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Regional Development Minister Don Punch and Liberal leader Libby Mettam argue on second airport project

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Camera IconCredit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian, Premier Roger Cook and Fisheries Minister Don Punch providing an update on the Bicton Baths swimming enclosure, in Bicton, Perth.

Regional Development Minister Don Punch has blasted his rival in defending his Government’s decision to order a second business case be developed for Busselton Airport despite the added $250,000 cost.

Responding to criticisms from Vasse MLA and Liberal Party leader Libby Mettam, Mr Punch said her claims were “disappointing and misleading”.

Ms Mettam said the extra money was wasteful given Labor had yanked $10 million from the project after a 2015 business case included a new passenger terminal that was never built.

“This funding was swiftly removed by the WA Labor Government, which has resulted in ongoing issues at the airport managing the volume of passengers on FIFO flights and the huge uptake on Jetstar’s direct flights to Melbourne,” she said.

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“A new business case will tell us what we already know: the urgent need for a new terminal, and I have no doubt the cost to deliver this critical infrastructure will now be significantly more.”

Ms Mettam said Labor had “constantly undermined” the airport since taking office in 2017.

However, Mr Punch said the second plan was needed in the wake of the pandemic and new data, including the reality of the Sydney and Melbourne flights.

As chief executive of the South West Development Commission when the first business case was developed, the minister cited $3.6m for the arrivals hall and another $1m to expand it and build more parking since then.

“The Busselton-Margaret River Airport Master Plan has been adjusted to meet these and future requirements based on actual operational data rather than projections and aspirations,” Mr Punch said.

“I will not be lectured about wasting taxpayer dollars from an Opposition who have a track record of irresponsible spending and no regard for proper business planning.”

Financial firm KPMG would undertake the new business plan in conjunction with the City of Busselton.

City chief executive Tony Nottle told the Times the 2014 case was now “out of date”.

“We now have evidence rather than projections and assumptions on which the previous business case was based,” he said.

The new business case was more focused in scope, considering just the terminal and support infrastructure to make a case for State and Federal funding, Mr Nottle said.

“The current business case being prepared takes into consideration the current economic conditions and also the considerable growth that has occurred at the Busselton-Margaret River Airport since 2014.”

The chief said the new case would make “the best possible case” for further funding.

Mr Punch said the KPMG project was a “great example” of State and local government working together with industry and a lesson for the Opposition.

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