Up­grade has landed

Pilbara News - - Front Page -

The $35 mil­lion up­grade to the Kar­ratha Air­port ter­mi­nal is now of­fi­cially com­plete.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter War­ren Truss joined City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long to “cut the rib­bon” on Fri­day, re­veal­ing the re­vamped ter­mi­nal which now has the ca­pac­ity for in­ter­na­tional flights, new food and bev­er­age out­lets, a de­par­ture area that has al­most dou­bled in space and pro­vi­sion for pre­mium pas­sen­ger lounges.

The pro­ject caps off more than $100 mil­lion worth of cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in the air­port by the coun­cil, in­clud­ing a re­newal of the tar­mac, up­grades to power and a re­cy­cled wa­ter pro­gram.

Mr Truss con­grat­u­lated the City of Kar­ratha for the fully self-funded $35 mil­lion up­grade which he said pro­vided “world-class” fa­cil­i­ties for visi­tors to the re­gion.

“There are much bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties for pas­sen­gers, more lounges, bet­ter se­cu­rity ar­range­ments and the op­por­tu­nity for in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­gers some­time in the fu­ture,” he said.

“The up­graded air­port pro­vides the kind of fa­cil­i­ties that are wel­com­ing ... and gives peo­ple a very good first im­pres­sion of the re­gion.

“At this time the north­ern half of our con­ti­nent con­trib­utes a vast ma­jor­ity of our ex­ports ... but we want to make towns in this area

live­able and places where peo­ple want to visit.

“We want this to be a global cen­tre of ex­cel­lence in ar­eas of trop­i­cal medicine, agri­cul­ture, ecol­ogy and tourism.”

Pre­vi­ously the air­port ex­pe­ri­enced pas­sen­ger move­ments of up to 800,000 a year, but the slow­down in con­struc­tion has seen these num­bers drop to 659,913 in the 2014-15 fi­nan­cial year.

At the peak of the boom, there were reg­u­lar di­rect flights be­tween Kar­ratha and Mel­bourne, Syd­ney and Bris­bane to trans­port fly-in, fly-out work­ers from the east coast but those ser­vices no longer op­er­ate.

Kar­ratha is still the 16th busiest air­port in Aus­tralia and the sec­ond in WA be­hind Perth.

Cr Long said the ter­mi­nal up­grade was an im­por­tant pro­ject to con­tinue to drive the city’s econ­omy.

“With a fly-in, fly-out work­force for ma­jor projects and peak main­te­nance pe­ri­ods, we have a strong pas­sen­ger base for which to con­tinue to grow the air­port into the fu­ture,” he said.

“The Pil­bara re­gion is also a largely undis­cov­ered tourist gem with Kar­ratha Air­port the gate­way to amaz­ing sites, in­clud­ing the his­tor­i­cal town of Cos­sack, Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park and the stun­ning Mon­te­bello Is­lands.”

City of Kar­ratha chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Adams said now the up­grade was com­pleted the fo­cus would shift to route de­vel­op­ment in the Asian mar­ket, to max­imise the use of the new fa­cil­i­ties.

“Our com­mu­nity has been telling us loud and clear that they want more con­nec­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing di­rect flights to the east coast and in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions,” he said.

“We now have the ca­pac­ity to at­tract in­ter­na­tional flights to the re­gion, not just to ser­vice our res­i­dents but also to help in the growth of the Pil­bara as a unique tourism des­ti­na­tion.”

Vir­gin Aus­tralia WA/NT/ SA re­gional man­ager Tony McGrath said the car­rier did not have any new route an­nounce­ments to make but would be happy to con­sider more if there was sus­tain­able de­mand.

Mr Long said the coun­cil was also lob­by­ing air­lines and State and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments for more af­ford­able air­fares.

Mr Truss ac­knowl­edged the cost of high air­fares was an im­por­tant is­sue for lo­cals and visi­tors to Kar­ratha and through­out north­ern Aus­tralia. “The fares are be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of many fam­i­lies,” he said.

“As part of our north­ern Aus­tralia strat­egy, we have set up a work­ing group to see what we can do about mak­ing air­fares and travel more com­pet­i­tive in north­ern Aus­tralia.

“It has been sug­gested we could in­tro­duce more in­ter­na­tional flights to land in north­ern Aus­tralia and pick up pas­sen­gers to take to south­ern parts of the con­ti­nent at re­duced costs.”

Mr Long said it was an op­tion the City of Kar­ratha would con­sider in the fu­ture.

He said once the new ter­mi­nal reached its de­sign ca­pac­ity of 1.2 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, another ter­mi­nal would need to be built on the south side of the air­port at a cost of $100 mil­lion, which would re­quire out­side in­vest­ment.

Pic­ture: Marg Bertling

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Du­rack Melissa Price, City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter War­ren Truss at the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Kar­ratha Air­port up­grade last Fri­day.

Court­ney Fowler

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