Rockhampton Regional Council plans a six-month trial of international flights out of its Rockhampton airport, with potential freight services to promote local industry in addition to passenger services.
Mayor Margaret Strelow has requested an action plan be prepared and expects the trial to get under way in the second half of 2018.
“It’s going to be a journey. If we never try we’ll never know and I guess that is the end of ‘will it or won’t it (work), let’s get another study’,” she said.
“It’s six months and we’re asking our business community and tourism operators and other levels of government – if we all pull together can we make something viable out of this?”
The council’s economic development team has been working with small crop producers looking to support their growth and understand potential export opportunities in that sector.
But Cr Strelow also highlighted the potential benefits to the region’s METS (mining equipment, technology and services) sector, using Siemens as an example.
Siemens has invested $5 million into its Rockhampton service centre, which now boasts Australia’s largest and most advanced gearbox test rig for mining, wind power and other industries.
“I was just talking to Siemens here and they said they often fly equipment from China into Australia,” Cr Strelow said.
“This service centre here now has the most high-end testing equipment available anywhere in Australia and it’s a natural fit for them to be able to fly product or equipment directly into Rockhampton.”
Cr Strelow said the Rockhampton airport already operated as an international gateway for three months each year, when the region hosts major military exercises.
No upgrades were needed to tarmac or terminal for the six-month trial. She said the major cost would be associated with offering Customs services for that period.
“I would envisage if the trial is successful we will move fairly quickly to make permanent arrangements, and we would also need the support of the Federal Government,” she said.
“We would also be looking at grant programs to help us and to help our businesses to expand our horizons.
“The timing is deliberate in that we want people to work up to and have plenty of lead time to become involved in this venture.
“This is a blue sky moment for us to just see where this opportunity may lead us, and I think if ever there was a time for us to do it, that time is now.”