MACKAY leaders and advocates have returned fire after Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio took a dig at the sugar city in the bid to land Qantas' pilot academy.
Their patriotic support came after the Toowoomba Chronicle took a blindingly optimistic swipe at the region's ability to secure the contentious bid.
Splashed boldly across the masthead's front page on Tuesday was a 'memo' for Qantas executives begging the airline to pick them over Mackay.
Last month the Qantas narrowed down over 50 application bids from all over Australia to a short-list of nine towns and cities who met criteria for the $20million Pilot Training Academy.
Of these nine short-listed locations, both Mackay and Toowoomba remained the only standing Queensland applicants, so of course some friendly competition emerged.
"I know (Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson) and respect him highly," Cr Antonio told the Chronicle.
"But on this particular subject... I really think that when you look at things, have a look at Toowoomba, then have a look at Mackay.
"I'll rest my case there."
Cr Williamson fired back yesterday, asking "where else would you rather be" than Mackay?
Not only mentioning the technical criteria Mackay meets to host the academy, Cr Williamson also pointed out the region's proximity to the Whitsundays and amazing weather only strengthened our proposal.
"We have great liveability and great weather," he said.
"Just think about flying around in western Queensland on a 40-degree day or freezing on a -5 degree day in winter and then about what we can offer up here."
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said if Qantas planned to stay true to the idea of developing the academy in a regional location, Toowoomba "doesn't make the cut".
"Toowoomba is really just an outer suburb of Brisbane, at least we are actually a regional location," Mr Christensen said in jest.
The outspoken MP added that he had visited Toowoomba, only to get out of there lickety-split.
"I've been once and it was cold enough that day to not make the mistake again," he said.
"If they want to have to be push starting the planes down the runways because the fuel pipes have been frozen, then Toowoomba is the right choice."
Mr Christensen said despite his obvious bias, after looking at the two competing bids, Mackay's stood out due to the strength gained from community backing and city leaders' support.
Representatives have been quick to weigh in on the region's bid to secure the airline as the $20million deal has the ability to pump an estimated $32million into the local economy in its first year of operation.
This number is only expected to grow in subsequent years as the facility is able to accept and train more students.
Never one to mince his words, Mackay Councillor Martin Bella explained the benefit of cementing the academy in Mackay.
"To put it bluntly, Mackay is well away from the south-east corner," Cr Bella said.
"It is about regional areas being considered by the government and companies as a part of Australia and not just side notes to the big cities.
"Why should aspiring pilots from from the north have to travel all the way down south, we have to travel for everything, how about they come to us this time?"
From a different perspective, general manager of Mackay Tourism Tas Webber said there was simply not much to do down there in.
"What do you do when you go to Toowoomba?," he said. "Toowoomba is a nice place but Mackay definitely tops the list.
"I think I laughed (when I saw the front page) and chuckled, I think they are clutching at straws, I don't believe the Toowoomba region is in the same calibre as the Mackay region."
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said yesterday the choice between Mackay and Toowoomba was "a no brainer".
"Mayor Antonio, for some reason, can't see this clearly. Perhaps it is the fog down there," Mr Costigan quipped.
"I know it can happen a lot in Toowoomba. After all, I used to read the news there back in my glory days."
The maverick MP and fifth generation Mackay resident worked in the Garden City as a sports presenter in the mid-1990s, before moving home to the Sugar City in 2008.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the Darling Downs. Great people, love the Carnival of Flowers," Mr Costigan said.
"However, in terms of climate and lifestyle, Mackay in the tropical north is a no brainer.
"I think deep down, even the editor of The Chronicle knows that. After all, he comes from the same place as me, the city that I represent, a city which has put a strong case forward to bring the Flying Kangaroo to town."
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