Australian Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann said he was disappointed the state government had delayed completion of the Busselton Margaret River Airport, during a visit to the region last week.
Mr Cormann said the federal government always looked for ways to support the regions and provided additional funding for important economic and productivity enhancing infrastructure.
“It is always disappointing when a state government does not follow through on the projects that we support with substantial investment,” he said.
Forrest MP Nola Marino said the federal government had put nearly $10 million into the project to make the airport international freight standard.
“To see the state government then refusing to fund the actual terminal for both incoming passengers and the freight side of things is particularly disappointing from our point of view,” she said.
Ms Marino said the airport was a critical project that was part of the national freight task along with other projects including the Port of Bunbury and Bunbury Outer Ring Road.
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said they noted some real potential for freight charter from the Busselton-Margaret River Airport.
“Runway works to enable larger aircraft to land at the airport were completed under our government,” she said.
“The passenger terminal has been put on hold until a passenger airline can be secured.
“I am not aware of any sheep carcasses, oranges or blueberries that require a passenger terminal: any dedicated freight services would be able to use the airport with the recently completed runway upgrades.”
Ms MacTiernan said when it came to mixed passenger/freight flights, their position remained that it would not be financially responsible to spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars to build a new passenger terminal in the hope that planes will come.
“Building the terminal alone will not increase long-term economic growth and jobs in the region: only committed services to the airport will,” she said
“The state government would continue to support efforts to attract airlines to the new airport.”
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said if the state government wanted to make sure taxpayers money was viable it was essential to focus on promoting the route and the region instead of threatening to pull funds.
Ms Mettam said the construction would create 94 new direct and indirect jobs a year for the next 30 years, as well as, benefit tourism and small businesses in the region.
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