$347 million airport upgrade approval: What does it mean?

FEDERAL Government approval of the Sunshine Coast Airport expansion’s Environmental Impact Statement has been hailed as a significant step forward for the project.

But what does it actually mean?

Well, for starters, you’re not going to see jumbo jets flying over Marcoola tomorrow.

There’s still a number of steps that need to be made before we see construction of the Coast’s own international airport.

Those steps are:

  • QTC Guarantee: The Sunshine Coast Council has sought a $181 million concessional loan from the Commonwealth Government. Like any loan, especially of that size, the ‘bank’, in this case the Australian Government, will want a guarantee of repayments being made. The council will seek that guarantee from the Queensland Treasury Corporation, with State Treasurer Curtis Pitt already giving his in-principle support for the council to proceed with the concessional loan process.
  • Due Diligence: Fairfax MP Ted O’Brien has stated that once the guarantee has been secured, the Federal Government will carry out its due diligence before providing any concessional loan. That will be based on the business case put forward by the council which Mayor Mark Jamieson was confident would stack up.
  • The loan: If due diligence is carried out and support is still there for the project at a Federal level, the next step will be getting a deal done for the loan. Ideally for the council, the full $181 million will be forthcoming. If not, other options may be explored, whether it’s a partial loan and private sector partnership or the project is shopped direct to the market, there will be a range of options. The council is hopeful the $181 million will be handed down, given the funds will be repaid.
  • Construction: Once funding has been settled, construction will begin on the new runway. There’ll be no time to lose with Christmas 2020 identified as the time the new airport would be open for business.

So that’s the process in a nutshell, but what does the EIS approval actually mean?

Essentially it’s the Feds giving their approval of the conditions under which the development can take place. Those conditions were imposed by the State Coordinator-General as part of an Additional Environmental Impact Statement ordered.

Provided CASA and Airservices Australia aviation approvals can be met, the EIS approvals essentially green light the development of the airport under the conditions imposed by the Coordinator-General.

Among those recommended conditions from the Coordinator-General, shifting helicopter operations from the southern general aviation area to the western general aviation areas before 2027.

A strict acid sulphate soil management plan must also be developed and followed, along with biodiversity offset strategies to address impacts on Mount Emu She-Oak and Wallum sedge frog populations affected.

The council will also have to upgrade or contribute to the cost of upgrades to any State-controlled roads and intersections prior to major airport expansion works beginning.

The council will also be the entity responsible for any flood mitigation measures and designs for the site.

Other conditions include ensuring no discolouration of Marcoola Beach surf zone during the offshore unloading of dredge spoil.

A number of commitments from the council will also have to be honoured as part of the EIS approval given by Coordinator-General Barry Broe on May 18.


Courtesy of The Sunshine Coast Daily Words By Scott Sawyer


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