The Western Cape district in Far North Queensland is a very long way from the ACT, but with the mining industry starting to wind down, one Canberra businessman is helping to secure the future of the region.
Weipa is home to thousands of families and businesses that have relied on the booming mining industry for years. However, the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce and the Weipa Town Authority fear the region could become a ghost town in 10 or 15 years once the resources run out.
Town authority chair Michael Rowland has welcomed Canberra-based Space Centre Australia (SCA) founder and CEO James Palmer, who is heading up the development of a $350 million spaceport facility in the region.
Michael says the space centre will “put Weipa on the map”, and he hopes other Canberrans and investors will show an interest in the region, which boasts a deep water harbour and large areas of relinquished land that could host research and space organisations, as well as military facilities.
“We hope governments, investors and businesspeople like James will look at the Western Cape region and realise the really great opportunities on offer here,” he said.
“The Scherger Air Base is just outside of town, we’ve got Defence looking at the strategic possibilities of this area, and to have a launch facility so close will be amazing.”
James is a guest speaker at the first-ever Western Cape Futures Symposium being held from 23 to 25 March, which will shine a spotlight on the many opportunities for sustainable growth and development in the region located on the western side of Cape York Penninsula.
Weipa councillor and chamber member Jaime Gane says the region has a skilled workforce that will be looking to move into other industries as the mining industry winds down.
“The futures symposium is about looking at ways the area can diversify so it’s not reliant on mining to survive,” she said.
“We can’t continue as a mono-economy or we’ll become another mining town story of boom and bust, and everyone leaves.
“We’re planning ahead so we have other industries set up and operating here and there can be a smooth transition away from mining.”
She said the chamber was excited to have James bringing the space centre to the region.
“We want to see more things like this that are innovative and that support sustainable growth into the future,” Jaime said.
“Space Centre Australia is being set up in a remote location and is the perfect example of a billion-dollar industry that will present incredible opportunities for the local community, especially for our school kids that could train to be engineers and end up building rockets and satellites in their own backyard.”
Canberra-based Head of the Northern Australia Strategic Policy Centre and Head of Strategic Policing and Law Enforcement at Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Dr John Coyne will also speak at the symposium.
The award-winning author has published widely on policing, national security, northern Australia and organised crime.
The three-day event will feature more than 20 speakers across various community sectors and industries, including traditional land owners, intelligence, space, technology, defence, economic, education and environmental groups.
SCA has recently shone an international light on the region, teaming up with Orbit Boy to form Asia Pacific Launch – a collaboration that will provide cost-effective, fast, reliable, and safe Low Earth Orbit (LEO) access to space with unique air-dropped horizontal launch system.
The ground-breaking service will provide customers with autonomous access to LEO launches, including rideshare and multiple payload configuration options. It will also offer exciting opportunities for manufacturing, employment, research and development and acceleration of economic growth within Australia’s space industry and manufacturing sectors.
James says access to launch infrastructure globally is becoming highly competitive and, with the introduction of Asia Pacific Launch, access to space will become “more unified, more affordable, and more readily available for payload owners”.
Asia Pacific Launch comprises a multi-national team of industry experts from the UK, Ukraine and Australia. The venture will provide an opportunity to help other countries rebuild and enhance their space and manufacturing industries.
SCA is continually expanding its international footprint and opened an office in London’s Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in December 2022.
Space Centre Australia‘s Weipa spaceport is anticipated to have small launch capabilities by 2024. By 2028, it is hoped to become the first site in Australia capable of large geostationary transfer orbit.