• 1999/2000. Cairns Port Authority, owner of the Cairns Airport, commenced discussing plans for a major airport upgrade linking the international and domestic airports into one integrated operation similar to other newer airports being developed which represented economies of scale with security, retail, lounges, gate utilisation and other efficiencies. Airbiz, a Melbourne based aviation consultancy were given the job and other considerations included longer runways, second runways, large aircraft and more carriers. Bob Manning was the CEO of the Cairns Port Authority at the time;
  • 2002 Bob Manning leaves the CPA and is replaced by Brad Geatches who serves until 2007. Shortly after this appointment and with other changes at the CPA and at the airport, the integrated airport development plans are abandoned;
  • 2005 refurbishment works for a phased development of $200M commence on domestic terminal and are completed in 2010;
  • 24 December 2008, Desley Boyle, State Tourism Minister and member for Cairns, announces sale of the airport to a consortium including JP Morgan Asset Management, Westpac, The Private Capital Group and Perron Investments. Known as the NQ airport Group, it also owned Mackay airport. This deeply unpopular decision to Cairns residents was conveniently made on Christmas Eve 2008 with the State Government pledging $466M of the sale proceeds of $530M to upgrade the Cairns hospital. The hospital upgrade was conditional on the sale proceeding. Desley Boyle was also the Member for Cairns;
  • 2010 Auckland Airports Corporation bought a 24.5% stake in NQ airports for $132M. They held this stake until Jan 2016 selling to the existing shareholders for $370M. A 200% profit in a little over 5 years valuing the airport assets @ $1.3B. The Cairns Airport showed a net operating profit of $47M in FY 2016/17. The Chairman of the NQ Airports is Ross Rolfe who is well connected to Brisbane and corporate Australia having served variously in senior Queensland Government appointments including as State Coordinator General during the Beattie Government. There are no North Queensland appointees to the Board ;
  • 2015 Kevin Brown, then CEO Cairns Airport announces a major $1B plan for a comprehensive redevelopment of the Cairns Airport to include an airside freight distribution hub as well as a commercial precinct on the western side of the runway. This announcement coincides with the Federal Government intention to establish the NAIF and was linked to locating the NAIF office in Cairns which occurred in August 2016. Kevin Brown leaves the Cairns Airport in May 2016 and is replaced by Norris Carter from Auckland Airports in Dec 2016. Shortly after Carter announces that Cairns Airport abandons plans for the previously announced $1B redevelopment. Any NAIF investment requires the approval of the State and Territory governments. In this case, and from the perspective of the Queensland Government,  it is reasonable to assume that an investment of this scale in Cairns would have been an unnecessary distraction to the expansion plans of the BAC. Further NAIF  funding is contingent on State Govt agreement ;
  • 2019 Norris Carter announces plans for a modest $50M upgrade to Cairns airport domestic terminal facilities. There are no plans for any capacity increases at the international airport and nor was there any recognition of the importance of freight to sustain international wide bodied aircraft. In junking the previous development plan, NQ Airports also junked our growing freight opportunities via a hub in Cairns and an opportunity for international airlines to sustain operations of wide body aircraft into Cairns.


In 1997, as part of the privatisation of numerous Australian airports, the Brisbane Airport was acquired for $1.4 billion from the Federal Airports Corporation by Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) under a 50-year lease (with an option to renew for a further 49 years). Since that time, BAC has assumed ultimate responsibility for the operations of Brisbane Airport including all airport infrastructure investment with no government funding. BAC’s shareholders are major Australian and international organisations and significant institutional investors, including Queensland Investment Corporation,  Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, Colonial First State and IFM Investors.  Approximately 80 per cent of BAC shareholders are Australian “mums and dads” with their savings invested in superannuation and other funds. Brisbane Airport is categorised as a leased federal airport. Interestingly on the board of the BAC sits Brad Geatches, previously associated with the Cairns airport 2002-7.

The BAC has undertaken a massive expansion of airport infrastructure. The expansion plans of the BAC centred on the second runway required an aggressive business approach to go after the market. The Schiphol Airport , 90% owned by the Dutch Government  acquired 20% of the BAC and provides the management grunt behind the Airport. Their intention is to go after all of the cake and distribute via the Brisbane hub. Their aggressive marketing includes the regional  buy in to the subtle “Team Queensland “  branding which is behind much of the State Government pitch to the regions. This carefully crafted pitch comes with the backing of the State Government so any expansion plans in Cairns would be influenced  to a large extent  by what is happening in Brisbane. There is absolutely no evidence to support the suggestion that the Queensland Government and the BAC is supportive of any efforts of the Cairns Airport to grow it’s international services. Equally there appears little appetite for the current management of NQ Airports to aggressively go after new international routes. The figures below regarding the flat lining growth of international of our international traffic through the airport is frankly disgraceful.



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