Airline deal hope is alive

Sophie ElliottBusselton Dunsborough Times
Busselton Airport facing North East.
Camera IconBusselton Airport facing North East. Credit: WA News

City of Busselton officials are “quietly optimistic” they will secure an airline to service the Busselton-Margaret River Airport, despite funding for the terminal upgrade still being in the State Government’s clutches.

The City’s statement comes as the political stoush erupted again when The Nationals’ transport spokesman Vince Catania accused the State Government of “ripping out the last bit of required funding” and “deliberately undermining the project”.

Mr Catania’s comments followed an estimates hearing in State Parliament in which Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said there was $9.5 million in the Budget for the project, but it required approval from Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan before being released.

“The BMRA project was on time and on budget prior to Labor coming to office in 2017,” Mr Catania said. “There is $60 million worth of infrastructure on the ground already and attracting major airlines to fly direct into the South West hinges on the terminal upgrade.

“The McGowan Government moved the goalposts halfway through the project.”

Ms MacTiernan confirmed the allocated funding was closer to the $12 million mark and remained set aside for the project.

She said keeping the funding in the Budget at a time when the Government had to make tough decisions was clear evidence of a commitment to the project.

“As we have repeatedly stated, there is no point building a new terminal without an airline secured to fly there,” she said.

“The National Party’s inability to grasp that spending $12 million on a terminal that has yet to find a customer, sadly suggests they have yet to grasp basic economic management.”

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer said the City remained committed to securing a passenger airline for the facility and was working hard to achieve this.

“At the moment we are feeling quietly optimistic with the way negotiations are proceeding,” he said. “We have never lost faith in the project as a major social and economic driver for the City and the broader South West region, and while the release of funding remains dependent on a ministerial determination, we don’t doubt the project or have any long-term concerns.”

Ms MacTiernan didn’t respond to questions about a deadline for the project.

However, Mr Archer confirmed the City was working to a June 30 timeframe and the funding agreement with the State Government would be reviewed at that time.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said there was an “absence of support” for the project from the State Government.

“It is thoroughly disappointing that the Government has turned its back on this project through the withdrawal of airline engagement, marketing and withholding funds for the final stage of this transformational project for the South West,” she said.

Mr Archer said there was no point being disappointed by stalls to the project.

“We must simply work through the process,” he said.

“We’re exceptionally proud of what’s been achieved thus far and we’re looking forward to completing the next stage of the development and welcoming visitors from the Eastern States and Asia into the future.”

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