Different views on future of airport

THE TWO mayoral candidates for the new Whitsunday Regional Council have different views on the future of our airport.

The Whitsunday Chamber of Commerce hosted a business breakfast last week – and invited both mayoral candidates to present their views on many issues in the lead up to the election.

Current Bowen mayor, Mike Brunker, suggested moving the airport to an area between Proserpine and Bowen but current Whitsunday mayor, Cr Mario Demartini, wants it to stay where it is.

Cr Demartini said the only reason to move the airport would be because of the mining of oil shale.

He said that if this was the case, Council would not have any say in it – and that he believed this was at least 5-7 years down the track.

"For work to start on anything to do with oil shale, it is still a long way off and they would be obliged to move it at their cost," he said.

Cr Brunker, however, said it would be foolish to spend $30-$40 million on the current airport – and then have to move it.

He said the oil shale deposit was as big as Bass Strait.

"I would be advocating for a port authority to run it. I don’t think councils should be running airports," he said.

Cr Demartini then issued a press release this week – slamming Cr Brunker for wanting to move the airport.

He described the suggestion as "totally illogical grandstanding"

He said there was absolutely no reason to move the airport as the whole thing was owned by the ratepayers and was contributing very substantial funding to the Whitsundays tourist industry through airport fees.

However, Cr Brunker has hit back, saying he attended a meeting in October last year with the Premier’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Premier’s Chief of Staff and a representative from the Department of State Development.

Cr Brunker said Cr Demartini attended the meeting, along with chief executive officer of Whitsunday Shire Council, Tony Hayward.

Cr Brunker said that at that meeting, Cr Demartini had supported moving the airport.

Cr Brunker said a location between Bowen and Proserpine was the logical place for an airport – and that there was no point in spending money upgrading the current airport if it needed to be moved because of the oil shale project.

"It’s our job to have vision," he told the Whitsunday Times yesterday.

"Let’s build one in a better spot."

He also said it was important to have an airport in an area that was not flood-prone – saying that if the airport was to remain where it was – the roads network would need to be upgraded.

"There’s no point having an airport if you can’t get to it," he said.


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