10 May 2023

One small step for man, one giant leap for Cape York – Weipa courted for spaceport

| Cape York Weekly
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EMBRACING a spaceport near Weipa is a no-brainer, says Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, who says the Cape York community must look at future proofing itself from the mining industry.

“I think if you’re looking at anywhere in our region it fits the bill,” he said last week.

“We need to be looking at what we can do post-Rio Tinto. We know that their future is south of the Embley River and north of the Andoom mine.

“It’s critical the town survives and thrives. There will always be that potential for tourism, but Weipa needs industry.”

Weipa Town Authority chairman Michael Rowland agreed with the federal MP.

“The long-term future of Weipa is going to be away from mining,” he said.

“We have had some companies show interest in Weipa as a site because of our location.

“These are very early discussions but I think they are worth considering.

“There is going to have to be broad community consultation before anything eventuates.”

Mr Entsch said Weipa’s deep water port, remote location and its distance from the Great Barrier Reef ticked a lot of boxes.

“They are talking about Abbot Point as a location but that doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“It’s right on the reef and around a much bigger population base.”

Those thoughts were echoed by rocket maker Blake Nikolic, the CEO of Black Sky Aerospace.

“It’s probably never going to happen,’’ he said of the Abbot Point proposal.

A much better location, he said, would be Cape York, the Courier-Mail reported last week.

Mr Entsch said a spaceport would complement Rio Tinto’s mining operations.

“It would be good to capitalise on the Rio Tinto legacy, which has brought technical expertise to the remote community,” he said.

“A spaceport doesn’t actually have a lot of infrastructure but it brings support industries.

“Weipa makes a lot of sense because of its history, location and proximity to the equator.”

Mr Rowland said locals who are concerned about the idea should understand that the modern rocket industry was much different to what they might realise.

“They call them lunchbox satellites these days – the old ones used to be the size of a bus,” he said.

“The WTA isn’t making any kind of commitment but we are keen to listen and learn more.”

Mr Entsch said satellites were the lifeblood of Australia in the modern age.

“So many aspects of our life involve satellite technology,” he said.

“We are not talking about sending rockets to the moon, we are talking about devices that help our everyday industries in Australia.

“Our dependence on geodata and satellite technology has grown massively.”

Queensland’s space sector supports more than 2000 jobs and generates $760m for businesses across the state, according to state research.

The LNP last month made a $15 million commitment to build a launch facility near Abbot Point.

“They should be building it at Weipa, which is away from the Great Barrier Reef and is closer to the equator,” Mr Entsch said.

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