MACKAY may have been bumped off the shortlist as a potential FIFO hub for Adani's Carmichael coal mine, but Mayor Greg Williamson is refusing to believe all hope is lost.
If the region can put together a proposal that would provide strong incentives for Adani to fly workers from Mackay and house them in town, he's confident the city will be back in the race.
Speaking to the Daily Mercury on the doorstep to Abbot Point Coal Terminal, having just met with Adani Australia CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj and Adani Group chairman Gautum Adani, Cr Williamson said "Mackay is not out of the running".
The two Adani bosses helicoptered in to Abbot Point to meet with Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox, Isaac Mayor Anne Baker, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strewlow, State MP for Burdekin Dale Last and Cr Williamson about 2.30pm yesterday.
Mr Janakaraj and Mr Adani had departed from Townsville after announcing the city as the location for the regional headquarters, Mackay as the maintenance hub and Rockhampton and Townsville as potential FIFO hubs.
It's expected they would fly direct back to India Tuesday evening.
Despite the potential that came from being named a maintenance hub, the news Mackay was out of the running to become a FIFO hub shocked many.
However, as Resource Industry Network director Mick Crowe explained, "it's really like a game of AFL. It's the end of the first quarter and we're two goals down. We're not out of this by a long shot".
Cr Williamson echoed his thoughts.
"In their release they said they've shortlisted Rockhampton and Townsville. But look, it's not over," he said.
"We've had some serious talks today with Adani about the fly in fly out workforce. They're not going to announce that finally until early 2017. There's a lot of water to go under the bridge before that.
"You've got to look at it from Adani's point of view. They still need the communities of Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville involved. There may be an opportunity with a very large workforce of 2000 to fly out of the three centres. Which may be the eventual outcome."
He said the council would now talk with Mackay Airport about how it could put a more competitive offer to Adani before February next year, when FIFO arrangements would be announced.
Cr Williamson also said council would consider ways it could "sweeten the deal" to entice the company to house workers at Mackay.
"There are some incentives that we probably need in terms of the airport operation itself," he said.
North Queensland Airports CEO Norris Carter welcomed the Adani announcements as good news for Queensland, and regional Queensland in particular.
But he added the company would "welcome the opportunity to further explore the potential for Mackay Airport to support the FIFO activity that will be associated with this huge project".
"We offer a strong track record in that capacity, a central location, excellent aviation links to Brisbane and other major Queensland centres and the convenience of an on-airport hotel," he said.
"We look forward to working with Adani, the broader resources sector and Mackay's business and industry leaders to secure new opportunities for this region's economic development as the Adani operation helps to take Queensland forward."
However, it may be a long road ahead for Mackay's optimistic business leaders with an Adani spokesman indicating the shortlist had not been settled on lightly.
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