Adani Mine: Department Asked to Investigate Council’s $18m for Private FIFO Airstrip

The Local Government Department has been asked to investigate a north Queensland council’s decision to fund $18 million for a private airstrip in the Galilee Basin for fly-in, fly-out workers at Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has made the request in response to a complaint from Townsville businessman Philip Batty about the council’s plans.

Townsville City Council last year announced it would jointly fund the airstrip with the Rockhampton Regional Council — a project that is estimated to cost about $30 million.

In his complaint to the CCC, Mr Batty alleged Toowoomba-based construction company Wagners was awarded the tender to develop the airstrip without due process by council.

But Wagners co-founder John Wagner said the company had won the tender directly from Adani, not the two councils involved with the project.

“Some years ago Adani ran a design and construct competitive tender and Wagners were the winner of that tender, and as a result of that we entered into an agreement with Adani to build the airport when and if it happened,” Mr Wagner said.

However, Mr Wagner said the company did not have a notice to proceed from Adani.

“We cannot start construction of the airport until we get a notice to proceed from Adani and we are contracted to Adani and not the councils.”

He said he expects Wagners would operate the airport for Adani, though no contracts have been signed to that effect.

“When it’s all said and done, we’re the only people who have built a new airport from scratch in the last 50 to 60 years,” Mr Wagner said.

The CCC has decided against taking action over allegations of corrupt conduct by Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, citing an “absence of evidence”.

However, the CCC has requested the Local Government agency to investigate whether the council has followed due process, and will be reviewing the investigation.

In a statement to the ABC, a Townsville City Council spokesperson said the “council is confident the allegations have no substance and will work with the department throughout the investigation”.

The CCC said it was unable to comment further as the matter “remains under investigation by the [now] Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs”.

A spokesperson from the Local Government Department said it would not comment on “matters that may or may not be under investigation”.