'Concerned' ratepayer grills Strelow over Adani airport
ROCKHAMPTON resident and "concerned ratepayer” Daniel Oram says the council's plan to build a $20m airport to support its Adani FIFO hub bid may well have merit but he says there are many questions that need to be answered before he is convinced this is a good investment.
I have some concerns and questions about the $20m airport I would like answered.
- Where and what is the business plan ?
- Is the money being borrowed? If so, what is the final price after interest and upkeep charges?
- What are the benefits to the people of Rockhampton?
Do not present pie in the sky figures like population growth like 250000 people as reported in your paper. As I see it there is no great long term jobs to be gained by a large number of Rockhampton residents on the construction of this airport by the Regional Council, but I have not seen the plan.
The people expect if the council is going to invest the rate payers money on pipe dreams or solid business plans then a reasonable return on our money is expected.
- What money has been spent on the project so far?
The council has yet not told the people where this airport is to be built.
- Why is it that Adani is not building his own airport in the region?
There is still no rock solid certainty that the mine will go ahead after native title rulings in West Australia this week.
- Is this going to end up with Townsville and Rockhampton going into a bidding war with the ratepayers money?
- What is coming first the airport or certainty that the mine is going ahead ?
- FIFO has not yet been settled by the Government; why are we trying to kill off the rural towns in outback Queensland who also spend money in Rockhampton?
- Why is this council not addressing the real problems in the regional council area of roads both sealed and unsealed and other council services?
- What qualifications do our councillors have to interpret the master plan for themselves so they could make their own decision ?
This plan may have merit and the council can make the final decision, but as a rate payer I would like to see the plan and have my questions and concerns answered .
This is so that at the next election I can vote with all the facts . It is too often that the council refuses to tell the ratepayers what is the real facts hiding behind privacy concerns.
- Daniel Oram, Wandal
MAYOR MARGARET STRELOW RESPONDS:
Firstly to recap on the fundamentals of our proposal.
Council will fund a satellite airport (basically just a runway with a small building) which will be located approximately 500 km north west of Rockhampton on the Adani mine site.
The satellite airport investment is a commercial decision by our airport business and has to pay for itself over time.
Running airports is a complex business and we already have the expertise and a talented workforce achieving great success at our own airport. We are able to provide management and personnel more efficiently than if Adani set up an independent operation. Our motivation is both profit for our airport and jobs for Rockhampton.
Thank you for your thoughtful questions about the proposal.
I will answer your question about Councillor qualifications first.
All bar one (who is a great addition to the Council!) have been elected for successive terms with at least eight or nine years experience in each case- others up to 20+ years.
With all this vast experience, we stood united with a unanimous vote on one of the most important and difficult decisions we've ever had to make.
Our Region is getting the benefit of an experienced team of Councillors who understand while there are risks, this is a once in a generation opportunity.
In this particular decision, Councillors have been advised by senior officers with degrees in law, economics, business, management, accounting and local government.
Councils decision has been further informed by the advice of independent accountants and lawyers as well as by our own executive finance team who between them manage a budget of a quarter of $1 billion per year. This same team have assisted to return our budget to surplus for four consecutive years and to commence paying off our legacy debt. ($7.1 m since de amalgamation) Our final bid will be peer reviewed by PWC.
The list of questions that you raised picks up many of the questions that Councillors have asked over the last few months as we have explored the airport opportunity.
We also explored questions about the impact of this on our long-term financial sustainability and whether or not we have any legislative authority to do what we are doing.
Councillors very quickly looked for any impact on our current or projected capital works program and about the checks and balances that could be built into the system.
That said, I cannot answer the vast majority of your questions.
Firstly, bids are still open for the FIFO hub.
I was determined to put as much as possible in the public domain before we lodged our final bid, but I had to balance that with knowing that it left us weaker because the element of surprise is gone.
To disclose further details will simply show our full hand to our competitor - details which would rob us of our advantage.
You will note that Townsville have not disclosed any of the financial content of their bid.
In reaching a decision, council considered what level of support would be appropriate for 1000 direct jobs from any other new business.
We thought about what would be an appropriate response from a Council trying to attract a new business of say 100 jobs. And then did some multiplication.
Should we be successful in our bid we anticipate that this deal will nestle under Rockhampton Airport as a commercial entity.
And as is the nature of these things - any agreement that is eventually signed with Adani will be commercial in confidence. But the broad brush stroke of the deal has been outlined to the community already as I am genuinely and deeply aware that this is your money.
It would really be very difficult for us to be more open on this then we have been without jeopardising our bid or compromising confidentiality.