Call for terminal build at Busselton

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Workers board a plane at Busselton Airport.
Camera IconWorkers board a plane at Busselton Airport. Credit: Busselton Dunsborough Times

An action group of tourism operators has called for the wider South West to back demands for immediate construction of a passenger terminal at Busselton’s airport.

The Busselton Airport Action Group says tourism and the local economy in all directions from the airport stand to benefit from incoming interstate flights, with a Jetstar service from Melbourne due to start next year.

Action group spokesman and Jet Adventure tours operator Peter Kalbfell told the Times the Bunbury area would benefit greatly from interstate tourists adding to its Perth visitor market.

“South West residents have to understand the benefits to them of the airport flying to Melbourne and Sydney and eventually Singapore.”

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His comments come as WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said international flights weren’t on the radar.

City of Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan was enthusiastic about the flight news, and hoped to grow Bunbury exports to South-East Asia.

But he didn’t believe the terminal was needed before the end of a “three-year trial” indicated by Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

“From Bunbury’s point of view, we are so confident the airport will be a success and look forward to more infrastructure,” he said. “I congratulate City of Busselton for what they’ve done.

“They’re underwriting flights, as I understand it, which is courageous.”

Tourism groups Australia’s South West and the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association have so far also declined to push for the building of the passenger terminal — much to the ire of the action group.

Mr Kalbfell recently said tourism organisations were too close to the State Government, hence the call for fellow operators to make some noise.

“They can’t start negotiations (with international carriers) until the terminal is constructed,” he said.

“Alannah MacTiernan is deliberately holding back the region by not releasing the funds.”

Australia’s South West chief executive Catrin Allsop was confident “existing upgrades to the airport terminal that have been committed will be sufficient for the current budget-carrier passenger experience”.

ASW expected about 400 visitors per week to disperse across the region.

MRBTA co-chief Steve Harrison said the industry must work together to meet visitors’ expectations on arrival.

The matter arose in State Parliament on Tuesday, with Capes MLAs Libby Mettam and Terry Redman issuing a formal call for Ms MacTiernan to release funds previously pledged once a carrier was confirmed.

Ms MacTiernan said the terminal would be reviewed after Jetstar’s three-year flights plan concluded.

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