Far Northern grazier's plans to fly cattle to export markets
GRAZIER Brian Henry has started the first stages of a dream to build a multi-million dollar airport on his property 200km west of Cairns to fly live cattle to Asia and beyond.
The long-term plan is to export live cattle, sheep and goats direct from road trains on to jet freighters bound for overseas markets.
The Henrys have cleared an area for a 3.5km runway at Sugarbag Station, Mt Garnet, with plans to seal it.nte
"We've done the clearing and raked it all up,'' Mr Henry said.
He said it was a long-term vision and would be demand-driven.
"This is a long-term project. It's not happening tomorrow but in the next 10 to 20 years,'' Mr Henry said.
"I'm only 35 so there's time.''
He said the geotechnical work had been done and a Sydney-based aviation consultant had been engaged.
Mr Henry said the land on which the runway would be built had been examined and rated as suitable for heavy and large aircraft such as Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s.
He said Sugarbag had been transporting cattle by sea, road and rail and air was the next step.
Airports at Cairns and Townsville were geared towards passengers while the Sugarbag port would be for animal exports, Mr Henry said.
The necessary approvals were in place.
"We've been through a pretty tough set of hoops,'' he said.
Sugarbag, leaders in live cattle exports, were looking at a time when large aircraft could land to meet road trains, he said.
Mr Henry said the plans were realistic and would progress as demand for live exports reached the stage where buyers, mainly from Asia, wanted animals by air.
He said the aircraft would be able to take about 100 tonnes of animals (250 400kg beasts) at a time, depending upon how much space and other conditions were required for the safe and humane transportation of livestock.
Mr Henry has worked in the live export trade for 15 years.
Road trains take cattle from Sugarbag Yards, 30km southwest of Mt Garnet, two hours to Mourilyan Harbour near Innisfail. Tens of thousands of cattle are exported from the harbour every year.
Australian and International Pilots Association president Barry Jackson has praised the vision.
"This strategic development, if constructed, would see live and processed cattle, sheep and goats flown directly to Asia,'' he said.
"If sufficient volume is generated, this could become a viable way of feeding the massive population to our north and reaping the economic benefits.''
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Bold vision: Mt Garnet grazier Brian Henry has plans to export live cattle on jet freighters.