News Coronavirus Owners of private Queensland airport propose purpose-built quarantine facility

Owners of private Queensland airport propose purpose-built quarantine facility

John Wagner has shared details of the proposed 1000-room facility with ABC News. Photo: ABC News/Cassie Hough
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A coronavirus quarantine facility in southern Queensland has been put to the state government in a detailed proposal, the ABC can reveal.

Construction firm Wagners has submitted the plan to use its Wellcamp airport, just west of Toowoomba, as the landing point for some of the Australians stranded overseas.

Chairman John Wagner revealed the idea for a 1000-room quarantine facility to ABC News, which would need to be built from scratch on vacant land close to the airport.

He said arriving passengers would be transferred there by bus.

“We can get them off the plane and be in their accommodation facility in less than five minutes,” Mr Wagner said.

“There would be no interaction with our staff, there would be no interaction with the general public and there would be no interaction with our terminal.

Mr Wagner said the proposal included another 300 rooms for staff, who would live on-site. Photo: ABC/Paul Smith

“We believe that it’s a much smarter and safer and cost-efficient operation than what they’ve currently got going.”

Mr Wagner said the proposal included another 300 rooms for staff who would live on-site, COVID-19 testing facilities, kitchens, CCTV and fencing around the perimeter.

“It would be a very tightly controlled environment, and that way we can keep this virus under control,” he said.

“People can come into this country and not have any interaction with the public whatsoever, and go straight to their facility and stay in a nice room with fresh air.”

He described the proposed complex as “upmarket” and estimated the project would create up to 400 construction jobs, but he would not reveal the cost.

“That’s commercial in confidence, but it’s a significant build cost,” he said.

Travellers returned to Queensland complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine at hotels in Brisbane’s inner city.

But the state government has been looking at options in regional Queensland, since the recent single case of the UK variant sent the Greater Brisbane region into a three-day lockdown.

Hotel Grand Chancellor was the centre of an outbreak of the UK strain of COVID-19. Photo: ABC News/Marc Smith

A mining camp near Gladstone is one potential location and a government spokeswoman confirmed Wellcamp was another.

Mr Wagner said a team of government and Queensland Health officials had already visited the proposed site.

The Wellcamp airport was opened in late 2014, with the Wagners footing the $200 million construction bill, making it the first privately funded airport built in Australia.

It takes passengers to domestic destinations and there are three international freight flights a week to Hong Kong and Singapore.

The airport took just 19 months to build, but John Wagner is suggesting an even quicker turnaround for the quarantine facility.

“This would be built from the ground up in the next four to five weeks,” he said.

“Up here in Toowoomba, we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we actually achieve things quite quickly.”

The state government is preparing a formal submission to the Prime Minister.

A spokeswoman for the Premier said it was still being finalised.