First Wellcamp Airport flight takes off

The family conglomerate Wagners spent $200 million and used its own construction business to build the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport on a stretch of farmland on the Darling Downs.

It is the first public airport to be built since the construction of Melbourne’s Tullamarine facility 48 years ago, and the first to be fully funded by the private sector.

Director Denis Wagner said more than 1,200 people had been working on the site for the past 18 months.

He said the airport was desperately needed on the Darling Downs.

“When we started thinking about developing our business park [nearby] we got a lot of pushback because there was no connectivity to Toowoomba,” he said.

“Large manufacturers wouldn’t come here because they couldn’t get in and out of the city easily. They had to fly to Brisbane and drive two hours to get here.

“We quickly came to the conclusion that unless we solved the connectivity problems of Toowoomba the Wellcamp business park would be fairly problematic.

“I think if we look at it terms of the value that it will add to the local community and if you look at things like the economic output that will increase in this region, the expectation [is that] in the fifth year of operation the economic output for Toowoomba will be $450 million.”

On Monday morning, 76 passengers boarded the first QantasLink flight from the airport.

Pilot Jock Richardson said it was an honour to land at Wellcamp.

The turbo-prop plane was christened “Darling Downs” in honour of the airport opening.

Some, such as Helen Hayward, paid up to $15,000 to charity for the privilege of sitting in the front row for the historic flight.

“I think it’s going to open up our region to Australia and the rest of the world,” she said.

“It’s just going to make it some much accessible.”

High hopes for exporting produce to Asian markets

Qantas said it planned to operate 11 return flights a week, and they were booked out for the next three weeks.

Wagners said talks were progressing well on using the airport site to export fresh local produce to Asia and that producers were already willing to get on board.

Cairns-based seafood producer Peter Hay said he hoped to export live fingerlings and fish to the Chinese market in future, which was not currently possible from Cairns Airport.

“The market there is a live seafood market and we need a logistics chain that is going to be able to get to that market in a very rapid time,” he said.

Wagners planned to construct cold storage and warehouse space at Brisbane West over the next 12 to 18 months.

Meanwhile, initial construction at the airport site was still continuing, with the main access road to be finished sometime next month.

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