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Wagners takes lead on Toowoomba private airport

The new privately owned airport will be constructed by Wagners, the large civil construction family company with a variety of interests, including contract crushing, fly ash, mobile concrete, earth friendly concrete and cement in Queensland. 
This new airport project came to fruition after John Wagner, group chairman and managing director of Wagners, test-fired a new corporate jet at the existing airport and inadvertently set off a chain of incidents that banned the airport to jets.
Now the earthmoving equipment owned by Wagners is tearing up the ground for the runway and other buildings at the Wellcamp location. This is the first public airport to be built from scratch since Tullamarine in Melbourne in the 1960s and it is Australia?s first privately built airport. 
It aims to replicate Brisbane Airport with a 2.9 kilometre long asphalt runaway that is also 45 metres wide (Brisbane?s runway is 3.3km long). The new runway should able to accommodate Boeing 747s and even heavy-lift Russian Antonov aircraft.
The runway is due to be completed by April 2014 and the first aircraft is scheduled to land in September or October that year with direct Sydney and Melbourne flights a distinct possibility. 
Alongside the airport and airport buildings, there is also a project for a one million square metre industrial park and at least one 4.5 star hotel and a DFO shopping mall.
Wagners lodged the council application on 30 June last year to avoid stricter planning laws.  John Wagner has also had to deal with the civil aviation authorities and the Defence Department, which will  redirect some of its Black Hawk training exercises from nearby Oakey air base. 
“Plans are progressing along very well. We have reached an agreement with the Department of Defence in relation to the airspace,” Wagner said. He added the company was now working closely with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to determine the best possible flight corridors for the new airport.
“CASA has undertaken an airspace study to determine the possible routes west of Brisbane,” he said. “The army airspace was re-jigged a bit. We hope to finalise all airspace issues by the end of the year.”
Questions over approvals process
Wagner claims to have community support for the project but there have been concerns over the speed with which it was conceived. The planning application was lodged on the last day of a planning regime that did not require wide community consultation. 
Neighbour Heather Brown, whose horse stud borders the airport site, said she was concerned about how the approvals process had been run.
Wagner makes no secret that he “pulled every string known to man to get people to understand it is a real project” but the development was given its industrial zoning more than a decade ago and proper process had been followed. The Wagners had bought out several neighbouring properties to allow the project to proceed. 
Aside from his own and other corporate jets, Wagner expects the airport to service fly-in, fly-out workers for the mining and gas industry, live cattle flights to Japan, international freight and Virgin and Qantas passenger aircraft. 
Shane Charles, chief executive of the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise business advocacy group, said the coal seam gas boom was critical to the project. 
Wagner does not necessarily expect to make a dividend on his investment in the short term. “In due course it might make a return but it might not happen in my lifetime,? said Wagner. ?My kids will do well out of it and grandkids will do really well if they don’t sell it or muck it up. As a family, we invest in multi-generational assets. 
“I am the eldest of the four partners and we don’t need more money than we have now. I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had an extra $400 million in the bank – I’d just be John Wagner.” 
Sources: The Australian, The Brisbane Times, The Toowoomba Chronicle

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