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Far North disaster management authorities have delivered about 10 tonnes of food via flights to remote communities stranded in Cape York because of major flooding.

Under Queensland Disaster Management arrangements, co-ordinated resupplies provide isolated communities with essential goods and the state government pays the additional transport costs to deliver them.

Daintree Air chief pilot Greg Letondeur, speaking from the air, said they flew their second load from Cairns to Kowanyama on Tuesday.
“Today we will do seven tonnes into the Cape,” he said.
“The runways are open but there are lots of storms due to the monsoon around.”
Mr Letondeur said the other crew on the aircraft included Joseph Hook, Lachlan Hook and Aaron Dati.
He said Daintree Air had transported five and a half tonnes of day-to-day provisions, including dry store grocery staples, fresh produce, mail and other essential supplies via six dedicated flights from Cairns to Coen on January 17.

Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said they had worked with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, businesses and wholesale suppliers to co-ordinate delivery of essential supplies to the regional landlocked community of Coen, the shire’s second largest township, and northernmost hub.

“Every year seasonal rains, flooding rivers and dangerous road conditions cause a large section of the Peninsular Development Road to close for weeks at a time,” he said.

“This prevents many regional and remote communities across the Cape from obtaining essential supplies through traditional road transport routes.”
But the mayor reminded community members across the Cape to be self-sufficient and not to become reliant on resupply operations.

“Preparation is paramount,” he said.

“We urge households to plan ahead and get ready.
“You need at least five days of supplies to see you through, so there is absolutely no need to panic buy.”

tate Emergency Service Far North Region Director Wayne Coutts said all over the Cape volunteers were assisting their community with loading and unloading supplies.

“The Disaster Management System (DNS) operates by the local community stores in Coen can ask the DMS which is based in Cooktown they are running out of food and can’t get essential supplies due to flooded roads,” Mr Coutts said.
“The flights are organised and SES help load the aircraft here and then pick it up at Coen.
“Emergency resupply for communities woks as the stores pay for the goods and emergency services provide the transport and we help with communities with person power.”
SES Far Northern Region Area Controller Matt Currey confirmed SES were happy to step up an help out.

“We nine SES volunteers in Cairns and three in Coen help out as the muscle,” he said.

Alison Paterson

January 20, 2023 – The Cairns Post


Thank you to all the lovely people who have left reviews


They’ve hit the sweet spot in tropical Australia and the vast, parched interior. The sun has lost its bite, the mornings are cool and crisp.
Beyond the COVID line that splits Cape York Peninsula, the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef are so glassy that Daintree Air chief pilot Greg Letondeur can see through the coral to the sandy sea floor.
Instead of flying holidaymakers to the shuttered $1000-a-night Lizard Island Resort he is ferrying essential workers to a mine site, counting down the days until coronavirus eases its iron grip on national life.

Hopefully, this will be by June 30, while there is still a tourist ­season to salvage. “Look at that,” Mr Letondeur said, swinging the aircraft over Lizard Island’s reef-fringed Blue Lagoon. “The … new corals are that bright you need sunglasses on. That reef is going to be exquisite because no one has been there in months.”
From Kakadu to the Kimberley, the skifields of the Snowy Mountains to the Twelve Apostles on Victoria’s surf coast, our natural wonders have never looked so good, burnished by a change of season and the breather delivered by the disease emergency.
With international visitors locked out and Australians largely locked down at home by corona­virus, tourist operators are trying to stay afloat until the crisis passes.
But what a waste it was of a magical time of year, Mr Letondeur sighed, taking The Weekend Australian along for the extended ride from Cooktown to Lizard ­Island and back across the ­dazzling seascape.
After circling the mothballed resort, we track to No 10 Ribbon Reef, on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. The ocean side is pounded by 6m breakers that roll out of the Coral Sea and expend their force in a frothing fury on the coral outcrop; swim for five minutes — if you could — and the ocean depth would plunge to ­nearly 4000m. On the other side, the water is calm and inviting, less than 70m deep.
At Endeavour Reef, where Cap­tain James Cook came to grief in June 1770, nearly ending in disaster­ his historic voyage of discovery, rainbow-coloured fish are so plentiful they can be seen from the air. The 18km-long sweep of Batt Reef seems to stretch all the way to a shimmering horizon.
People would pay $800 for a day trip to Lizard Island and to see this vista, and nearly twice that to fly with Mr Letondeur to the tip of Cape York, now locked down in a biosecurity zone starting near the indigenous community of Wujal Wujal, 160km north of Cairns, and covering 210,000sq km.
“Over 40 years I have built a good business and a lot of that has disappeared in three months,” the veteran pilot said. “Life is tough, mate, but you have just got to take the good with the bad. You keep your bum up and keep at it.”

