JUST under two years ago, the owners of Broome International Airport must have wondered at the sense of their investment.
They had spent up big ahead of a proposed relocation that remained on the drawing board after 10 years of land access delays, and with the collapse of Ansett, were facing a loss of up to 60 per cent of their trade.
But last month BIA posted its highest April passenger movement figures on record, up 12 per cent on April 2001 figures.
The numbers come from a decision to renovate and upgrade the original airport facilities, prompting Qantas to commence direct flights from Melbourne, and Virgin Blue to plan for non-stop services from Adelaide.
SARS and global security concerns during a school holiday period that included Easter and Anzac Day long weekends also boosted Broome’s profile.
BIA group chief executive officer Kim Maisey said the decision to upgrade the existing freehold land site had been a catalyst for tourism in general in Broome.
A 1991 agreement with the Shire of Broome to relocate the airport north of the town, was followed by millions of dollars of engineering, environmental and meteorological assessments before a February 2002 Federal Government environmental approval.
But unresolved Native Title issues between the Kimberley Land Council and the WA Government prompted the BIA group to take action.
The group went ahead with onsite extensions and a runway repair and upgrade on an undertaking the airport would not be required to relocate for at least 15 years.
The runway repairs closed the airport for two weeks last November and, although in the quieter season for most operators, caused some inconvenience for the local community.
BIA is now upgrading parking and passenger terminal facilities to provide greater security and convenience.
Mr Maisey said the group would not be surprised if there was some pressure to relocate now that a hearing date had been set for the land claim covering much of Broome.
However, he was confident of the undertaking and the community’s recognition of the benefit of BIA’s initiatives.
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