4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News

4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News
4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News Led by John "Cueball" Mackenzie

09 July 2015


When the Anna Bligh ALP government sold-off the Cairns Airport to an investment vultures bankers consortium led by JPMorgan Chase, proceeds were to be used for redevelopment of the Cairns (non)Base Hospital and additional site purchase in the southern suburbs. 

Member for MacKenzie Gavin King pushed Campbell Newman to sell off the new hospital site during his mercifully short term as an MP.  While we don't believe he was successful, we've had no joy trying to determine the status from Treasurer Curtis Pitt's office.  

Due to the desperate nature of the Bligh government at the time, the airport was flogged-off with little oversight or review at a bargain-basement price - US$361M.  Most analysts felt that the State should have gotten closer to US$500M at the time.  Nothing like telling everyone you need quick cash, and then offering up an asset for sale.   

The CAPL seems to ignore one basic fact:  People don't come to the airport, they come to Cairns - to see all we have on offer, to experience all the businesses that generations have built here.  Without us, the airport is nothing.  However the CAPL's arrogant attitude towards the community and airport users is nothing short of the tail trying to wag the dog.

Owners CAPL and airport management led by Kevin Brown
have made almost no infrastructure investments in the airport, other than those designed to gouge more cash out of the public and Cairns residents.  These have included deliberate attempts to stop ALL non-CAPL car parking with both aggressive attacks on off-site car parking vendors, as well as blockade of all the airport areas where previously local residents waited for arrivals.  The CAPL has ignored calls for a "mobile phone" area (an almost universal feature at airports around the world) and has reportedly asked Cairns (non)Regional Council to block parking at the mangrove boardwalk.  Making the boardwalk useless.

Brown, head of the Edinburgh Scotland airport only a short time before coming to Cairns, introduced a European-first "passenger drop-off charge" of £1, along with his "free 10 minutes in the carpark" charge.  Only the second idiotic policy has been implemented here (so far)!

Cairns is the only international airport in Australia that doesn't offer at least some limited, free wifi access to arriving and departing passengers.  Instead the Cairns Airport has decided to gouge our guests, with pricing the equivalent of a home connection costing $4200 per month! Even the Edinburgh airport has free wifi for their guests.  Implemented by Kevin Brown's replacement, naturally.  

Despite the fanfare made by Kevin Brown for the Airport Master Plan approved over two years ago, virtually none of the promised $1B in improvements has yet to materialise.  And those upgrades that have been made (like a VIP covered parking area) are amenities for the big end of town.

And when the tragic death of Dinah Boughton brought the inadequacies of the only airport access road to the community attention, Kevin Brown got Mayor Sleepy to warn our tourists not to walk on this road!  A "free" limited-hours shuttle bus dumps passengers off on Sheridan Street was a sop designed to fail.  

The lack of pedestrian and bicycle lanes on the airport access road looks to be a violation of their own Master Plan.  The plan says clearly:  "Sealed pathways for pedestrians and bicycles are provided in accordance with the design guidelines set out in Austroad Guide to Road Design".  And it goes on to require: "Direct paths of travel are provided TO AND BETWEEN FACILITIES".  (Emphasis added).  In other words, CAPL has committed to a bicycle and pedestrian track from Sheridan Street TO the airport.   Inquiries about this inconsistency have gone unanswered by the member, Craig Crawford.  Has anyone seen Mr. Crawford, BTW??  He looks to have returned Barron River to the "invisible MP" status it had during Steve Wettenhall days.

But the bigger question:  If Kevin Brown and the American owners of the Cairns Airport aren't willing to honour their promises on something simple like a pedestrian path, what else are they going to ignore as they plow forward?

We understand that the CAPL is now making informal inquiries about the conversion of the airport facilities along the Cook Highway to retail and accommodation facilities.  At first blush this looks to be a reasonable and compatible use for this land, as long as the current facilities (that employ hundreds) are retained on the airport grounds east of the terminals.  

One of the first retail contacts by the CAPL has been to Woolworths, which currently operates a 24-hour-per-day "Supercentre" adjacent to the Brisbane Airport.  However in the process of discussions with Woolies, it has been revealed that 24/7 operation would be illegal in Cairns, a violation of the Queensland Retail Trading Hours laws.  

And we understand this fact was in a report presented to airport management but withheld from the CAPL board, who have been "sold" on the idea of 24 hour trading on this land.

And even more importantly - the CAPL is currently in violation of the law by allowing their current retail vendors to operate outside of normal Queensland trading laws!

The 24 hour trading at Brisbane is allowable because the Brisbane airport sits on Commonwealth-owned land.  The Cairns Airport is on land owned by the Queensland Government, hence the requirement to follow Queensland law.