For now, he has based himself above the COVID line in Cooktown, to grab what business he can flying people between quarantined indigenous communities and essential staff to the pared-back mines. Like the locals, he is hoping Lizard Island is on target­ to reopen at the end of next month, delivering a boost to northern tourism, with its international profile­ ­­and celebrity clientele.
At Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, about 1470km northwest of Sydney, the last of the floodwater that came down the great inland rivers from north Queensland last year has pooled in Belt Bay, exposing an expanse of crystalline salt bed.
What a sight it makes from the air. What a pity South Australian bush pilot Trevor Wright has no passengers to share it with: he hasn’t had a customer in nearly two months and his busiest time of the year has devolved into long, lazy days of maintenance around home base at William Creek.
The pub should be jumping, its adjoining campground and caravan park packed. Last season, Mr Wright hired 45 pilots to fly tourists­ over the lake. Now he’s down to three, and they’re mostly just repainting the dusty buildings dotted around the only street.
“It’s decimated us,” Mr Wright said. “The whole of the outback is basically dead, and we’re coming into what should be our peak months. But we still have to carry our overheads … you can’t turn out the lights, the generators still have to run.”
This was supposed to be the year Michelle Low Mow and her team at Adels Grove in northwest Queensland’s Gulf Country rebounded from a disastrous fire last July, which destroyed the resort’s main building and kitchen.
Coronavirus put paid to that. Adels Grove is as lush as the name suggests, gateway to the serene beauty of Lawn Hill Gorge and the World Heritage-listed Riversleigh fossil field. But the normally busy stopover is overlapped by another of the virus biosecurity zones protectin­g vulnerable indigenous populations in north Queensland, the Top End and regional Western Australia.
The overland route it straddles to and from Darwin is as empty as Ms Low Mow’s cash register when grey nomads, families and tour groups should be thick on the ground.
“The weather is just fantastic,” Ms Low Mow said. “This morning the minimum was 19C, very fresh for us, and the maximum is in the low 30s. Normally, we would have people everywhere: it’s a bugger.”

To the west, Kakadu National Park is a picture, fresh and green after the wet. But like King’s Canyo­n and Uluru, it too is closed.

Inventive couple Leigh and Jacly­n Rawlings have created Kimberley Air Tours from the Couch, after their family business contracted from 14 staff, seven light aircraft and two seaplanes to barely six employees.
At $25 a go, they offer a virtual flight with the internet in the pilot’s seat and Mr Rawlings as guide, taking in the attractions of the Argyle pink diamond mine and the stark beehive-like protrusions of the Bungle Bungle Range.
Only in an Australian winter would there be the choice of sunbaking on a tropical beach or skiing in the alpine reaches of NSW and Victoria. After early blizzards dumped half a metre of snow on the skifields last week, a bumper season could be in the offing if COVID-19 distancing measures continue to be wound back.
The Thredbo resort in NSW said it was continuing to plan for 2020 operations, though it couldn’t point to a start date. “It’s an ever-evolving situation and we’re constantly monitoring the developments,” the company posted.
Organised whale watching is also on hold on the eastern and western seaboards. But Elisha Kissick, of North Stradbroke Island’s Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, said the hope was to run tour boats from the Brisbane CBD in time for the arrival of migrating humpbacks.

Jamie Walker – The Australian 8 May 2020


An expansion to the Cooktown Airport and more money for the Cooktown 2020 festival are projects promised funding from the Building Better Regions Fund.
Cooktown is set to receive almost $2 million under the fund to make the projects a reality.
Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said Cooktown had become a regional service and supply hub for Southern Cape York.
“The BBR grant of $1.7m to help with the expansion of Cooktown Airport will encourage growth in jobs and business development opportunities with existing operators, Daintree Air and Hinterland Aviation,” Cr Scott said.
“The internal road realignment and upgrade will allow us to make additional airside land available and create new business and specialist jobs in aircraft maintenance, tourism and pilot training.
“Warren Entsch successfully brought the Prime Minister to Cooktown to emphasise the suitability and potential of aviation development in regional/remote Queensland.”
“The Federal Government has also reinforced its commitment to Cooktown 2020 by providing funding for the main stage facility – which will be the centerpiece for celebrations and activities over the 48 day event in June- August 2020.”
Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the federal government’s $8.5 million investment would help grow local economies and build a strong future for the region.
“These projects will be game-changers for their respective communities and are a great outcome for our region,” Mr Entsch said.
“This is about listening, acting, and delivering for these communities.
“It is projects such as these that make our region an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
A $214,902 Festival Hub Main Stage for the Cooktown 2020 Festival will celebrate the 250th Anniversary of Captain Cook’s visit to the region.
Events held on the stage will include the opening and closing ceremonies, Reconciliation Rocks Concert and Indigenous showcase events.
A $1,738,079 for the airport will see stage two of the project come to fruition.
Stage two of the Cooktown Airport Masterplan includes the realignment and extension of Airport Drive, and the installation of a secure parking area.
The project includes the detailed design of the airport runway which requires an upgrade to a code 3C for larger planes to land, ensuring the ongoing expansion of airport services and passenger services to both Cooktown and Cape York supporting tourism and economic growth in the region.

