Airport expansion begins

Chloe FraserBusselton Dunsborough Times
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam, regional development minister Terry Redman and transport minister Bill Marmion turn the first sod at the Busselton-Margaret River Regional Airport.
Camera IconVasse MLA Libby Mettam, regional development minister Terry Redman and transport minister Bill Marmion turn the first sod at the Busselton-Margaret River Regional Airport. Credit: Chloe Fraser Busselton Dunsborough Times,

Works have started on the $69.7 million redevelopment of the Busselton-Margaret River Regional Airport.

Transport Minister Bill Marmion and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman visited Busselton on Wednesday for a sod-turning ceremony celebrating the start of works on the airport, tipped to bring benefits to agriculture, wine and tourism in the region.

Mr Marmion said redevelopment of the airport would bring “great benefits” to the region and it would be “the major aviation hub in the South West.”

“The South West is one of the most important regions in terms of tourism and the commercial and economic development of WA, so this is a significant achievement for this region to actually have an international airport of this standard,” he said.

Mr Marmion said site preparation had already begun, with construction of airside infrastructure about to start, paving the way for interstate and overseas flights.

City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the project was the result of a six-year vision and works included lengthening, strengthening, and widening the existing runway to facilitate interstate flights.

“The development of works will initially enable direct flights to interstate destinations including Melbourne and Sydney and international development destinations to South East Asia and China,” he said.

Mr Henley said the airport would have the potential to support larger firefighting aircraft, providing a back-up airport for Perth in the event of an emergency.

Margaret-River Busselton Tourism Association chief executive Pip Close dubbed the development of the airport a “major turning point” for the region.

“The region’s agriculture, wine and tourism industries are all set to benefit,” she said.

“The tourism industry will have the opportunity to shape the visitor experience and promote all of the wonderful things on offer here from the moment visitors touch down in Busselton.”

Figures from Tourism Research Australia show interstate visitors account for 7.8 per cent of the total overnight visitors to the Margaret River region.

Ms Close said direct flights into Busselton would create the potential for the the number of interstate visitors to increase and allow visitors to maximise their time in the region.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the project was also about connecting the “best of WA” with the world.

“It is about promoting our wine industry, by not only increasing our exports, but transforming our wineries into first-class international tourism destinations,” she said.

Mrs Mettam said the redevelopment of the airport would also create opportunities for new customers and the region’s farmers and fishers.

The airport project is also expected to create about 126 jobs during the construction period and about 94 ongoing jobs once the redeveloped airport is fully operational next year.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails