HIGH HOPES FOR AIRPORT FUTURE
HIGH HOPES: Minister Boyle is escorted on a tour of the new facilities by Commercial Services general manager Col Dziewicki. ds-090211-003
CENTRAL Highlands Regional Council revealed a case of terminal optimism in the economic outlook of the region with the official opening of its $7.7 million expansion of the Emerald airport.
Set to soar to new heights this year with a passenger record of 170,000 expected, the facility was a courageous and sound business investment, said State Local Government Minister Desley Boyle.
“The Central Highlands region is growing steadily and traffic through Emerald airport is expected to increase in line with that growth,” Ms Boyle said.
“The work includes a conveyor baggage system for drop-off and pick-up, a new check-in area, office space including a pilot lounge, upgrades to the amenities as well as additional security including passenger metal detection facilities.
“These are all the facilities that a modern airport requires and certainly it will be a major boon for business travellers involved in the resource and citrus sectors.”
Councillor Kerry Hayes praised the efforts of airport staff in keeping it operational during the flood.
“I would be fair to say it’s been a very, very tough time in this region recently, and I think it was very proper keeping this airport open as a vital piece of infrastructure,” said Cr Hayes.
“(It) was obviously an invaluable asset to this community at a time when all over Queensland, it was very difficult to get access to areas that had been affected by flooding and other local disasters.
“This wonderful facility here made sure this community at least had some level of resilience that made it more than a great comfort.”
With talks already underway to attract a second major carrier to Emerald, Mayor Peter Maguire said a potential change in federal safety compliance laws could necessitate another $6-7 million spent widening the runway from 30 metres to 45 metres to enable jet landings.
Council is considering committing another $4 million to the upgrading of Pilot Farm Rd and construction of a new entrance to the airport.
“All these things add up and guess who pays? The users of this facility and the ratepayers of the region,” Cr Maguire said. “... but this is about enhancing the economic potential of not just Emerald, but the whole region, outside the Central Highlands as well.
“This (airport) is a business for our council that has a return on investment.
“We’ve got a lot of other things to do like the town hall, libraries and pools to supply the community, but the importance of this facility cannot be underestimated.”
Cr Maguire, whose family has been involved in a local travel agency for many years, reminisced about his first visits to Emerald airport in the late 70s, and the changes in the aviation industry.
He made clear his views on current airport security.
“I go back to 1977 when I first came out here driving my moke on the weekends… and I ran the strip first to get rid of the kangaroos,” he said.
“Things have since changed and not a lot for the better I’ve got to tell you… now everyone wants to strip-search you, you can’t wear steel-capped boots, carry a nail file, yet I can walk up and check in and I could be anyone getting on the plane.
“No one checks who I am.
“The security thing to me… anyone could be travelling on anyone’s ticket and that’s the biggest problem in my view.”