Federal MP Ken O’Dowd, Lester Anderson, John Engwicht and Vaughan Johnson discuss the Blackwater airport.
Federal MP Ken O’Dowd, Lester Anderson, John Engwicht and Vaughan Johnson discuss the Blackwater airport. Tara Miko

Things looking up for Blackwater airport

THE quest to reopen the Blackwater airport received a political boost after local stakeholders met with state and federal politicians on Friday.

John Engwicht and Blackwater Workers Club president Lester Anderson laid their cards bare on the table and told Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd and Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson there was no doubt as to the viability of the facility.

Mr O'Dowd said the airport had been an ongoing concern for Blackwater, but was pleased to see some traction gained on the issue.

"It is great to see I have been able to bring all the stakeholders to the negotiation table," he said.

"We still have a long way to go but I am sure if we maintain an atmosphere of co-operation between all parties we may hopefully achieve the desired outcome of restoring commercial flights back into Blackwater.

"Ultimately I would to like to see some return of commercial flights... In a period of growth you hate to witness a reduction in services to the community."

Mr Anderson said there were a number of companies working in Blackwater that would welcome the airport's reopening.

"At the moment there are (companies) that rely on the Emerald airport to get contractors into town, and they have to get them in the night before so they can start their shift, and that means paying for at least two nights' accommodation, if they can get it. But they lose hours of work in getting to and from the mine site to the airport in Emerald."

Mr Anderson said based on the predicted growth of the town and mining expansion, the Blackwater Workers Club had deemed it economically viable to take on responsibility for the airport.

"We had a barrister look at our constitution and it all fits for us to take it over," he said.

"We would put up the funds but it would be controlled by another company, not the club."

Mr Johnson said he knew first-hand the viability of the airport, having flown out of Blackwater to Brisbane on countless occasions.

"I've flown into Brisbane a lot when that service used to come in of an afternoon and the morning, and when you talk about numbers getting off that plane, I can never remember any less than 12 or 14," he said.

He referred to SkyTrans, the regional airline that previously announced it would provide a service to Blackwater if an airport was available.

A BMA spokeswoman yesterday said the company was "happy to assess the viability of the airstrip with key Blackwater stakeholders".

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