Valley airport poised for take-off

COMMERCIAL flights could be flying from the Lockyer Valley across the nation, with building set to begin on a $30 million airport in the region.

Construction on the Lockyer Valley Regional Airport near Gatton will start early next year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The airport will feature freehold private hangars and is expected to bring in a range of high skill jobs in the aviation sector.

The facility will also include disaster-response capabilities and act as a base and refuelling station for emergency helicopters.

While it will initially cater only for private flights, developers and the Lockyer Valley Regional Council are hoping to eventually see regularly scheduled flights from the airport.

Speaking at the official launch of the airport yesterday, VNE Aviation developer Randal McFarlane said commercial flights were a long-term aim.

"It's in the right area and I imagine that one day as we move on, airports are a long-term investment and they're generally around for a long time, so I'd certainly see that there'll be some scheduled services out of here at some stage," he said.

Mr McFarlane said he had already been in contact with mining companies about using the Lake Clarendon site to fly workers into mines across the state.

"Our total investment in runways and other associated facilities is $10 million, while another $20 million will be spent on private hangars," Mr McFarlane said.

"The project will create at least 30 jobs during the construction phase and ongoing employment opportunities for more than 100."

Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones said the airport was positioned to access passengers from across south-east Queensland.

"It will provide great economic benefits to the region and will allow for passenger services in the future, which is really important for the growth of the entire western corridor," he said.

Cr Jones said he expected the airport would eventually see Lockyer Valley produce exported from the airport.

"Not only can I see a time but I think it's very likely, because I think what will happen as we move forward you'll see places like the Lockyer Valley as they compete in the world market go more into boutique high quality crops," Cr Jones said.

"I think as that occurs it will be more important that we have air travel and we can get those high quality crops, which would be equivalent to the best in the world, to their destination very quickly."

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