JOHN Wagner, one of the men behind the Wellcamp airport at Toowoomba, the first public airport constructed in Australia in nearly 50 years, has urged the Australian aviation industry to put its nose to the grindstone.
“Melbourne has its terminals at full capacity now, yet nothing is happening, it is a similar story in Brisbane,” Mr Wagner said.
“There appears to have been a lack of planning.”
Mr Wagner said the $100 million Wellcamp airport was constructed and had approval applications in some 19 months after the first permit applications went in.
“Airport building is a fairly complex process, but it is not rocket science,” he said.
“We’ve just got to move away from this endless cycle of reports and reports on reports and get something done,” he said.
Using the example of the much-delayed Badgerys Creek airport development, which will serve the needs of western Sydney when constructed, Mr Wagner questioned the continued delays holding back construction of the facility.
“The western Sydney airport will be another major freight hub, they just need to get on with it.”
“We have done our numbers and we feel we could build the entire Badgerys Creek airport in three and a half years from a standing start.”
The cost of the project also came under fire.
“There is a figure there of a cost of $5.4 billion, we’ve done everything with that number and we feel we could do it for under half of that.”
“The runway is 700 metres longer than Wellcamp and that cost $100 million, we’ve doubled the figures for just about everything on what we did at Wellcamp and we still can’t come up with a figure of $5.4 billion.”
The Wellcamp airport is regarded as a success story of regional Australia.
Mr Wagner told of frustration at running a multi-national business without an airport had led the Wagner family to take on the project of building one.
“People said it wouldn’t happen, there was a lot of skepticism and now we have 89 services weekly.”
The airport has a 2.87km runway, which is suitable for use by 747 size aircraft.
Mr Wagner said the company expected to see more international traffic at the facility.
“We see it being an important conduit for moving produce out of the region quickly into Asia,” he said.
He said the business was currently trying to convince the Federal Government to create a link between the airport and the inland rail project.
“If they do that it will become even more strategic.”
In terms of international visitors, Mr Wagner said Chinese growth would be a key.
“By 2024, we will see 800 million Chinese leaving their country each year, and with the capital city hubs in Australia close to capacity I think Chinese regional airports will start talking to airports like ourselves, the Sunshine Coast and Newcastle.”
“I expect within a couple of years we will have direct flights from Asia daily.”