A company which has invested in the Gold Coast Light rail project and owns airports in Darwin and regional Australia has on Friday been chosen the likely commercial partner in the $347 million expansion of the Sunshine Coast Airport at Maroochydore.
This is the Sunshine Coast’s main airport and the only Sunshine Coast airport able to receive international flights.
Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce executive member Jenni Swayne said the announcement was “wonderful and exciting news” for the Sunshine Coast and opened the door for Sunshine Coast businesses to get fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables and flowers to international markets.”
“It means we are starting to make tracks,” Ms Swayne said.
“It will be a boon for paddock to the plate and our fresh flower businesses.”
Sunshine Coast Council now owns the Sunshine Coast Airport at Maroochydore, but plans to upgrade and then gradually step away from the much-improved asset.
This year it received approval from Queensland and Australian governments and Queensland’s Co-ordinator General to add a second runway and complete the major overhaul of the airport.
Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamieson on Friday announced that Palisade Investment Partners were the preferred bidder to become “the commercial partner in the operation of the Sunshine Coast Airport.”
Palisade Investment Partners owns the Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs airports and recently invested in stage two of the Gold Coast Light Rail network, which is now under construction.
“Sunshine Coast Council has undertaken an extensive process which includes preliminary market testing conducted by Royal Bank of Canada, followed by a call for Expressions of Interest, an invitation to choose respondents to submit indicative bids and then, an invitation to submit binding bids,” Mayor Jamieson said.
Confidential negotiations will continue for the next two months before the choice is either ratified by Sunshine Coast Council at its early meetings in 2017, or have other options explored.
Once the agreement is reached, the $347 million Sunshine Coast Airport expansion will begin.
The plans include a new 2450 m runway before 2020, allowing wider-bodied aircraft and direct flights from Southeast Asia, China and Hawaii.
Cr Jamieson said the airport expansion was a game-changer for the Sunshine Coast.
“The Airport expansion project will have a transformational effect on business, employment and investment growth,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“It will contribute $4.1 billion to the Sunshine Coast economy between 2020 and 2040 and result in 3500 fewer dwellings being affected by noise when it is operating by Christmas 2020,” he said.
Ms Swayne said Palisade had “the right credentials” for the project.
She said Sunshine Coast businesses were already beginning to prepare plans to expand their export businesses, or develop new export opportunities.
In 2012 it was estimated agriculture employed around 2600 people on the Sunshine Coast and generated around $365 million.
In 2014, the Sunshine Coast Council identified 900 different firms in the Sunshine Coast’s agriculture sector and developed a strategy to expand their opportunities.
That report aims to boost employment in the sector to 5100, to boost agriculture exports from $293 million to $312 million and boost total production from $365 million to $398 million by 2018.