A LUCRATIVE deal to establish a fly-in, fly-out hub linking the Gold Coast to Queensland’s key mining precincts has slipped through the fingers of city officials, with the group behind the proposal deciding to go elsewhere.
The Gold Coast City Council and Gold Coast Airport started negotiating with the Mentors group, a collective of local businessmen, more than two years ago to turn the airport’s Terminal 2 into a base for thousands of miners heading to places including Emerald, Mackay and Gladstone.
Mining services businesses were expected to spring up on the Gold Coast on the back of the proposed FIFO terminal.
In July 2011, former mayor Ron Clarke said the hub, which was highlighted as a key economic driver for the city, was in the bag.
But now it has been revealed that the Mentors group has been unable to finalise a leasing deal for Terminal 2 and a reason, insiders say, was the fee charged by Gold Coast Airport.
Coast businessman Murray d’Almeida, who introduced Mentors to council and airport officials, said the group was now pursuing other business opportunities in Queensland.
“In my conversations with them, it appears they now have a statewide focus,” he said.
McPherson MP Karen Andrews said the collapse of negotiations was “disappointing”.
“So much emphasis was put on getting the hub off the ground,” she said.
Gold Coast Airport boss Paul Donovan denied the leasing offer was to blame, saying there was a lack of interest from mining companies in the FIFO terminal.
“Until a mining company nominates the Gold Coast as a source of labour, there will be no deal,” he said.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate expressed concern about the setback, and hoped the city could attract another company to step in.
Carl Utupo was appointed by the council as FIFO co-ordinator last year in the hope of finally getting the fly-in fly-out deal over the line.
But he was in the job for less than six months and now the candidate picked to replace him has pulled out.
The news comes after it was last week revealed that one of Queensland’s wealthiest families, the Wagners, had started building a $100 million Wellcamp Airport on the western outskirts of Toowoomba.
It is being designed primarily for fly-in fly-out workers employed in the Surat, Galilee and Bowen basins.
The Sunshine Coast and Cairns councils have also been forging ahead with FIFO plans, and charter flights to the mining areas have been steadily increasing there.
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