Air­port a sat­is­fy­ing win for mayor

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS - Jar­rod Lu­cas

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.”

Pic­ture: Mary Meagher

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.

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