Newsport – 8 Mar 2019


A homegrown Far North Queensland business has invested $1.5 million and immeasurable passion to build Cooktown Airport’s first hangar — and it is just the start.

Daintree Air Services owner and pilot Greg Letondeur received a special visit from Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week who took the time to inspect the new building.
“Just a couple of months ago, this was just bush. There was no water, there was nowhere to get in the shade, there were no telephones, there was nothing.” Mr Letondeur said.
The hangar is entirely off the grid, with solar power, batteries, back-up generators which are rarely used, and water from a subterranean stream running 30m beneath the building.
“We think it might be so successful that we’re really hoping we can build another one opposite, perhaps twice as big as this,” Mr Letondeur said.
The new facility means Daintree Air’s growing team of aircraft engineers can perform heavy maintenance in Cooktown instead of only Cairns.
It has allowed Mr Letondeur to employ more locals and train them up to an internationally recognised level.
“You would expect to see maintenance like this in Parafield, or in Bankstown, Brisbane or even Cairns,” he said.
“But it’s in Cooktown, it’s in the middle of nowhere.
“We hope to show Australia, especially people in the cities, that good things can be done in the bush.
“You don’t need to leave home, you don’t need to go away to become an aircraft ­engineer.”
The Prime Minister said the Daintree Air project was a model for what could be achieved in remote parts of the country.
“These are the businesses that make sure these towns work, that the services are here, that the opportunities are here,” Mr Morrison said during his visit.
“They don’t come from government, they come from ­enterprising minds and a lot of passion and commitment.”

Chris Calcino, The Cairns Post – 30 Jan 2019


Our own Steve Irwin, Australian wildlife ex- pert Captain Greg Letondeur of Daintree Air Services, took us on the biggest adventure of our lives: the utterly spectacular daytrip from Cairns to Lizard Island (a deserted island apart from the lizards), located on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Advertised as “Lizard Island Day Tour, the Ultimate Reef Experience”, the Daintree Air Services tour promised a scenic flight from Cairns to Lizard Island, which is fairly close to the northern tip of Australia, a day of exploring the island’s pristine beaches and snorkeling in the world’s largest ecosystem of coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef.
For once, the advertising did not exaggerate. If there is one ultimate tour to Lizard Island and the Great Barrier Reef, this is it. From the minute we arrived at the Daintree Air Services terminal, until we were dropped off at our hotel the day was one awe-inspiring, fun-filled and action-packed adventure – an amazing trip that provides you with a memorable experience and some great stories to tell your friends and folks back home.
The moment we arrived at the terminal, we realized this wasn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill tour. With slight trepidation I eyed the tiny aircraft which we were about to board (a Piper Chieftain PA-31). Being only a 10-seater, it was also clear that there would be no arguing over window seats.

The pre-trip preparations consisted of being fitted with life vests, diving fins and stinger suits. Equipped and briefed on safely regulations, we climbed aboard the plane and were soon soaring over beautiful rugged landscapes, Islands reefs and
rainforests on our way to the Great Barrier Reef.

A few clouds float by like puffs of cotton as we cruise comfortably along at an altitude of about 2,500 feet. Far below, Daintree River and Daintree Rainforest (hence the name of Greg’s Air Service) are visible.

