The sky’s the limit for the Darling Downs

23 November 2015

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Drive two hours west of Brisbane and you will arrive in one of Australia’s current hot spots for investment and industry – the Darling Downs.

It has earned a reputation as Australia’s second largest agricultural basin, an important resources hub, and one of Queensland’s major precincts for health, education and manufacturing. It is also now home to the country’s first privately funded public airport, the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport (BWWA).

The groundbreaking development is located eight kilometres west of the Toowoomba CBD and is part of the more than $11 billion being spent on development in the local region. The airport officially opened with the lift-off of its first commercial flight in November 2014, launching the region into a new era of economic opportunity.

However, the new airport, which is part of the 800ha Wellcamp Business Park, is just the beginning for the Toowoomba region.

Enter Wiley – a leader in food engineering, design and delivery projects – to take a key role in a feasibility study to discover the potential for a perishable freight facility co-located at the airport. The facility would see the fruits of the region’s agricultural industry distributed directly to international markets in Singapore, Middle East, Hong Kong and China, and straight to the dinner tables of their increasingly discerning customers.

Identified as the ‘missing piece’ if the region is to seize its export opportunities, the facility has the potential to become a major national airfreight hub, particularly for agricultural high-value products including chilled and live beef, dairy, pork, chicken, horticulture products, and fruit and vegetables. It is very likely these products could be delivered on Wednesday, dispatched on Thursday and in a Singaporean supermarket on Friday.

With decades of experience in solving complex problems for major food infrastructure projects in Australia and overseas, Wiley had the expertise, skills and know-how to collaborate on the facility’s feasibility study with the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development (ACSBD), a research centre of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).Co-funded by the Queensland Government and USQ, the study is part of a broader research program to transform Queensland’s agricultural value chains and export opportunities.

Wiley provided specifications for the facility design, developed the concept drawings and provided CAPEX and OPEX estimates for the cost analysis. Wiley was able to offer a complete suite of services for the study because of its in-house capability of multidisciplinary technical teams.

The collaboration between Wiley and ACSBD was very successful. ACSBD Director, Professor Julie Cotter, said “Wiley’s role in supporting our research has been invaluable”.

Wellcamp 747

The Cathay Pacific 747-8 jumbo cargo plane at Wellcamp Airport today, Its next stop will be Hong Kong, China.

The study’s final report provides a thorough analysis of potential demand for airfreight services and destinations, optimal design concepts, ownership options and the facility’s financial feasibility. Some of its key findings include:

  • Located in a significant transport, logistics and business hub and nearby future planned infrastructure development including the second Toowoomba Range crossing, second rail corridor from Toowoomba to Brisbane and the inland rail corridor
  • Has advantages over Brisbane and Sydney airports including proposed dedicated freighter services, airspace capacity, greenfield site, infrastructure connectivity and location
  • Designed to provide ‘best practice’ operation in biosecurity management, cold chain management, hygiene and food safety, energy efficiency, OH&S and transport security
  • Designed to provide ‘best practice’ for food handling and processing facilities
  • Capacity to manage more than 100 tonnes of perishable freight per day in the initial phase of operation
  • Key export destinations for fresh Australian produce include Singapore, Middle East, Hong Kong and China
  • The major vegetables and fruit exported were broccoli, celery, carrots, bagged salads, mangoes, melons, berries and some citrus

Toowoomba is the second most productive agricultural region in Australia and is connected to the nearby Western Downs and Lockyer Valley agricultural zones. As a result, the region is a natural food bowl which is expected to play an important role in supplying the growing demand from Asia for safe, fresh product. An exceptional combination of intermodal transport and logistics infrastructure, rich agricultural soils and safe food production capacity provides Toowoomba with the potential to become a major air freight export hub.

It seems the sky is the limit for this patch of vibrant regional Australia and its ambitious residents.

wellcamp feasability