THE Whitsunday Coast Airport expansion proposal community consultations got off to a slow start on Monday night, with only seven residents attending the meeting at Proserpine Entertainment Centre.
Facilitated by independent firm JTA Australia, the consultation did see some issues raised by concerned residents about the council’s Whitsunday Coast Airport Master Plan and Feasibility Study.
Former deputy mayor Rogin Taylor asked why the council had already sought expressions of interest from the industry, appointed chief executive officer Scott Waters to a full-time position on the project and appointed an interim CEO in his place – before holding community consultations.
“It seems the decision has already been made to a greater extent,” Mr Taylor said.
But Mr Waters assured those assembled such measures were necessary to “sound the market”.
“Council hasn’t made any decisions, but to deliver an expression of interest process of this size there needs to be some dedicated resources put forward,” he said.
Mr Taylor also asked how the upgrades would be funded, with the feasibility study projecting more than $59 million would be needed in the first five years.
“And do you really think it’s fair at this stage of council, where in 90 days it goes into caretaker mode, to be leaving the next council with the commitment of a $105m development for the international airport?” he asked.
Mr Waters said at this stage no solid commitments had been made.
“At no stage has council committed, at all, any funding in relation to the future airport,” he said.
“What we have is a master plan which gives us a number of scenarios of what we could deliver from a capital perspective.
“Council is not about ‘build it and they will come’,” Mr Waters explained.
The next community consultation will be held at the Reef Gateway Hotel, Cannonvale, on Wednesday, September 23, from 7-9pm.