven­ture project has en­tered the fi­nal stage, with coun­cil­lors vot­ing to be­gin ex­clu­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions with a pre­ferred pro­po­nent, sub­ject to terms.

Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney said the coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and “in­terim gen­eral man­ager of com­mer­cial” Scott Wa­ters was in de­tailed ne­go­ti­a­tions with the pre­ferred pro­po­nent to jointly de­velop, grow and man­age the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port and as­so­ci­ated aero­dromes.

While de­tails of the pro­po­nent are con­sid­ered “com­mer­cial in con­fi­dence”, Cr Whit­ney did re­veal this was a “very high cal­i­bre, Aus­tralian-based pro­po­nent from the pri­vate sec­tor who recog­nises the po­ten­tial of the Whit­sun­day re­gion and is pre­pared to work with coun­cil on a part­ner­ship ba­sis”.

“The part­ner­ship we are work­ing to­wards will pro­tect coun­cil’s ma­jor­ity own­er­ship of the air­port and en­sure that it re­mains a com­mu­nity as­set well into the fu­ture, while de­liv­er­ing an ex­cel­lent growth and de­vel­op­ment out­come for the Whit­sun­day re­gion,” she said.

Mr Wa­ters said there had been sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est from the pri­vate sec­tor “(and) it is very pleas­ing for coun­cil to see the project en­ter into fi­nal stages of ne­go­ti­a­tion af­ter over 12 months”.

He de­scribed the pro­po­nent as an Aus­tralian in­sti­tu­tional in­vestor and in­fra­struc­ture man­ager, with large-scale in­ter­ests in Aus­tralian air­ports as well as ports, re­new­able en­ergy, agri­cul­ture and gov­ern­ment so­cial-based in­fras- truc­ture.

Mr Wa­ters said ne­go­ti­a­tions would be on­go­ing over the next three to four weeks, with fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions put to coun­cil­lors in mid-Jan­uary.

At last week’s coun­cil meet­ing not all coun­cil­lors were agreed on forg­ing for­ward, with Crs Peter Ra­m­age, Dave Clark and Deputy Mayor An­drew Will­cox in favour of tabling the mat­ter. Cr Will­cox said the pro­po­nent’s of­fer was “not the spirit of the deal that we all struc­tured” and Cr Clark said given the amount of time spent in confidential talks and the num­ber of ques- tions asked, “it definitely needs a work­shop”.

“It’s prob­a­bly one of the big­gest deals that coun­cil’s go­ing to make and we’re rush­ing into it,” he said.

Mean­while Cr John Collins said he saw this as a “fan­tas­tic com­pany” and a great op­por­tu­nity.

READY TO GROW: Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port oper­a­tions man­ager Tony Schulz can ex­pect busy times ahead.

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