IT was an historic day for Far North Queensland’s aviation industry last Thursday as dozens of key political figures, businesspeople and members of the Tablelands community gathered for the official opening of Stage 1 of the Mareeba Airport.
The 23 million dollar project included the construction of a 52-lot commercial precinct connected to water, sewerage, power and telecommunications services.
Mareeba Shire Council Mayor Tom Gilmore said he believes it is the most significant development of general aviation in Far North Queensland for a generation.
“Because of its close proximity to the Cairns International Airport, the Mareeba Airport has not reached its full potential for over 70 years,” he said.
“However as a result of the grants received, this relic of the Second World War has now become central to flight training and general aviation maintenance services in the north.”
Cr Gilmore said the facility stands as a testament to the benefit of cooperation between three levels of government who see an opportunity for regional development.
“We grasped the chance to broaden the economic base and deliver future prosperity to the region at large,” he said.
“This is undoubtedly a regional asset which will soon become a nursery for aviation based investment, job creation and overall economic success.”
Cr Gilmore thanked an extensive list of politicians, members of the aviation industry, businesspeople and the public for their overwhelming support throughout.
“It has been a long and tedious process, and without their help we wouldn’t be celebrating this momentous occasion,” he said.
Australia Senator Ian MacDonald was also in attendance for the grand opening, and he noted just how big of a boost this airport will be for Mareeba, the Tablelands and the entirety of North Queensland.
“I am extremely passionate about northern Australia, and it makes me proud to see projects of this scale come to this part of the country,” he said.
“There have been plenty of trials and tribulations to get to where we are now as it relates to this development, and I have to credit Tom Gilmore and the Mareeba Shire Council for persevering and not being daunted when they were faced with complications.”
Senator MacDonald said with developments such as the Mareeba Airport Upgrade, it reinforces the importance of having prosperous regional communities to ensure the sustainability of our nation’s economy.
“We only have 5 million people in the north, yet we produce more than 50% of Australia’s export earnings, and it is places like Mareeba that contribute to that figure,” he said.
“We are a government that recognises that communities outside the capital cities exist, and we are committed to investing in their growth.
“Who knows what this airport upgrade will bring for the Tablelands long-term, however it’s crucial that we continue visionary projects like this to ensure we don’t remain stagnant as an economy.”
The third and final speaker at the grand opening was the Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and Labor Party Member for Barron River Craig Crawford, who was a representative on behalf of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Ms Palaszcuk was scheduled to attend the opening, however was unable to make the trip after the plane she was set to board was deemed unfit to fly.
Stage 2 of the Mareeba Airport Upgrade is currently under construction and will consist of the strengthening of the runway and a parallel taxiway.