Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott weighed in on the Busselton Margaret River Airport delays saying you only needed to do the maths to see the benefits.
Ms Westacott was in Busselton last week as part of a business forum called Stronger Australia, which was held in conjunction with Sky News, and has been held in regional areas throughout the county.
As part of the panel, Ms Westacott was joined by City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley, CinefestOZ and Busselton Water chairperson Helen Shervington, Rio Tinto managing director Joanne Farrell and Programmed managing director Chris Sutherland.
Ms Westacott said with around 100 million people carrying a Chinese passport the region was missing out on up to 300,000 visitors each year.
“Meanwhile Chinese tourists will go somewhere else,” she said.
Earlier this year, the state government held back Royalties for Regions funding to complete the airport terminal until an airline had committed to a route.
Without completion of the airport terminal, Ms Westacott said airlines would not commit to a route and the funding which was pulled from the project by the state government was a small amount compared to $6 billion being invested into Sydney’s second airport.
Ms Westacott said she would go back to Canberra with a message that the airport development needed to happen.
“Freight is a huge part of this and is a huge opportunity for South West produce, there is a need to direct the economy to freight.”
Ms Westacott said completing the airport terminal would bring a big tourism opportunity to the region along with exporting opportunities for the agriculture industry.
She said Indonesia was the other big market which was being missed with many of its residents being wealthy and a country which also had a growing middle class.
Programmed is an Australian company which employs 20,000 people across a range of industries for 10,000 customers, its workforce maintain and facilitate management services.
Programmed managing director Mr Sutherland said if his company had the contract for an asset like the Busselton Margaret River Airport it would create around 35 to 40 jobs for maintenance duties alone.
City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said the airport delay had caused turmoil in the region and made it difficult to negotiate with airlines.
Mr Henley said the ramifications of the decision to delay funding had held up a project which was set to be a game changer for the whole South West region.