“Wanna see some great waterfalls?” Greg yells above the engines. Without waiting for an answer, the air craft descends to award us with a bird’s eye view. “I’m showing you guys parts of Australia most Australians will not ever see!”
Our intrepid guide Captain Greg, dressed in a white pilot’s short-sleeved shirt, blue shorts and hiking boots, shares stories about the area below, conjuring up images of Crocodile Dundee country, and impressing us with his intimate knowledge of one of the last real wilderness area’s left on Earth.
“I once had a Frenchman on tour who wanted to see crocodiles.” Greg told me that they went and found a croc ‘thisss’ big (spreading his arms as wide as they could go), laughingly recounting what the Frenchman said after he swam a little close to one of the creatures. ”You told us we would see zee crocodile, you did not tell us we would have to swim wis sem!”
The 55-minute flight takes us over Port Douglas, Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Bloomfield, Cooktown, Cape Flattery and 320 kilometers of the Great Barrier Reef . During the flight Greg shares with us a wealth of information about each of these places of great historic and cultural interest. He also points out the importance of the World Heritage Rainforests and Wet Lands as you fly low level across the tree tops.
When he speaks of his encounters with remote Aboriginal communities (as he explains; “places where very few white men have ever set foot”), or trips further inland where he has only taken a few privileged visitors to acquire unique artworks; the revered but feared Black Mountains, the Dingo’s of Pungalina, or event about canoeing up remote gorges and rivers in the outback, you are caught up by the excitement, the passion and just the unique adventure of it all.
We then descend to Lizard Island, landing on a hot and sticky ribbon of tarmac that seems to run off the edge of the island. Although we were in the safe and extremely capable hands of our pilot, I felt that if we hadn’t braked so quickly, we would’ve skidded straight off the runway. Greg is an old school pilot who wouldn’t dream of trading in his 1982 twin propeller Piper Chieftain for a newer model (“they don’t make them like this anymore”).
As we’re taxiing to park, he asks excitedly, “Did you see that big fella there on the runway as we landed? He was about two meters long!” Apparently I’ve just missed a large specimen of one of Lizard Island’s inhabitants.
Before we embark on a short hike to Watson’s Bay, Greg urges us to be very alert and look carefully around, lest we miss a precious piece of nature. The walk leads us through a beautiful mangrove swamp (I stick close to our guide in case of another impromptu encounter of the local kind), and we soon reach the beach and the famous Great Barrier Reef.
No better guide to this unfamiliar world could be asked for as Greg demonstrates his ability to identify each bird sound, foot print, track or piece of vegetation along the way.
We soon reach the type of beach that the Great Barrier Reef is famous for, as virgin white sand, unmarked by humans, stretches out before us. Greg spots a track and we eagerly follow its trail. Half-way down the beach we see two flattened mounds of sand, as if someone had dug a couple of shallow graves and hastily covered them over. We had stumbled onto a giant turtle’s nest. The turtle had come ashore the night before and laid her eggs. “An extremely rare occurrence for this side of the island”, Greg excitedly explained.

Standing haughtily on the turtle’s nest was a lizard, staring at us with an unperturbed, Machiavellian grin on its face. We’ve caught the “bastard” – as Greg phrased it – red-handed, seconds away from raiding the nest and devouring the treasure hidden
Our next adventure was exploring the reef itself. While we don our snorkeling gear, Greg tells us about the ecosystem down below, a coral reef known as ‘Clam Garden’. There are literally hundreds of huge mollusks here, which grow to over five feet in diameter and may live to be 50 years old.
“Each creature is performing a task, so you have to look closely,” Greg explains. “Be quiet and don’t move around too much. Act like hunters!”
As the sun shimmers across the bay, we dive into the crystal-clear water following our Aussie guide, who is committed, passionate, and full of youthful enthusiasm about the amazing world that he is leading us into. (But has cautioned us to never touch or scare the wildlife.)
Greg dives down many times, pointing out different creatures such as giant clams, huge bright blue starfish, giant wrasse, snub nose parrot fish, blue ring rays, creatures who look like they belong in outer space, even the happy familiar face of Nemo swimming by (sadly the only fish I was able to name), surgeon fish, Napoleon fish, Queen Fish and the list goes on… all thrown together in an underwater Technicolor explosion.
“There’s so much biodiversity. Every time I come here I see something different,” he enthuses. Greg has been escorting some of the world’s biggest businessmen, movie stars, politicians and just ordinary folk like today’s group to special places in Australia for over 25 years, some of whom fly especially to Cairns to take the Lizard Island Day trip.

Back in Cairns I tell Greg I’m hooked. Pointing to the northern part of Australia on a map he says, “See this piece of land? It’s two-and-a-half times the size of England and virtually unexplored territory. When you come back next time, I’ll show you the real stuff!”
Ellen Boonstra – Splash 2 Magazine Sep 2017
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