Upgrade has landed
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.
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.