Government approval has been given for unrestricted cargo services at the privately held Wellcamp Airport in South West Queensland.
The airport’s owner, the Wagner Group, one of Queensland's largest privately owned construction materials and mining services companies, said it hopes to position the airport as a major airfreight hub for Australian exports to Southeast Asia.
Opened in 2014, the airport is about 150km outside of Brisbane and was built from the ground up with private funding.
The owners hope to capitalize on the state’s annual perishables output, which is valued at almost US$500 million.
“South West Queensland already produces around a third of Queensland’s agricultural output, and maximizing export opportunities for the industry is critical to future growth,” said Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester.
The airport was developed at an estimated cost of $150 million and offers 26 weekly flights to Sydney and other destinations.
Strong demand from Asia
Late last year Cathay Pacific tested demand for regular services with a 747-8 freighter. Exports included two helicopters to Miami and 50 tonnes of produce, including chilled beef to Hong Kong, frozen beef to Shanghai, and lettuce, pecans and mangoes from Queensland.
Wagner Group chairman John Wagner is betting on strong demand for Australian produce in Asia to validate the massive investment.
"What we really see, and the message that we're getting very loud and clear from China in particular, but even some of the other Asian countries, is they want fresh produce from this region,” Mr Wagner said. “It's not unrealistic to think within 12 months we could have a freighter a day running out of Wellcamp.”