Whitsunday Sailing Club committee's director of special projects Mark Beale, president Leo Rodriguez, Dawson MP George Christensen and director of projects and developments Terry Archer.
Whitsunday Sailing Club committee's director of special projects Mark Beale, president Leo Rodriguez, Dawson MP George Christensen and director of projects and developments Terry Archer.

Whitsundays set to graduate top of the class for sailing

A NEW facility is set to catapult the Whitsundays to the top spot for maritime training in the country and provide a welcome boost to the region’s economy.

The first milestone in the Whitsunday Sailing Club’s proposed maritime training centre was celebrated today with the delivery of $2.5 million in federal government funding.

The funding will help with the planning and delivery of a new training facility that will adjoin the sailing club in Airlie Beach.

Whitsunday Sailing Club committee president Leo Rodriguez said this was the first step in putting the region on the map for maritime training.

Mr Rodriguez said over the coming years, the facility would make the Whitsundays one of only two land-based maritime training centres in the country, with the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania the other, colder, alternative.

“This new facility will literally allow us to explore new markets of training (and) allow us to take our training up to the next level,” he said.

The new training facility will be built on the site next to the Sailing Club.
The new training facility will be built on the site next to the Sailing Club.

The expansion could also include degree-level courses in maritime training as Mr Rodriguez said the club had received interest from universities hoping to form training partnerships.

The annual turnover for the current maritime training facility, which comprises just one classroom, is about half a million dollars.

The new facility will boost this to about $2.5 million a year with five classrooms providing an increased capacity for training.

Beyond aspiring sailors, the project will also benefit the wider Whitsunday community with the creation of 138 jobs in the first two stages.

Some courses on offer will also span several months and provide a boost to the region’s rental market.

Dawson MP George Christensen said the Whitsunday Sailing Club provided the perfect backdrop for a purpose-built training centre.

“This will mean more skippers, engineers and crew can be training right here to operate vessels used on island resorts, by tour operators and other Whitsunday businesses,” he said.

“In 2019, the training centre had 274 enrolments.

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“With this dedicated facility they could add another 100 in the first year alone.

“Airlie Beach is the ideal location to build a training centre as it will provide opportunities for young people to train in the region.”

The next step for the project is to further develop the design and seek development approvals from Whitsunday Regional Council.

The committee’s director of projects and developments Terry Archer hoped the first soil would be turned on the site in early 2021 before a 9-12 month construction period.

The Sailing Club is also seeking support from the State Government.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan announced in April that he would commit $6.5 million towards the facility, hinged on NQ First securing the balance of power at the state election.