Airport a satisfying win for mayor
Outgoing Mayor Ron Yuryevich has revealed the redevelopment of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Airport ranks as one of the most trying and satisfying times of his local government career.
Mr Yuryevich, who this week confirmed he would not contest the upcoming election after 19 years in the top job, reflected on the proposal to build a new runway.
The old runway ran through what is the O’Connor IGA today, and the proposal required the council to borrow $9 million.
There was heavy opposition from Goldfields Air Services principal David Horsley and Charles “Digger” Daws, who led a campaign for residents to vote in what became known as the “loan poll”.
Mr Yuryevich recalled the redevelopment of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Airport was topical when he was elected to the Shire of Boulder in 1988.
Most WA councils were looking at airport ownership.
“I pushed that we take over the airport,” he said.
“The Federal Government basically said ‘here are the keys — we’re not interested in regional airports anymore’.”
Mr Yuryevich said the existing runway was 1800m, but effectively 1500m because mullock dumps on the eastern side of town meant “planes couldn’t come down safely on the first 300m of the runway”.
“We knew we would have to build a 2000m runway because the only planes that could come into Kalgoorlie-Boulder at that time were Ansett BAe 146s,” he said.
“That meant Qantas couldn’t fly here because they had bigger planes.
“We went about it and got some prices and came up with the plan to build a relocated runway, 2000m x 35m.
“At that time, if 50 people got together and put a poll against you, that meant you had to go to a vote on whether council was allowed to borrow $9 million to do this development.
“I was just starting up in business, but I said to my wife, Linda, ‘I’ve got to close the shop for two weeks because I’ve got to doorknock and push for the yes vote because I can see this is an important part of the town’s development’.
“I did that, and along with the chamber of commerce and the council of the day, we fought a good battle and we won that vote to borrow the $9 million.”
As reported in the Kalgoorlie Miner on November 26, 1990, about 30 people assembled in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall for the count.
After more than an hour of counting, the poll recorded 1555 votes in support of the council’s proposal to borrow the cash, while 1379 opposed it.
At the time, Kalgoorlie-Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry director Hugh Gallagher said the decision would “help project Kalgoorlie into the next century”.
Fast forward to November 1992 and Mr Yuryevich had only been in the mayor’s seat a few months when he had the honour of guiding in the Ansett WA British Aerospace 146-200, which made the first official landing at the new $14.3 million airport.
Speaking this week, Mr Yuryevich said the old airport land, now known as O’Connor, was sub-divided into more than 800 blocks.
“We made about $15 million profit on that which went into paying for the Goldfields Oasis,” he said.
“Subsequent to that, we have what we call a return of investment on the operations each year.
“This year, it is $4.5 million from the airport operations.
“I would guess it is somewhere around $50 million we have brought into the rate book from the airport operations. That is a single infrastructure project which I am very proud of being part of that.”
Mr Yuryevich said the City must continue to develop infrastructure projects, despite the heavy criticism which came with them, as they would make a difference in attracting new residents to the region.
The Kalgoorlie Golf Course is the classic example, considered a white elephant by many residents despite its status as one of the world’s top desert courses.
“If we were going to make a difference between being a fly-in, flyout town and a residential town, we had to provide those facilities that will compete with the other major regional cities,” he said.
“The golf course is part of it, the Oasis is part of it and so is the new Ray Finlayson Sporting Complex … they are all multi-million dollar decisions to develop.
“But it is an investment into the future because we’ve got to make the lifestyle of Kalgoorlie-Boulder residents as pleasant as possible so when people look to transfer here they decide to bring their families.
“We wanted to turn KalgoorlieBoulder’s image around and I think we’ve done that. Our primary schools are bulging and that tells me there are young families developing in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, making it their home and that’s great for our future.”
WA Premier Colin Barnett with Mayor Ron Yuryevich.
Mr Yuryevich out near the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Airport in 1998.
Mr Yuryevich in 1992.
Mr Yuryevich speaks at Boulder Primary School’s centenary.
Australian National managing director Vince Graham with Mr Yuryevich and Shane Allnutt.