Plane
Plane

Call for one big change at the Cairns Airport

A FORMER mayor of Cairns wants the council to buy Cairns Airport to allow the Far North's flagging economy to soar sky high.

Kevin Byrne, the executive manager of Enterprise North, has written to Cairns Mayor Bob Manning calling upon the council to make a bid to take ownership of the airport.

Mr Byrne - who was Cairns Mayor from 1992 to 1995, and then from 2000 to 2008 - says under council, there would be stronger international engagement with industry, business and the wider community through arrangements with the airport that were in place decades ago.

Enterprise North executive manager and former Cairns mayor Kevin Byrne has called for Cairns Regional Council to take ownership of the Cairns Airport. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Enterprise North executive manager and former Cairns mayor Kevin Byrne has called for Cairns Regional Council to take ownership of the Cairns Airport. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

The airport, once owned by the Cairns Port Authority, was sold off by the Bligh Government in 2008 to fund the redevelopment of Cairns Hospital.

Mr Byrne believed there was an opportunity for the council to buy the privately owned asset now, under a contractual arrangement with the airport's current owners.

"We have an opportunity now to right the wrongs of the past ill-considered, clumsy and hasty decision of 2008 inflicted on this city and region by the then State Government with little engagement and consultation," he said.

A Cathay Pacific passenger jet airplane coming in to land at the Cairns Airport. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
A Cathay Pacific passenger jet airplane coming in to land at the Cairns Airport. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"Supporting this proposition is the imminent move of the Commonwealth Government to increase infrastructure spending to boost a flagging economy. What better time to float this proposition for (Cairns Regional) Council, to act than now?

"This is a worthwhile regional project that will enable us to regain some lost productive impetus, whilst at the same time injecting some much-needed confidence into the region."

Council-owned airports are not uncommon in Queensland, especially in regional communities. Sunshine Coast Airport is majority-owned by Sunshine Coast Council, which reportedly receives 5 per cent gross revenue of airport earnings as rent.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEAN
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEAN

However, Cr Manning, a former chief executive of Cairns Port Authority, said buying the airport was not possible. He said the State Government would never grant council permission to buy the asset under Local Government funding provisions.

"Speaking from my experience, there's no point in the council taking over the airport at all," he said. "There's an operator there who is competent.

"Yes, we have had some issues with aviation over the last little while with some downs.

"But, when it was the Cairns Port Authority running it, we had lots and lots of downs, too.

"I know from personal experience, you don't control these ups and downs."

He also questioned whether the council would be better at managing the airport than its current owners, North Queensland Airports.