Mayor says Rocky won't pull their funds for Adani's airport
ROCKHAMPTON Region mayor Margaret Strelow said she won't follow Townsville's lead in redirecting funds set aside to build Adani's airport.
In a surprise announcement on Friday, Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill declared that her council would take the $18.5m earmarked for the Carmichael coal mine airport and put it towards other shovel-ready job-generating projects around their city.
Cr Hill cited Adani's failure to meet the council's June 30 deadline to obtain financing and get on with the project but left the door open for reapplying the funding towards the airport if circumstances changed for Adani to ensure Townsville retained its share of the promised FIFO jobs.
It is another dramatic development in the Adani saga after the controversial decision last year by both Rockhampton and Townsville to use council funds to build Adani's airport in exchange for hundreds of jobs.
Cr Strelow said Townsville's decision was unsurprising given that she'd been given the heads up, and she attributed it to Townsville City Council's financial situation.
She said because Rockhampton was better placed financially, they wouldn't be following their lead by withdrawing their airport funding pledge.
"Townsville's financial position is different to our own and the Townsville Mayor was finding it hard to justify delays on other projects," Cr Strelow said.
Cr Strelow said Rockhampton Regional Council was always conservative in its budgeting and the cash reserve figure they historically held was high when compared to other local governments in the area.
She said the money for Adani will be drawn from money they were earning interest on in the bank and if Adani were not on the horizon, they would not have any other plans to draw that money down.
"Because our contribution is being drawn from cash reserve holdings, it has no impact on our infrastructure program and has not delayed any other projects," she said.
"We are comfortable that we would be able to draw down our contribution to Adani and still keep our cash reserves at an acceptable but slightly lower level than normal for us."
Cr Strelow explained the process of setting council's budget began with their commitment to spending the right amount of money and doing the right amount of work to adequately maintain, and to gradually improve, our water, roads and sewer networks.
"It is prudent budgeting to keep a certain amount of money in the bank to ensure that council is able to pay its bills and pay staff etc," she said.
"There is an asset management plan that guides us, as well as external engineering assessments to make sure that we are getting it right.
"And council's forward planning already includes our proposed 'big ticket' economic and lifestyle items as well as the cost of maintaining them."
Cr Strelow said she was comfortable with Adani's progress to date and the council was kept regularly informed.
"The recent appointment of two high-profile executives added to the existing team signals a new phase in negotiations," she said.
An Adani Australia spokesperson said they looked forward to Townsville and Rockhampton being vibrant and prosperous communities and home to their future mine employees and their families.
"Townsville City Council has told us they will re-engage with Adani in order to guarantee 750 long-term mine jobs will be based in the city, as soon as we confirm financing for the Carmichael Project is in place," the spokesperson said.
"Our agreement with Rockhampton City Council remains unchanged.
"We estimate the investment in the airport will be returned to Rockhampton many times over each year the mine is in operation as the employees and their families who are based in the city spend their wages and contribute to the local economy.
"We remain 100% committed to the Carmichael Project and are confident of securing finance."