NO WAY: Mayor Greg Williamson will not be offering to buy Adani any airports.
NO WAY: Mayor Greg Williamson will not be offering to buy Adani any airports. Tony Martin

Mayor 'stunned' by Rocky's airport pitch

GREG Williamson is stunned by Rockhampton Regional Council's plan to build Adani an airport hundreds of kilometres from the regional city.

In an interview with The Daily Mercury to see if he would consider a similar pitch to entice the energy giant to conduct FIFO operations to its Carmichael mine out of Mackay, the Mayor used the phrase "no way" three times.

For starters, he doesn't think he could convince councillors or the region's ratepayers to put $20m towards building a private company an airport in a different council area, in a bid to secure "a component" of about 1000 jobs.

"I would have to go out and first convince the council and then convince ratepayers that is a good use of their money," Cr Williamson said. "I just don't think it is!"

On Wednesday Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow revealed that her council had agreed unanimously on a plan to do just that -offer to build Adani a second satellite airport in the Galilee Basin to service its Carmichael coal project at a cost of about $20m.

Rockhampton and Townsville were each short-listed by Adani late last year as potential hub locations where workers would fly in and out of the remote mine.

Adani is expected to name which town will secure the FIFO work in coming months.

While Mackay was named as the project's maintenance hub, it has lobbied to get back in the race for FIFO ever since.

Earlier this year Cr Williamson and Mackay Airport general manager Rob Porter flew to Brisbane to meet with Adani, and offered the company exclusive use of an unused terminal at Mackay Airport to operate in and out of Carmichael.

"They were impressed," he said. "But there were a lot of other things on the table, which we now know has other councils saying they're going to put up millions of dollars to build them an airport."

Mr Porter remains confident the region's bid was strong, stating the company was continuing to liaise directly with Adani and other stakeholders to "explore opportunities to provide aviation services to new and existing mining operations and to support Mackay's selection as the mining services provider for Adani".

Cr Williamson said Mackay would not be adding to it's bid in response to Rockhampton's offer.

"They must have more money than us!" he said, with a laugh.

"There is no way we would even contemplate building an airport. You've got to say to ratepayers "To secure 1000 jobs we're going to spend $20m of ratepayer money on an airport that's not even in our jurisdiction to prop up a private enterprise". That's a really big call.

"You've got to face the reality of this whole prospect... we are not talking about tens of thousands of jobs.

"We are talking about, sure, a significant number of jobs over the next 10 years as the mine grows... but that will take a long time coming."

He also did not believe there would be a return on the investment for ratepayers, and as a council known for supporting private enterprise, shoring up that return was "what it's all got to be about".

No matter which region was elected as the FIFO hub, Cr Williamson said Adani could not stipulate where it's workers would be based.

That meant there would be nothing stopping workers based from all over Queensland commuting to Rockhampton before hopping on a plane to the Carmichael mine, should it be selected as the hub.


However, Rockhampton mayor Cr Strelow said, as it already owned the Rockhampton Airport, it was the type of commercial decision that was consistent.

"We recognise this is an unusual move but as owners of our airport, which is a more commercial entity in its own right, it's the sort of commercial decision that is quite consistent with owning an airport business," she said.

An Adani spokesman said he could not comment on the outcome of meetings the company "may or may not have held" with Mackay representatives. However he pointed out that it was Rockhampton and Townsville short-listed for the FIFO work last year and that has not changed.

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