A might Antonov An-124 Ruslan at perched on the tarmac of Rockhampton Airport.
A might Antonov An-124 Ruslan at perched on the tarmac of Rockhampton Airport. Russell Prothero

Vision details ring road's importance to Rocky’s economic future

EVEN when they were landing balsa wood and canvas planes, Rockhampton residents had a vision for the airport's future.

That continued as the city grew, until it was gifted to the council in 1989.

Upgrades and extensions made it one of the biggest airports in regional Australia and a cornerstone of the region's economy with a turn over of more than $15 million annually.

This vision is set to continue with Rockhampton Regional Council this week publishing the new 20-year master plan.

An independent document three years in the making, the plan positions Rockhampton as the gateway to northern Australia and considers future passenger numbers and potential FIFO operations, opportunities with defence, the impact of flooding and upgrades to the terminal.

 

 

 

The Antonov 124-100, one of the largest aircraft in the world, lands at the Rockhampton Airport.
The Antonov 124-100, one of the largest aircraft in the world, lands at the Rockhampton Airport. Rockhampton Regional Council

However, airport committee chair Councillor Neil Fisher said the highest priority for him was the development of the airport's cargo and freight capacity.

Essential to this is the Rockhampton bypass, which would divert traffic from the Bruce Hwy along the west of Rockhampton and reconnect at Glenlee.

The bypass would allow an interchange to be created at Ridgelands Rd, connecting to Canoona Rd which could then become the main airport access rather than residential Hunter St.

The location of air, road and the North Coast Railway line together would create the ultimate logistics hub.

Cr Fisher said there were 17 heavy freight hauls from Rockhampton Airport annually, and an average of one a week for the whole state.

He believes if the bypass were built, Rockhampton could increase its cargo capacity and expand that area of business.

 

An Atlas Air 747 on the tarmac at Rockhampton airport.
An Atlas Air 747 on the tarmac at Rockhampton airport. Allan Reinikka ROK260717a747airp

The plan concluded there wasn't enough data from air cargo operators to indicate the historical or current demand for air freight at the airport.

But increasing that market has been a focus of Rockhampton Regional Council and could dovetail with Rookwood Weir's ability to cultivate high return crops which could be exported.

The products and their export markets haven't yet been identified.

"If council is able to establish the markets, and attract the suitable aircraft operators, additional air cargo facilities would certainly be required," the plan states.

Although this expansion is based entirely on market demand, the plan maps ways an air cargo hub could be created at the airport.

 

Cr Neil Fisher at Rockhampton airport with a 747 on the tarmac.
Cr Neil Fisher at Rockhampton airport with a 747 on the tarmac. Allan Reinikka ROK260717a747airp

The new precinct would provide room for more and larger airfreight processing facilities as well as space for freight forwarders facilities.

"There's always been that vision and this is our next vision for taking the airport to the next level in the future," Cr Fisher said.

"The airport is the centre for economic development.

"If we can develop the freight hub that will generate a lot of other opportunities that will see tourism and those other things fall in line."

Cr Fisher said air freight development wouldn't require large council investment but did rely on "significant" commitments from other levels of government when it came to the ring road bypass.

 

TROOPS GATHER: Operation Talisman Sabre will see hundreds of troops pass through Rockhampton airport.
TROOPS GATHER: Operation Talisman Sabre will see hundreds of troops pass through Rockhampton airport. Neil Fisher

Development of a dedicated military precinct, which would relocate all activities including Singapore Armed Forces operations away from general aviation, was also identified as a top priority in the plan, but depends wholly on flood mitigation at the airport.

The methods for mitigation have not been identified.

"This facility would enable the military organisations to stage, train and demobilise their troop and equipment with minimal interaction with civilian operations," the plan states.

Cr Fisher said there would be many advantages to this military precinct and the development of the official master plan would allow council to start negotiations with governments and defence departments.

"We've spoken about it for a long time, but now we've got a document where we can go out and start engaging with the ADF, with Singapore, and other military operations," he said.



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