?Can-do? attitude proves the difference in airport project

The Wagner Group has interests in contract crushing, fly ash and environmentally friendly concrete and cement throughout Queensland. In 2014,  16.9px;”>the company broke new ground by funding, constructing and opening in record time the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, located 16km west of Toowoomba and 130km west of Brisbane. Aside from being the first greenfield public airport development in Australia since Melbourne Airport opened in 1970, the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport is also the country’s first privately funded aerodrome.

From the outset, Wagners built a 2.9km by 45m wide asphalt runway capable of accommodating 747 style of aircraft and a terminal building. Two regional airlines – QantasLink and Regional Express Airlines (aka REX) – began flights from 1 January this year.

To provide aggregate for the runway and other infrastructure, Wagners set up its own quarry at the airport site and extracted more than eight million tonnes of basalt to provide rock fill for the runway and aggregates for concrete, asphalt and other building materials. When the Wagner family first bought the Wellcamp Downs area in 1994, it was the largest approved hard rock resource in eastern Australia at that time.

{{image2-a:r-w:250}}Construction of an industrial precinct at the airport is ongoing. The Wellcamp Business Park will feature landscaped streets, parklands and modern buildings and is likely to accommodate aviation training and maintenance services, transport logistics, warehouses, corporate offices, factory outlets and retailers. Indeed, in his presentation, Denis Wagner recalled that the company pitched the business park first to manufacturing industries but ended up building the airport when those prospective customers responded that the park would require “connectivity”.

In his keynote speech, Denis Wagner stated that while there was disbelief in some quarters that the Wagner Group would get the permits it required to build an airport, the regulatory process proved to be more straightforward than anticipated. Wagners submitted a development application to the Toowoomba Council in April 2012 and it was approved by December of that year – a quick turnaround time in comparison to some quarry, mine and civil construction applications. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) would not grant approval until the airport was built but Wagners was able to satisfy CASA’s manual of audit and certification standards. In all, the time from the lodgement of the original development application to completion of the airport was just 19 months.

Indeed, Denis Wagner said that if the company had sought government funding for the airport, rather than privately funding the construction from the outset, the process would have been slowed down considerably. In the end, it was more convenient for the group to request that certain “roadblocks” be fast-tracked by local, state and federal governments than to apply for seed funding.

In all, 22 million tonnes of hard rock was used to build the airport and business precinct. The majority of that aggregate was sourced on-site (eight million tonnes), saving Wagners and the development an estimated 335,000 truck movements.

Denis Wagner’s presentation was underscored by the following remark: “The question seems to be what can’t be done. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves what can be done.”

If it weren’t for Wagners’ “can-do” attitude, it seems that Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport might still be a pipedream.

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