Bor­der agen­cies visit Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port: Next stop in­ter­na­tional

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

CUS­TOMS, quar­an­tine and im­mi­gra­tion per­son­nel were at the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port yes­ter­day in prepa­ra­tion for the re­gion’s first in­ter­na­tional flights.

Scott Wa­ters, who is in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the newly formed Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port and In­fra­struc­ture cor­po­ra­tion, said he’d been work­ing very closely with Daw­son MP Ge­orge Chris­tensen to get to this point.

“And now it’s real – to get them up out of Can­berra and to get them here, we’re re­ally ap­pre­cia­tive of the depart­ment for com­ing up – but also the work that’s been done by Ge­orge in ad­vo­cat­ing,” he said.

The bor­der agen­cies were specif­i­cally look­ing at the re­quire­ments for ser­vices from New Zealand, which Mr Wa­ters be­lieves could be op­er­a­tional by win­ter 2016. He said open­ing the re­gion up to New Zealand first, not only tapped into an ex­ist­ing mar­ket but posed less work from a lo­gis­tics point of view.

Us­ing the same air­craft types the air­port cur­rently re­ceives, no mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the run­way would be re­quired and only a ded­i­cated ar­rivals area would need to be built.

Mr Wa­ters said a space out­side the ex­ist­ing bag­gage col- lec­tion area had al­ready been iden­ti­fied for this and he noted New Zealand was rea­son­ably low risk from a quar­an­tine and bio-se­cu­rity per­spec­tive.

He said the ex­act na­ture of what needed to be done would be very much sub­ject to the ap­proval of the agen­cies vis­it­ing yes­ter­day, but he was con­fi­dent one ser­vice per week could be up and run­ning within a mat­ter of months.

A model for es­tab­lish­ing New Zealand ser­vices al­ready ex­ists at the Sun­shine Coast Air­port, de­signed by the same ar­chi­tect as Whit­sun­day Coast.

Mr Wa­ters said the Sun­shine Coast started with one ser­vice per week just three years ago and had al­ready grown this to three flights per week dur­ing win­ter.

“They’re only an hour up the road from Bris­bane and peo­ple said it wasn’t go­ing to work, ‘you’re too close to such a ma­jor air­port’, but it has worked,” he said.

“It’s been proven time and time again that as air­ports de­velop and grow, economies and re­gions grow as well.”

And Mr Wa­ters be­lieves it will work for Whit­sun­day too, with not only pas­sen­gers but ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties also in the mix.

“It’s been proven time and time again that as air­ports de­velop and grow, economies and re­gions grow as well,” he said.

“It means more jobs in Bowen, it means more jobs in Proser­pine be­ing the clos­est town­ship to the air­port and then of course the tourism in­dus­try through­out Air­lie Beach, Can­non­vale and the is­lands will be pos­i­tively im- pacted.”

The cur­rent plan is for the ex­ist­ing air­port to be mod­i­fied as re­quired, run­ning as a do­mes­tic fa­cil­ity dur­ing the day and an in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal at night, with one ser­vice per week from New Zealand ar­riv­ing be­tween 3 and 5pm on a Satur­day and de­part­ing by 7pm.

Mr Wa­ters said dis­cus­sions around di­vest­ing up to 49% of the newly formed air­port cor­po­ra­tion in a pub­lic / pri­vate part­ner­ship were on­go­ing and should be fi­nalised by April.

Mean­while coun­cil is also talk­ing to the State Govern­ment about the pos­si­bil­ity of buy­ing the re­serve land on which the air­port sits and con­vert­ing it to free­hold ti­tle. Mr Wa­ters said coun­cil would not be per­mit­ted to on-sell the land.

ON THE UP: Scott Wa­ters is ex­cited to lead the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port into a new era. IN­SET: The plan for the in­ter­na­tional con­fig­u­ra­tion of Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port.

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