Confirmation of passenger flights to and from the Eastern States is still looming with an airline yet to commit flying into the Busselton Margaret River Airport.
City of Busselton chief executive officer Mike Archer remains confident it will be only a matter of weeks before an announcement is made.
Mr Archer said while negotiations looked favourable, they remained ongoing at this point in time and a formal memorandum of understanding had not been signed with an airline provider.
“There has been significant interest shown in the facility by both interstate and international providers and meetings are ongoing,” he said.
“We remain optimistic that a commercial arrangement will be formalised with an airline provider(s) in the forthcoming weeks with the view to commencing passenger services directly to and from the Eastern States toward the end of this year.”
Detailed design work associated with the new terminal has been completed and underground services were installed but the project has faced delays.
Mr Archer said construction of the terminal building was on hold pending direction from the Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Ms MacTiernan said it remained the case that no major airline has made what could be described as a real commitment to service the airport.
She said significant taxpayer funding had gone into this project and the government wanted to see a return on that investment through actual interstate air services and increased tourist numbers.
“However, it is financially prudent to wait until we have a reasonable level of comfort that an airline will service the airport before committing further expenditure to the project.”
South West MLC Steve Thomas said the focus of the airport should be freight, and the funding announced by the federal government in 2016 was predicated on freight transport rather than passengers.
He was concerned that this pivotal part of the project was not receiving the priority it needed to underpin the entire proposal.
“The current focus on passenger flights underlines the threat by the State Government to defer the funding for the airport terminal, as highlighted by Ms MacTiernan,” he said.
“There has already been a $1.4 million reduction in state funding which the City has agreed to return, but this could reach $10 million if the terminal was not to proceed.
“A focus on outgoing freight, including our niche high quality agricultural products, will help sell this proposal. An expanded terminal would be critical for both freight and eventually passengers.”
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