25/09/2015 - 15:25

Karratha opens expanded airport

25/09/2015 - 15:25

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Karratha has become the second regional centre in Western Australia after Onslow to complete a major airport upgrade this year, with Busselton and Port Hedland set to commence projects that will lift total spending to about $240 million.

Karratha opens expanded airport

Karratha has become the second regional centre in Western Australia after Onslow to complete a major airport upgrade this year, with Busselton and Port Hedland set to commence projects that will lift total spending to about $240 million.

The $35 million upgrade of Karratha’s terminal is due to be officially opened tonight, capping off a $100 million investment in the airport’s infrastructure over the past decade.

The airport currently handles about 800,000 passengers per year, making it the second busiest in WA, and has been designed to handle a peak passenger flow of about 1.2 million passengers.

At its peak in 2012, the airport handled 900,000 passengers.

The revamped terminal includes capacity for international flights, a departure area that has almost doubled in space, and provision for premium passenger lounges.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the downturn in resources construction activity had affected airport usage, but growth in iron and LNG production provided a solid footing.

He said the town was keen to rebuild its tourism industry, which was decimated by the high costs and labour shortages of recent years.

“The Pilbara region is also a largely undiscovered tourist gem with Karratha airport the gateway to amazing sites including the historical town of Cossack, Karajini national park and the stunning Montebello Islands,” Mr Long said.

The project caps off $100 million of capital investments in the airport by the council, including a renewal of the tarmac, upgrades to power and an award-winning recycled water program.

While Karratha has self-funded its airport expansion, the Town of Port Hedland has struck a deal to privatise its airport to help pay for planned upgrades costing $40 million.

Port Hedland voted last month to privatise its airport through a 50-year leasing deal with AMP Capital and Infrastructure Capital Group.

The 50-year lease is for a total transaction value of $205 million, comprising $165 million up-front and a $40 million capital spending commitment over five years.

Port Hedland airport has about 70 flights a week, and had 512,000 passengers in the year to June 2014.

While Port Hedland is heading down the leasing path, the City of Busselton recently secured state government funding for a $59.7 million upgrade of its airport.

The Busselton upgrade will include the lengthening and widening of the runway and expansion of the car park and terminal.

The changes are designed to accommodate direct interstate flights, which are expected to bolster tourism activity in the state’s South West.

It follows a major $42 million upgrade at Onslow airport, funded by Chevron and the state government.

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