Rockhampton Airport.
Rockhampton Airport.

ASPIRE CQ: Rocky needs to take small steps with small planes

HAS Rockhampton been a good capital of Central Queensland?

Last week I not only suggested Rockhampton needs to now re-establish itself as the capital of Central Queensland but act like it as well.

In doing so it would help give Central Queensland a stronger identity, and with that attract more visitors, investment and residents, making CQ economically and socially stronger and thus even more identifiable and attractive.

While a capital of CQ has no associated government presence or official recognition, as the major city Rockhampton should play a leading ‘capital city’ role in connecting and unifying the region to help make CQ more identifiable; not just be amongst the rest of the state outside the south east corner.

Making Rockhampton easily accessible for the residents of other CQ communities goes towards creating this unity.

Ever tried getting a direct flight to western Queensland out of Rockhampton?

You either need to own a plane, have a good mate that does, or arrange a private charter.

Plus, the railway line ends at Longreach, with only a bi-weekly service between the towns. Well and good to say Rockhampton needs to be more accessible to the rest of Central Queensland but there should ideally be a viable demand for those vehicles of accessibility. Something suggested by the lack of services is arguably missing at the moment.

Now though is the time to build this viable demand by taking small steps with small planes.

Ever been to Birdsville when the horse races are on?

Here on the edge of the desert you’ll witness a very busy airport.

People fly in, from all over, their small planes just to take in the unique atmosphere of the Birdsville Races.

Can Rockhampton better attract the small plane market?

Presently on paying the relevant landing and parking fees one can basically land their small plane at the Rockhampton Airport.

But if you lived around Birdsville you could just as easily choose to fly your small plane to Brisbane, Gold or Sunshine Coast’s airports to do your business.

Especially if you feel no connection to Rockhampton.

However, COVID-19 is making the south east corner of the state less desirable to visit.

If you do have a choice, is the capital of CQ now a ‘safer’ alternative destination?

What if Rockhampton promoted 96 hours free plane parking at its airport, would council attract more small flights?

More inbound flights mean more people spending money within the Rockhampton region during their stay.

Be interesting to see what net effect this decision would have on the economy, higher spend in the region versus lower council fees.

No doubt, as the airport owners and the regions’ manager, Rockhampton Regional Council has investigated this very scenario.

No parking fees might be the carrot, but the attractiveness of where people land their planes and get transport into town needs to also be updated, after all you’ve just landed in the 2020 capital of Central Queensland, at least have a sign to indicate where the General Aviation Terminal is located.

The General Aviation Terminal, a separate structure from the main terminal, is the building small plane passengers go through on arriving in Rockhampton.

As well as a sign, a lick of paint wouldn’t go astray, giving small plane passengers a more favorable on the ground first impression of Rockhampton and that their visitation is recognised as well as somewhat valued.

Hopefully before this year’s Brahman Week, but please can council have this front door to Rockhampton looking good and welcoming in eight months’ time.

Beef Australia 2021 will in eigh months’ time attract higher than normal number of small planes using the Rockhampton Airport.

Let’s give arrivals a good first impression of the Beef Capital of Australia.

Waive their plane parking fees and do up the General Aviation Terminal entrance for starters. The temptation for council could be to use this opportunity to recoup some of the lost COVID-19 related revenue.

However, the view needs to be more far-sighted.

How do we encourage these visitors to return after Beef 2021?

And how do we use Beef Australia to start building viable demand for flights between Rockhampton and western CQ?

With effective promotion one would expect that people residing west of the Drummond Range will be interested in direct flights into Rockhampton for Beef Australia.

And there will be those in Rockhampton interested in seeing the Outback, especially if they have leased their home for the week and looking for somewhere to visit.

Then there is also the opportunity for Rockhampton to make a bold statement as the capital of Central Queensland by sharing some of Beef Australia’s events with western Queensland towns, flying people to and from.

These might be only 14 seat flights, but by improving connections within CQ more opportunities will reveal themselves giving more reason to continue using the service, increasing not necessarily the size of the planes but the frequency of flights.

Hopefully to the point where Rockhampton can really call itself and be the gateway to the Outback, attracting significant numbers of tourists to join the business people flying within CQ.

Small steps with small planes. Sometimes the small ideas get overlooked for the big bright shiny ones. Ones that cost more money and usually involve more risk.

What Rockhampton also appears to be overlooking, with its seeming myopic vision (though Adani is the exception), are the opportunities to be gained by looking outside its boundaries and act as, not just pronounce to be, the Beef Capital of Australia, gateway to the Outback and capital of Central Queensland.

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