Medical staff load up an RFDS plane at the opening of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Broken Hill.
Medical staff load up an RFDS plane at the opening of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Broken Hill.

Potentially lifesaving upgrades delayed after funding snub

POTENTIALLY lifesaving upgrades to the Collinsville Aerodrome have been "delayed but not forgotten" after the facility missed out on federal funding.

In November last year, Whitsunday councillors unanimously moved to apply for a $750,000 grant to upgrade the Collinsville Aerodrome as part of the Federal Government's Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program, with a co-contribution of $750,000 from the council's Airport Reserve Budget.

The multimillion-dollar upgrade to the Collinsville Aerodrome would have assisted the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in providing the region with reliable emergency evacuation and at the time was labelled a priority by the RFDS.

ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE. Picture: Tricia Watkinson.
ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE. Picture: Tricia Watkinson.

Currently, only the smaller plane in the RFDS fleet is able to land in Collinsville at night. The proposed upgrades would allow the larger planes predominantly operated by the RFDS Townsville base the ability to also land at night.

After the funding for the upgrades was denied, Member for Burdekin Dale Last said the project was "delayed but definitely not forgotten".

"When the grant application was lodged in November 2019 I said that, if it wasn't successful, there would be tough questions to answer and I've already started asking those questions," Mr Last said.

"The application that was lodged by the Whitsunday Regional Council, with the blessing of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), outlined the need for the upgrades and those needs have not changed.

Queensland LNP member for Burdekin Dale Last speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)
Queensland LNP member for Burdekin Dale Last speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

"To ensure the best value for taxpayer money, the application process is very competitive, with a total of 88 applications for the last round.

"I would definitely encourage the council to apply again and I will fully support that application, just like I did the last one."

Whitsunday Regional Council chief operating officer of aviation and tourism Craig Turner said it was "critical" for the Collinsville community to see the aerodrome upgrade through.

He said council had not lost focus and, although unsuccessful for this round of funding, would be applying for the next.

 

"We understand there's only a certain amount of funding available but when you're talking about the safety of the community, as well as servicing things like cattle stations, it's critical," he said.

"There's four aerodromes in our region and each one plays a critical and important role in servicing and maintaining our region."

Mr Turner said there was currently repair work being undertaken at the Collinsville Aerodrome to improve the runway as part of the commitment to the airport facility and maintain it in the interim.

Medical staff load up an RFDS plane at the opening of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Broken Hill.
Medical staff load up an RFDS plane at the opening of the Royal Flying Doctor Service base at Broken Hill.

An RFDS spokesman said the organisation had supported the proposed upgrade so the aerodrome could support all weather and day/night operations.

The spokesman said the upgrade proposal also included obstacle clearance lighting, runway widening/sealing, and animal-proof fencing, as safety enhancements.

With coronavirus impacting many industries, Mr Last said he was looking at other potential funding applications and had written to the Federal Government suggesting that the Collinsville Aerodrome upgrade was a project that was "basically ready to go".

"Following his visit to the area late last year the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, is acutely aware of our needs," he said.

"I have asked him to identify any funding programs or grants that we can explore to get this project underway as soon as possible."


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