ROBBIE Katter has slammed the slow and inadequate response to a “crisis situation” which has left Mornington Island disconnected from the mainland for almost a month.
The State Member for Mount Isa said it was beyond belief that Australia’s most isolated township remains cut off from commercial flights after damage to the runway was discovered on December 16 last year.
Mr Katter called on Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe to intervene and assist the hundreds of residents waiting to return home to Mornington Island after the festive period, or leave the island for the mainland.
Mornington Shire Council opened up half of the runway on December 23 last year to allow smaller charter planes and the Royal Flying Doctor Service to land at the airport, but commercial flights remain off limits.
The drawn-out response was farcical and reminded the Department of Transport and REX Airlines of their obligation to the people of Mornington Island, Mr Katter said.
“Mornington Shire Council say they informed REX Airlines on December 23 they wouldn’t be able to land their SAAB 340 jets until the repairs were complete, so why wasn’t there a contingency plan in place?”
“This is a crisis situation and if it happened in South East Queensland I can assure you that the dawdling response to rectify the situation would not have been accepted.”
“Mornington Island is an isolated community but it shouldn’t get short-changed with its services.”
For almost a month, Mr Katter has fielded calls from residents who have been unable to return home, and also those who are stranded on the island.
“It’s completely unacceptable and the community has every right to be angry,” he said.
“REX Airlines has an obligation to run the service under its contract with the State Government and questions have to be raised about whether there’s been enough urgency to resume services.”
Mr Katter understands REX Airlines will use an 8-seater aircraft from its NSW-based subsidiary Air Link to replace the regular 32-seat SAAB on the Gulf route, starting on Monday, January 18.
The smaller capacity has raised concerns from Mornington Shire Council about its ability to service the initial back-log of residents waiting to return home, Mr Katter said.
“I hope that whatever solution they put in place is one that fits the needs of the community,” he said.
Mr Katter again highlighted his disappointment at Mornington Shire Council not being invited to discuss their concerns until yesterday (January 13).
“The lack of communication between the stakeholders involved in this situation is highly concerning – especially for Mornington Shire Council who weren’t invited to be deeply involved in discussions between the Department of Transport and REX Airlines until Wednesday,” he said.