Posted December 09, 2015 17:21:56

A push to have international flights servicing Western Australia’s Margaret River region has been dealt a blow, with the Federal Government refusing to fund an airport upgrade.

The City of Busselton applied for a $ 10 million grant in July under the Commonwealth’s National Stronger Regions Fund to expand Busselton-Margaret River Regional Airport’s runway and terminal to accommodate bigger passenger and freight aircraft.

The strategy failed to garner assistance in Canberra and was omitted from the list of successful applicants released this week.

It is the second time the city has been unsuccessful in getting funding for the airport by way of the scheme. A equivalent proposal was knocked back by the Commonwealth earlier this year.

The city’s chief executive officer Mike Archer stated council submitted a robust company case and a letter of support from a key Australian airline.

“They felt we required much more proof to suggest that if the money was provided, the airlines would fly,” Mr Archer mentioned.

“It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, you need to have an airport that is capable of truly taking the larger aircraft to be able to fly to the international destinations.

“But if you have not got that piece of infrastructure in spot, it’s very difficult to actually get individuals to commit.”

Knock-back a ‘lost opportunity’

Busselton would be the state’s second regional airport offering international flights, with Port Hedland currently operating weekly flights to Bali.

A separate expansion of the airport to accommodate interstate flights is still underway, through the allocation of $ 60 million of State Government funding in June.

Mr Archer mentioned it made sense to combine the two projects to avoid future interruption to services.

“It is a lost chance, if you’ve got contractors laying the asphalt for the domestic operations, it is only an additional 120 metres of asphalt [to add to the] runway length to get it to international normal,” he stated.

“Possessing to bring back contractors twice some time in the future just doesn’t make sense.”

The city is preparing to introduce international freight flights at the airport prior to passenger flights, possibly to destinations such as Indonesia and Singapore.

“There’s a push with the mining sector downturn to try and move towards the agricultural sector for greater diversification of our economy,” Mr Archer said.

“Here’s a conduit to permit that to come about but it is not been funded.”

The move would have observed Brisbane deemed as a possible interstate location.

No applications from organisations in the South-West have been effective in getting grants by way of the National Stronger Regions Fund since it was launched this year.

“We’re a lengthy way from Canberra and sometimes you just get forgotten, I believe,” Mr Archer stated.

The city is anticipated to make a third submission to the Federal Government when applications for round three of the fund opens in January.

Subjects: air-transport, regional-improvement, federal-government, busselton-6280, margaret-river-6285

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