Air­port move in spot­light

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Tam­lyn Jolly

WITH­OUT mak­ing com­mer­cial use of the land sur­round­ing the pro­posed new re­gional air­port site, there is no busi­ness sense in re­lo­cat­ing the Richards Bay air­port from its ex­ist­ing site.

This ac­cord­ing to an Exco pre­sen­ta­tion last week by the com­pany tasked with un­der­tak­ing the pre-fea­si­bil­ity study for the re­lo­ca­tion to the ear­marked new site west of the N2, be­tween Em­pan­geni and eNse­leni Na­ture Re­serve.

How­ever, com­mer­cially util­is­ing the land sur­round­ing the air­port struc­ture would be ‘cause for good news, but must be cau­tious’.

Risks as­so­ci­ated with the iden­ti­fied 3 000ha site in­clude a pro­posed wind farm as a com­pet­ing project, pow­er­line in­fra­struc­ture which can be mit­i­gated but is not ideal, and mar­ket de­mand un­cer­tainty.

Fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the need to re­lo­cate the air­port in­clude ticket pric­ing, con­ve­nience and ac­ces­si­bil­ity, safety and se­cu­rity, re­li­a­bil­ity and tech­ni­cal is­sues.

A pro­jected pes­simistic sce­nario for re­main­ing at the ex­ist­ing site would see the current pas­sen­ger ar­rivals fig­ure of 30 300 an­nu­ally or 29% mar­ket share, in­crease to 46 000 or 37% mar­ket share.

A pro­jected op­ti­mistic sce­nario would see pas­sen­ger ar­rivals in­crease to 58 500 or 45% mar­ket share.

With 2022 as the key date for the pos­si­ble open­ing of the new air­port, pro­jected ar­rivals fig­ures are 80 000 an­nu­ally, in­creas­ing to 140 000 by 2041.

This is dou­ble the num­ber of ar­rivals at Pietermaritzburg air­port.

A num­ber of un­known air traf­fic fac­tors must be taken into ac­count, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble clo­sure of Dur­ban’s Vir­ginia air­port and the open­ing of Mkhuze air­port.

A to­tal of 533ha would be re­quired for the air­port, in­clud­ing run­way, ter­mi­nal build­ing and com­mer­cial and re­tail zone.

The cost of ac­quir­ing this land is es­ti­mated to be be­tween R85-mil­lion and R105-mil­lion.

De­vel­op­ment costs are es­ti­mated at R500-mil­lion, while an es­ti­mated R30 to R50-mil­lion would be gen­er­ated from the dis­posal of the ex­ist­ing site. Pro­jected rev­enues are be­tween R12and R15-mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2022, and be­tween R30- and R52-mil­lion by 2041.

To­tal op­er­at­ing costs would be be­tween R15- and R18-mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2022 and R30- to R45 mil­lion by 2041.

Ac­cord­ing to the op­ti­mistic sce­nario, the new air­port would start to turn a profit only from 2048.

How­ever, cat­alytic ben­e­fits would be en­joyed by rolling out com­mer­cial land us­age and res­i­den­tial units on land sur­round­ing the new air­port.

This would cause a net profit value of R170- to R438-mil­lion an­nu­ally, but it was de­ter­mined there is a strong need for ad­di­tional mar­ket re­search for such us­age.

No al­ter­na­tive sites have been iden­ti­fied and when it was sug­gested the mu­nic­i­pal­ity look be­yond its bound­aries in iden­ti­fy­ing a po­ten­tial site, Mayor Mdu Mh­longo said that was a ‘non­starter be­cause the air­port would be­come a provin­cially or district co-or­di­nated en­tity’.

Coun­cil­lor Mdu Zikhali re­quested a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into graves on the iden­ti­fied site.

Coun­cil­lor Louis Fourie said the DA op­posed the new air­port project.

Mayor Mh­longo said he is in­clined to go with the op­ti­mistic sce­nario.

The de­ci­sion was taken for the Mu­nic­i­pal Man­ager to en­gage with farm­ers on the iden­ti­fied land, re­gard­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of land ex­pro­pri­a­tion.

Cau­tious op­ti­mism as op­tions are weighed

Dave Sa­vides

Stud­ies are on­go­ing re­gard­ing the re­lo­ca­tion of Richards Bay air­port

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