New runway on Bob’s flight plan

Sunshine Coast Council will seek $230 million in federal funding for a new runway that would not only guarantee tourism flights into the future, but also form the base for a huge aeronautical support industry.

Money for the project was not included in the recently released update to the South-east Queensland infrastructure plan.

Mayor Bob Abbot said on Friday if the federal funding bid, which would be put to the prime minister in Canberra this week, was not successful all other options to secure the project would be examined.

That did not rule out various levels of private equity ownership of the airport.

Mr Abbot would be in Canberra as part of South-east Queensland council of mayors’ delegation seeking funding for critical regional infrastructure.

The airport funding is its top priority.

Mr Abbot said given the enormity of the airport project, all options were on the table.

“It’s a business, not a council service. If we are going to put any more ratepayer money in, it needs to bring them a solid return.”

He said the airport was critical but providing a new runway, with a south-east/north-west alignment, represented an enormous body of work.

While tourism was an important component, the attraction and development of aeronautical business at the airport was an important factor in the business plan.

“An upgraded runway and airport would improve our ability to attract hi-tech industry to the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

Council finance manager Greg Laverty said the airport business had the capacity, given future growth projections, to fund the work but it would involve significant debt.

“It’s an issue of risk management and whether council is prepared to take on the whole risk of funding the development,” Mr Laverty said.

Council decided in closed committee on Tuesday to fund from reserves an internal loan to pay compensation for the resumption of 110 hectares of cane land from the Mantyla and Savimaki families needed for the project.

Council asked families to submit claims for compensation to be measured against figures from a council appointed independent valuer.

The state government issued a gazettal notice in July allowing the resumptions to take place.

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