The current management at the Cairns Airport is not acting in the best interests of the Cairns community.  The domestic terminal travesty that forces long walks to/from the airplanes, down rat mazes and up ramps, is known to be a major annoyance to the airlines.  This idiotic arrangement requires additional staff by the airlines (to ensure passengers don't wander out into the tarmac, and get on the correct aircraft).  It puts four "gates" in the same tunnel creating chaos and limiting the number of flights (more so than the single runway configuration).  It requires many passengers to still walk outside in the rain to get to their flight.  It has required an increase in staff to manage disabled passengers who need a wheelchair in the terminal.  And more importantly, it has given the Cairns Airport the dubious distinction of the longest-required aircraft turnaround time in Australia.  

Not to mention the grossly intelligible public address system in a waiting area filled with grubby passenger benches and disgusting lavatories.  Fortunately the international terminal is much better - but despite cash incentives from the Queensland government, Kevin Brown has been grossly ineffectual in attracting new international flights to the airport.

The Cairns community grudgingly accepted the need to use the Cook Highway areas as commercial and related development when the airport was sold.  What we didn't accept was that the CAPL management was going to focus the bulk of their efforts to this cash cow while abandoning the proper operation of our airport.  

Stripping the airport and our tourist guests for  "profits" sent to the American owners while failing to operate our airport in a competitive and sustainable way is damaging Cairns.  Far more than changing the pub lockout to 1AM.  If they can't get here, or get financially raped just getting out of the airport, they're not going to spend very much in our pubs regardless of the time.


Anonymous said...

Management should be held to account and be paid to out in any infrastructure they have promised in writing. They won't spend money because that might affect their bonuses. Everyone knows how tight Brown is when it comes to spending on the airport, but he is happy to spend up big on himself and his manages by way of overseas 'work trips' and business class airfares etc. The NQA Board aren't much better, everyone extracts what they can to further their own interests but not the interests of Cairns community. Have a look at Browns Linkedin profile, he is now on almost every Board in FNQ, doesn't have time to run CAPL or that other loss making disaster MAPL (Mackay airport).

Anonymous said...

I thought the sale price was $600 million?
Most people are not aware that Cairns Airport (CAPL) intend to build a heliport in the 'cleared area' between the two mangrove boardwalks. This 'cleared area' actually happens to be mangrove saltmarsh, a ket part of the ecosystem.
What sort of wilderness experience will people have at the boardwalks with helicopters taking off and landing? A heliport can be located on the western side of Airport Avenue - there is plenty of room.
The heliport in the mangroves is the first wedge for their plans to clear up to 100 hectares of Barron Delta Mangrove Wetland. in this day and age clearing wetlands is no less than barbaric.
I have heard, but not confirmed, that the rent for the Cairns Aeroclub has just increased 400% in an effort to force them to leave (eg to Mareeba).
When Cairns Airport was publicly-owned the goal was to have it operating efficiently and to be able to pay its way. Now the goal is to maximise profit at any cost, most of which is siphoned off to overseas creditors.
ALP - Steve Wettenhall and Jan McLucas etc were responsible for selling off Cairns Airport (99 year lease) to an international predatory consortium - with absolutely zero public consultation. LNP would have done the same. Same bunch of myopic opportunists.

Anonymous said...

CAPL is a privately-owned corporation, not a publicly listed company. As such it doesn't have to produce an Annual Report.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how CAPL is currently in violation of the law by allowing their current retail vendors to operate outside of normal Queensland trading laws. So how are they allowed to do this? And do those with shop leases realise this, that they are only meant to trade during normal hours? I believe Mr Brown, the NQA Board members and Mr Browns Commercial staff ought to be held accountable for breaking the law if this is true?

Anonymous said...

Maybe so, but it IS required to uphold the law, and it appears that they are breaching trading laws which is a serious offence. Add to that the recent security breaches where people have climbed over fences and entered the airside area who cares about reports, this bunch of fools have some serious management issues which are not bein addressed. Brown has turned out to be a poor and incompetent CEO who only benefits himself, not the Cairns region.

Anonymous said...

Very true. Rent has soared and yes the word is they want GA to move to Mareeba and whoever is left willow to the western side where a new area will be built to house them (at top rates of course). Then they will redevelop the old GA and put in a shopping precinct (typical airport reducing aviation and putting in shops). However I heard that the land is contaminated with PFC's and Airservices Australia won't clean it up. So what happens now?

Ken svay said...

Cairns airport is shit, but I dont know why tourists bother to come anyway.
The place is so expensive and boring.

Anonymous said...

Apparently 'Brown' had a dummy spit the other day, found out he is being bullshitted too by some if his execs. Gee, has he finally woke up? He must be more sleepy than sleepy Bob. He is also angry about the ever declining morale of his staff. Der, you don't say! Might because the exec team wallow in their excessive salaries and bonuses while the loyal 'common workers' get shit on year after year. Seems to me that the CEO has lost control of his ship.