Take a look inside Adani's mine workers' camp
THE harsh Australian landscape, drought stricken and parched, stretches for hundred of miles of nothingness below the 12-seater plane flying towards Australia's most controversial project.
An hour after takeoff, the ground below turns green and in stark contrast, up ahead lies the red sand airstrip and temporary workers' camp of the Adani Carmichael mine site.
On the ground, Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow waits to greet the small contingent of two local MPs, two senators, three journalists and an ABC cameraman.
With all approvals in place, Adani just needs two management plans signed off - one for the threatened black-throated finch and another for groundwater dependent ecosystems.
"We've got clarity in process and timing from the Federal Government, but State Government is continually moving the goal posts, which is frustrating," Mr Dow said.
"But having said that, we're getting on with it and doing everything we possibly can so when we get the nod we're able to rip in and start delivering the jobs for people."
To date, Mr Dow has been unable to secure a meeting with either Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk or Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, despite multiple requests.
A spokesman for the Premier's office yesterday said the company's access to the government was the same as other proponents but would not elaborate or explain why neither of the state's two most senior politicians would agree to meet with him.
"If we had those approvals in our hands, we'd be employing people out of Rocky today," Mr Dow said.
So instead of 1500 workers who will eventually fly in and out of Rockhampton and Townsville, the temporary camp last week housed just 17 workers.
The week before there were 65 - mainly contractors operating earthmoving equipment, environmental scientists doing wildlife surveys, geologists and workers upgrading bridges and cattle grids in line with a commitment to the Isaac Regional Council.
"We'd like to be in a position where we're up and producing and delivering those jobs already, but we'll see it through," Mr Dow said.
"Our resilience is not waning and nor is our enthusiasm for the project. This is a company with a lot of resilience."
Mr Dow, a mining engineer who grew up in Ipswich, started with the company almost 12 months ago.
His father was an interstate truck driver. His Gladstone-born wife grew up in Moura.
He says the mining industry gave a lot to his family and it's an industry he remains committed to.
"I don't mind people having a different point of view about the project but I'd really ask that they're view is informed and based on the facts," he said.
"I think the conversation has been hijacked. There's been a lot of mythology and we've been spending a lot of time just setting the facts straight.
"But the support out of North and Central Queensland has been outstanding. 1400 people have registered to work with us."
The first of the two remaining management plans is to protect the threatened black-throated finch. The second is likely to trigger a bigger fight from activists determined to end thermal coal mining.
The ground water dependent ecosystem management plan is about managing ecosystems dependent on Doongmabulla Springs, which Mr Dow says are more than 11km from any mining activity.
"We're very focussed about the springs, but effectively its a mythology that activists have used to hijack the conversation," he said.
"Our water source is not the Great Artesian Basin.
"There's a heap of safeguards and conditions - but if we did impact the GAB so it drew down more than 20cm, we'd have to cease operations.
"We have a water harvesting scheme from the Suttor River.
"When the river is in flood, and only in flood, we can extract water to put into a holding dam and pump to site so we're not reliant on the GAB for water for the mine sites.
"If it doesn't flood, that's our risk.
"In the event that we do impact the GAB, we have commitments to cap over 730ML a year for the first five years.
"Those are bores the graziers have installed and they're uncapped with water just flowing, so we'll go through and cap those."
Mr Dow said it would be many years before the black-throated finch was impacted.
Areas where they are most prevalent have been mapped and once operations reach that stage, 33,000ha is set aside for vegetation, water sources and habitat to support breeding.
For now, work on anything that can be done is being done.
Initially, the workforce will travel by bus, eight hours in each direction from Rockhampton.
Once the basic infrastructure, and especially the runway, is constructed that journey will be reduced to an hour, with week on, week off rosters.
A typical fly-in, fly-out roster in other areas can be three weeks on, one week off, but lessons learned in the past show the system is just too challenging for families.
Whether it's improved rosters, WiFi, virtual access to counselling, theme nights or barbecues, connectivity with home and with others on site is built in to planning of the 1200-person permanent camp.
For Adani, and for Central Queensland, it can't come soon enough.