The City of Busselton is optimistic a recent ruling that allows unrestricted flying until midnight at the Busselton-Margaret River Airport will improve chances of securing a direct route to the east coast.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson’s decision on Monday overrules that of the Environment Protection Agency, which would have restricted unlimited flying to between 6am and 11pm, and comes on the back of the City’s renewed negotiations with airlines.
Late last year, the City reviewed the route business cases and re-presented them to the Virgin Group and Jetstar, and it is now in high spirits following the minister’s decision.
“Feedback from airlines indicated that initially, services may need to operate during the newly approved hours,” Busselton City Mayor Grant Henley said.
“The determination is crucial for the City to attract RPT (regular public transport) services to and from the east coast.”
Beyond the unlimited flying period, five red-eye flights are still permitted a week, which was one of several concerns raised in parallel appeals to the EPA’s decision.
The Airport Consultative Group’s resident representative for Reinscourt and appellant to the EPA’s decision Graeme Cotterill said the decision was a let-down.
“Residents are disappointed that the minister’s decision has ignored the concerns of residents about the potential impact of night-time flights and consequent sleep disruption, and overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation as to night-time flight restrictions,” he said.
“Of course, those concerns are only relevant if an airline commits to passenger flights to the airport, which no airline has yet done.”
Almost $60 million has been spent to expand the airport to date, with the aim of attracting direct flights from the east coast.
But with no carrier yet to sign on, the State Government has put a freeze on the final piece of funding — $13 million for the new terminal — and says it will move ahead when a deal is inked with an airline, or if Qantas agrees to build a much-hyped second pilot training academy.
The first academy was announced for Toowoomba in September and a decision on the second is yet to be made.
The City has high hopes of Busselton being selected for the second academy.