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$25M Facelift for Great Barrier Reef Resorts

By Tammy Laval

The State Government is set to inject $25 million investment to rejuvenate Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Island resorts, with applications for a new infrastructure fund set tPROPOSED city heart residential high-rise developments and refurbished and new Mackay Airport facilities have all formed the greater Mackay region’s bid to lure the $20 million Qantas Group Pilot Training Academy to the region.

With an estimated local economic benefit of $32 million in its first year, the academy has attracted fierce competition from cities across regional Australia, including our closest rivals Townsville and Rockhampton, but so far Mackay is ticking all the right boxes.

The Queensland Government last week lodged Mackay’s formal bid to be the preferred city to host the academy which met all of Qantas’ long list of requirements.

Qantas’ demands range from technical airport requirements, specific accommodation needs, administration, education and health facilities, appropriate weather and even lifestyle factors.

While meeting all of the demands, a range of potential ‘extras’ were also included in Mackay’s bid, such as potential upgrades to existing airport infrastructure and even new inner-city living options.

The bid outlined the potential to re-purpose and refurbish the ‘old’ Mackay Airport terminal for training and administration facilities and even establish new accommodation at the airport with a gymnasium, a catered dining room and recreation areas for students.

Along with existing facilities at CQUniversity, approved plans for four new residential developments across the city were also noted in the bid as potential options for student accommodation. These included a 170-unit development at Ooralea, a 59-unit complex with commercial and health care services on Bridge Rd, an 108-unit high-rise with retail spaces on Victoria St and a 68-unit project on Sydney St.

Greater Whitsunday Alliance CEO Garry Scanlan said Mackay produced a strong, collaborative bid supported by both Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert and Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.

“The Mackay bid highlights our region’s strengths not just from a technical perspective, but also from a community inclusiveness and education point of view,” Mr Scanlan said.

“We are very excited to have a genuine collaboration with Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council, CQUniversity and Regional Development Australia in our bid. This collaboration shows our region’s genuine appetite to attract Qantas to the city.”

Mr Scanlan said the bid document highlighted some of Mackay’s key strengths and built a compelling case for locating the Qantas Group Pilot Training Academy here.

“From a facilities perspective, both Mackay Airport and CQUniversity have the capacity to easily meet the criteria set out by Qantas, which is a huge positive,” he said.

“Importantly, during the first year of operation and after an initial construction investment of $20 million, we estimate this facility will contribute around $32 million to our local economy. As pilot numbers increase over subsequent years, that cash injection will continue to grow.”

Mackay Airport general manager Rob Porter said the bid was a well-rounded offering that was sure to impress.

“One of our region’s key strengths is our connectivity to Brisbane through 80 weekly flights. Plus, we have fantastic lifestyle attributes and a growing education sector. Mackay really offers the complete solution for Qantas,” Mr Porter said.

“Additionally, there is a looming worldwide shortage of pilots and demand for Australian-trained pilots is especially high.

“This really is an amazing opportunity for Mackay to capitalise on a future growth industry.”

Greater Whitsunday Alliance will tomorrow launch a social media campaign to encourage the broader community to get behind the bid using the #mackaywantsyouqantas hashtag.

Qantas is expected to release a short-list of applicants by the end of the month.o open on August 1st.

Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said the Great Barrier Reef had an important role in the growth of tourism in Australia and securing Queensland as a leading tourism destination.

“When it comes to tourism, the Palaszczuk Government has the runs on the board,” she said.

“The Great Barrier Reef contributes $6 billion to our economy and supports more than 60,000 jobs – it is, without doubt, Queensland’s greatest asset.

“That’s why we committed $25 million during the election to revamp these island resorts.

“We’ve made great headway already and I’m proud to reveal today that applications for our new infrastructure fund will open on August 1.

“The Fund will deliver infrastructure for the Great Barrier Reef islands to rejuvenate resorts and offer world-class experiences to visitors and I look forward to receiving strong proposals for proponents ambitious to restore island resorts to their former glory.”

Ms. Jones said the Fund would focus on growing and cleaning the GBR Islands resorts, with one main aim to encourage protection of the reef and its islands.

“This investment will assist in attracting new and return visitors and increase visitor expenditure in Queensland,” said Ms. Jones.

“We’re investing an extra $180 million in tourism in this term of government to create jobs in this sector in the long-term.”

The fund will be open to Island resort owners and operators within the GBR region who have an existing resort or approved plans for a resort.

“Island resorts are an iconic part of the tourism offering and are essential to attracting new and return visitors to the reef. They’re also an important part of the broader Queensland tourism plan,” Ms Jones said.

GBR resort operators and leaseholders will be briefed on funding guidelines and invited to consider making an application.

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