$200,000 Budget for preliminary works for new airport in Seaqaqa
Matei Airport runway expansion project allocated $150,000 to work together with Airports Fiji
Government has set aside funds in the 2016-2017 National Budget to begin preliminary works for the development of a new airport in or near Seaqaqa in Vanua Levu. The Attorney-General and Minister for Finance, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced in his Budget address that $200,000 was being set aside for this.
Airports Fiji Limited will be the state-owned enterprise responsible for conducting this exercise.
Airports Fiji executive chairman, Faiz Khan, said the allocation will assist them in carrying out proper feasibility studies.
However, he said they are yet to identify a suitable location which their airline partners agree to as being feasible. Vanua Levu currently has two airports, Labasa and Savusavu. However, due to the locations of the runway and the lengths, it is difficult for larger aircrafts to land. At the same time, the airports do not have night landing facilities. The tourism industry has been requesting for some time now for a new airport to be built in the North or for the runway in Savusavu to be extended. The problem for extending the runway in Savusavu would be there is little room for expansion given a hill at one end and sea at the other. And with the smaller planes flying in to the North, this means there are fewer number of visitors travelling to a location where there are so many high end resorts. It means tourists are being deterred from visiting the North, tourism operators say.
Meanwhile, Government has also allocated $150,000 to work together with Airports Fiji for the expansion of the runway at Matei Airport in Taveuni. The expansion would allow the runway to accommodate Fiji Link’s ATR 42 and 72 to improve connectivity to Taveuni. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they hope to have this completed within 18 months. Mr Khan said: “This is good news for the people of Taveuni as Government continues to drive its vision to connect people better from main lands to smaller islands and vice versa. “It will undoubtedly create economic growth in Taveuni.”
Meanwhile, Mr Khan said Government has announced in this budget is that it did what it had to do in the aftermath of unprecedented carnage of Tropical Cyclone Winston. “However, it is going to do more. We have to keep things in perspective. The Fijian economy is relatively small and its ability to react to a disaster of such a magnitude is limited. “Accordingly, Government’s actions and aspirations are highly commendable.”
Airports Fiji Limited executive chairman, Faiz Khan, said the budget allocation will assist them in carrying out proper feasibility studies.