POTENTIAL: Mayor Mark Jamieson with Will Shrapnel of Helimods.
POTENTIAL: Mayor Mark Jamieson with Will Shrapnel of Helimods. Patrick Woods

Sunshine Coast for international aerospace hub?

A PALASZCUK Government discussion paper on the future of the aerospace industry released yesterday has renewed calls from local industry for the Sunshine Coast to be developed as a hub.

Aerospace is the industry that keeps civil and military aircraft in the skies. Local businesses already have huge potential to expand, but need red tape reduced and incentives increased, says Caloundra-based managing director of HeliMods, Will Shrapnel.

His Caloundra-based specialist engineering service provides aircraft operators with customised helicopter solutions, such as a recent $85 million fleet of 'flying helicopters' in December.

Mr Shrapnel says the aerospace industry has huge growth potential on the Sunshine Coast, because skilled technicians are choosing to work where in a region where the lifestyle is "fantastic".

He welcomed the discussion paper, and said it might prompt the local industry to work more closely with the state government as well as the Sunshine Coast Council, which it already collaborated with through the Aviation and Aerospace High Value Industries Taskforce.

"We're working together to get better outcomes for the Coast, as an industry," he said.

State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said thousands of business and job opportunities could be created if Queensland built on its existing status as an Asia-Pacific aviation centre of excellence.

The discussion paper and draft 10-year industry roadmap is part of the $180 million Advance Queensland reform program.

"We already have the foundations here with our civil and defence aviation strengths - our depth of capability, our world-class expertise, and our strategic location," Dr Lynham said.

"Our Advance Queensland agenda is to grow these 'high tech' industries with global growth potential."

"This discussion paper is the first step in setting Queensland on the flightpath towards a bigger, better future in aerospace."

The aerospace sector already provides 4500 direct jobs in aircraft component manufacturing and repair services statewide and generated around $600 million to the state economy in 2014-15.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said the council expected the aviation industry's contribution to our economy to be $160 million by 2018.

"Council is very supportive of the development, investment and growth in the aerospace industry - this is why aviation and aerospace are one of the seven high-value industries in the Regional Economic Development Strategy," Cr Jamieson said.

"The Coast already has a number of significant businesses working in this sector, spread between both Sunshine Coast and Caloundra Airports."

The Coast had a number of "natural advantages" for potential growth, he said, with master plans at both airports to accommodate the demand of existing and new businesses.

"There is 35,000m sq of prime airside and landside sites currently available at the Sunshine Coast Aerospace Precinct," Cr Jamieson said.

Cr Jamieson said the council was supportive of the State Government's proposal to engage with the industry, other levels of government and the community on how to grow the industry.

"We see the Sunshine Coast playing a key part in the industry's development in this state," he said.

"We will be making a submission on the discussion paper to the State Government."

Through the Aviation Task Force, the council is undertaking a study into the potential of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft industry on the Sunshine Coast and recently Ansett Aviation and Universal Training Systems announced they would locate a new state-of-the-art simulator centre to service the needs of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Consultation on the State Government discussion paper runs until Friday May 27 and will include workshops in May with businesses around the state, including the Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Brisbane, Wide Bay region, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.

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