Wellcamp Airport is the aviation gateway to Toowoomba and the agriculturally rich Darling Downs. Open since 2014, Wellcamp is the first privately built airport in Australia since the 1970s. The regional hub moves passengers and cargo within Queensland and overseas (thanks Cathay Pacific). Wellcamp is a finalist in the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards 2017 in the regional exporter category. We talk to Sara Hales, Wellcamp’s general manager.

Toowoomba’s Wagner family built Wellcamp Airport in an incredible 18 months. What are the top three things you’ve learnt so far in your role?

  1. One: Challenge everything. You can’t change the world if you accept it as it is.
  2. Two: Don’t wait for the perfect plan before you take the first step. Start walking and build the plan as you go and as you learn.
  3. Three: Ask for help. You can’t do amazing things on your own. Let people help — they like it and you’ll get more done.

What’s the most unexpected and delightful thing about building and running an airport?

I love to watch families greet each other. Brothers and sisters bringing their children together, fussing over each other’s kids at the gate. Elderly parents welcoming their kids and grandkids. It can be quite beautiful and emotional — especially at Christmas time.

Granted not everything on Wikipedia is true — but it says the first cargo export booking from Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport was a live crocodile — is this true?

A very wide variety of cargo is carried on the Cathay Pacific cargo flight from Wellcamp through their global hub at Hong Kong to all over the world. We’ve seen jet engines, cars, food products, chilled or frozen beef, nuts, pipes, all sorts of things. The crocodile though…sounds like a great PR stunt. I should look into that.

What’s your vision for the airport? How big would you like to see it grow?

Wellcamp Airport. Photo via The Weekly Times

Wellcamp Airport. Photo via The Weekly Times

Wellcamp Airport is uniquely positioned to become not only a strong regional and domestic passenger hub, but also an international air cargo hub. It makes great sense that cargo should avoid our cities and metropolitan road networks where possible.

First- and last-mile inefficiencies are some of the greatest challenges facing Australian exporters and impacting their competitiveness. Wellcamp Airport can help to solve this, with a world-class piece of aviation infrastructure and endless capacity for growth and development.

Currently, Wellcamp airport is the fastest growing airport in Australia, and it’s located among Australia’s leading agricultural regions on the cusp of benefiting from years of investment in trade negotiations. We’re bullish about the future for our local economy and we look forward to playing our role in getting everyone and everything from Toowoomba to the world.

If we have to grab a bite to eat at the airport — what should we sample?

Slow-cooked roast lamb salad with roast pumpkin, feta, beetroot and caramelised pecan nuts from Altitude Bar and Cafe.

Congratulations on being a finalist in the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards 2017. What’s the best thing to come from the experience?

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved, and the opportunities we’re creating for Australian, and particularly Queensland, exporters — to get their products to global markets efficiently and with sufficient capacity to support future growth in their businesses and in trade generally.

It’s important to take the opportunity to celebrate achievements — it’s great for the team that worked hard to get us here, and it’s a great opportunity to recognise and thank all of those who helped.

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