MORNINGTON Shire Council’s chief executive Frank Mills laughs when he’s reminded of the large share of airstrip funding the remote Indigenous community has received.
“It’s awesome, isn’t it?” the chief executive said.
The Mornington Island airstrip receives $3 million in the fourth round of the federal government’s remote airstrip upgrade program. Just under $12 million has been shared between 91 aerodrome projects across Australia in this round.
Mr Mills said the $3 million would be used to bring the airport up to modern standards by making a new building, creating a pilot’s rest area, safe turnaround areas, and improved fencing to keep animals off the airstrip.
“(The) standard is falling a long way from mainsteam Australia,” he said.
“The airport terminal building has been there (a long time). A councillor says his first job was 50 years ago working in that building.
“It’s infested with white ants, no air-conditioning, so a portion of the funding will go into a new terminal building, and will provide an opportunity for charter and airline pilots to have a stop over area.”
Mr Mills offered an example for the need for a pilot’s area. There were government delegates from Cairns and Mount Isa visiting. The pilots waited about five hours but had no place to cool down and relax.
This work is in addition to upgrades funded by the state government late last year. The airstrip was damaged in December, 2015 and had weight limitations placed on landing aircraft.
“At the moment things are really progressing on Mornington Island and is another element of support from government we really accept,” the council’s chief executive said.
Other locations in North West Queensland to receive airstrip funding included Julia Creek, Gregory Downs, Karumba and Normanton.
Royal Flying Doctor Service’s Qld head of flying operations, Shane Lawrey, said the airstrip funding improved medical delivery to the region.
More remote areas were less likely to have funding arrangements to support them, he said.
“Money thrown at airports is always welcomed,” Mr Lawrey said.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said Mornington Island was one of the 91 projects funded which meant people living in remote areas would have improved access to services and connections.
“Safe and functioning airstrips are often the only reliable means of transport for freight and urgent services for remote communities,” he said.