John Wagner

25 February 2014 — John Wagner and his brothers have big plans for Toowoomba, with construction underway on an airport and business park situated on 800 hectares owned by the family company.Wagner Group doesn’t  just own the land, it is also funding the entire project, undertaking the majority of the construction scope and supplying a substantial proportion of the materials.

The family is also planning on doing all of it sustainably.

Wagner is very clear about his goals for the development in sustainability terms, stating that Wellcamp will be “the greenest airport in the world”.

“We are doing all the concrete [an estimated 26,000 cubic metres] using our [cement-free] Earth Friendly Concrete,” Wagner told The Fifth Estate. “One tonne of regular cement produces one tonne of CO2 – we reduce that by 90 per cent just by using the EFC concrete for all the pavements, the terminal and the car park. There will be no normal concrete used in this project.

“What we have discovered through our R&D process is EFC has far superior flexural strength, which is very important in airport pavement, and low shrinkage. It is also totally resistant to alkaline reactivity and acid sulphate soils. We’ve got a product which is not only the same price [as regular cement], it has a very low carbon footprint.

“This is the biggest [sustainability] initiative in the airport… it’s a single big goal we’ve kicked.”

The Wellcamp airport site

Other sustainable aspects of the terminal design include state of the art measures for reducing energy consumption in the terminal, as well as tinted glazing and LED lighting.

The quarry products being used for the construction are all being obtained from the site, minimising the carbon footprint of transport for construction materials.

EFC will also be used throughout the business park, which has been master-planned in-house. The plans include commercial office space, hotels, retail, manufacturing and industry – including the company’s own composite fibre technology business.

Wellcamp Business Park will also utilise rainwater harvesting and an onsite waste water treatment system, which will be reticulated throughout for amenities flushing and irrigation of landscaping. Excess water produced by the system will be used to irrigate cropland nearby,which the family also owns.

“There will be total reuse of water,” Wagner says.

“We are also looking at a trigeneration plant for stage two, which will include a Coles supermarket and hotels.”

His aim is that companies who are concerned with their carbon footprint will be attracted to the park.

“The average trucking companies don’t care,” Wagner says. “We are looking at big corporations.”

At this stage, Wagner is noncommittal on whether the Wellcamp Airport and business park will seek either a Green Star rating or, for the airport, an Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia rating.

A stage 1 design render of Wellcamp

The question has to be asked, which big companies are contemplating moving to the edge of Toowoomba? Wagner does not name names, instead saying that some expressions of interest have been received, discussions are being had with people, and development applications are in the process of going through council.

He says the key to the success of the business park development is the airport, which will encourage major corporations to base part of their operations at Toowoomba.

He also sees the airport providing flights for fly-in fly-out workers for mines in remote parts of Queensland.

Currently, Toowoomba has a small aerodrome which is not jet capable, instead providing a base for charter flights, flying schools, maintenance operators and a Warbird collection. Wagner believes this limited air transport capacity restricts tourism, business and export possibilities.

The company is in negotiations with a number of airlines over routes to and from Wellcamp, with no names confirmed by either the airlines or Wagner Group at this stage.

“Toowoomba is the second biggest inland city in Australia after Canberra, and our postcode 4350 has the third-highest taxable income in the country. We have a big FIFO workforce, health and education facilities… and now the second range crossing has been announced, it will be only one hour and 20 minutes from Toowoomba to Brisbane,” Wagner says.

“We have put together an export group to increase the [air freight] export of agricultural products, and we are also employing a full-time export development person.”

The reason the company decided on the name “Brisbane West” in the moniker for an airport that is categorically not in Brisbane comes back to marketing. Wagner says the advice from the company’s marketing group was that adding the name of a capital city to “Wellcamp” would make it easier to build brand recognition.

“This is also a complimentary airport to Brisbane International airport,” Wagner says.

In the development application submitted to Toowoomba City Council, the company estimated Wellcamp Airport would host about 14 aircraft movements a day by 2016, increasing up to 25 by 2031, with proposed routes including Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Canberra, Adelaide, Roma, Mackay and Emerald.