The Australian

Quarantine hub ready in six weeks : Wagners

- GLEN NORRIS

Queensland constructi­on tsars the Wagners say they could build the first stage of their proposed internatio­nal quarantine hub within six weeks of getting the green light from the government.

Wagners chairman Denis Wagner told The Australian that the family was still waiting for approval from the state government for the project that could see a 1000-person quarantine camp built near their private Wellcamp airport west of Toowoomba.

The Wagners, whose constructi­on materials business is being buoyed by big-ticket infrastruc­ture projects such as Inland Rail and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, are not asking the government for a cent to build the camp. The camp is seen as a safer model than increasing­ly risky city-based hotel quarantine.

In a separate proposal, Avalon Airport, owned by Lindsay Fox’s Linfox, is negotiatin­g with the commonweal­th and Victorian government to accommodat­e up to 1000 internatio­nal arrivals near Geelong, a plan that could slash the risk of further breakouts in Melbourne.

Mr Wagner said: “Although there has been some negativity about the camp, we have got a lot of support for it from this region.

“It will be a lot safer system than what they have got now. Once the contract was signed we could have the initial stage built within six weeks.”

The purpose-built camp, which would be dismantled once the pandemic was over, would house people in cabins or rooms.

A spokesman for Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the state government was fully supportive of the proposal and approval was now largely up to the commonweal­th.

One issue would be approval from aviation authoritie­s to allow internatio­nal passenger arrivals at Wellcamp. The airport is already used by Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific for freight runs.

The Wagners — including

brothers Denis, John, Neill and Joe — saw their 47 per cent stake in Wagners Holding soar by $12.9m to $173m on Thursday as big infrastruc­ture projects boosted profits. The stock closed up 8.03 per cent at $1.95.

Wagners, which makes concrete and composite materials for everything from roads and bridges to light poles and warehouses, posted a 14 per cent increase in profit to $1.4m in the six months to the end of December.

Revenue increased 27 per cent to $155m as the Toowoomba-based company sold more concrete, cement and quarry materials.

All levels of government in Australia were starting to develop plans to rescue the economy, primarily by increasing government spending on infrastruc­ture.

Mr Wagner said large infrastruc­ture and resources projects including Inland Rail and Cross River Rail were already boosting demand for constructi­on materials.

Wagners was supplying precast concrete tunnel segments to Cross River Rail, valued at $40m, while a $35m quarry operation and haulage agreement had been reached with the Carmichael Mine Project in Queensland, valued at more than $35m.

He said Wagners was positive about the Australian economy coming out of COVID-19, with good prospects for many industries. “Aviation has been struggling and the airport is very quiet but constructi­on is going well, property developmen­t is going well and so are our investment­s in agricultur­e,” he said.

Mr Wagner said the announceme­nt on Thursday that Brisbane was in the box seat to win the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games also would boost economic confidence, particular­ly in southeast Queensland.

With the focus on a low-carbon economy, Wagners was now investing heavily in new generation materials, including composite fibre technologi­es that were increasing­ly replacing wood and steel in constructi­on.

The company recently manufactur­ed its first batch of 1000 composite material power poles for a NSW energy company.

“The poles will replace wooden ones,” Mr Wagner said. “The composite poles will last longer than wood and will become increasing­ly popular as people don’t like cutting down trees.”

The company also was providing composite materials for Amazon warehouses in the US.

Mr Wagner said the company was seeing growing demand for its Earth Friendly Concrete (EFC) material for infrastruc­ture projects in Europe and India. The global regulatory focus on CO2 emission control provided a perfect platform for expanded sales of the product.

Instead of using traditiona­l cement, EFC uses two industrial waste by-products — blast furnace slag and fly ash — to create an alternativ­e eco-friendly products.

The family constructe­d 51,000sq m of heavy duty pavements at its Wellcamp airport in 2014 using EFC.

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