If the Bega Valley Shire is to capitalise on its potential for growth, it is critical that significant investment is made in the development of the Merimbula Airport.
The Bega Valley Shire Council recognises this fact which underpinned the creation of the Merimbula Airport Master Plan in 2013.
Key aspects of the plan include aeronautical and non-aeronautical infrastructure at an estimated cost of $12million and construction of a visitor interpretation and information centre plus parking at an estimated $4m.
Council is poised to make a serious pitch for funding and has identified the airport redevelopment as a high priority project.
It is buoyed by the more recent availability of state and federal government funding for regional airports and believes if it were to apply for the funds there’s a probability for success.
“Council is well placed to lodge a funding application as soon as possible," said general manager Leanne Barnes in a report to council’s July 30 council meeting.
As a result of the council being in unanimous agreement, a full funding application and costing process will commence.
The report identifies there is significant scope to grow tourist passenger numbers and a comparison with other NSW tourist destinations highlights this.
A tiny 1.4 per cent of tourists arrive here by plane well short of Port Macquarie at 9.9 per cent, Byron Bay at 18 per cent and Coffs Harbour at 7.1 per cent.
But the council has identified in its airport master plan a range of opportunities that could well bolster Merimbula’s tourist passenger numbers.
“There are a range of opportunities to link with Canberra Airport, the cruise ship industry and others to grow tourism usage,” the reports says.
It also points to the fact that the shire is one of 15 national targeted Wilderness locations but as yet little capital has been derived from that. “This is a strength that has yet to be fully realised for local operators and there is a very positive link with Australia’s Capital Region and the Australian Alps,” the report says.
There is potential for Merimbula airport to piggy back Canberra Airport’s draft Master Plan for international flights.It would open a new market for Merimbula if a Canberra - Merimbula flight was introduced.
According to the report Canberra Airport’s draft plan has Merimbula listed as medium term (2019-2024) focus for Canberra airport.
Council has met with staff from Canberra Airport and continues to discuss opportunities this may deliver,” Ms Barnes said.
Other key areas for growth to emerge from a Canberra-Merimbula air link include medical, business, education and government.
The development of Eden Port as a cruise ship destination provides an excellent opportunity for marketing fly/cruise packages, Ms Barnes said.
The proposal to merge the RSL Club and Club Sapphire “provides an excellent opportunity to grow business/conference travel should this eventuate,” Ms Barnes said.
The Merimbula Airport Master Plan also focuses on infrastructure development within the airport precinct which proposes the establishment of a regional tourism interpretation centre based on the Blue Mountains centre. It would include a Cultural Heritage Centre, visitor information centre, restaurant and retail outlet and offices and meeting space.
Key aspects of the plan to be presented for funding include an expanded airport terminal including car parking; expanded aprons, 200m northern runway extension; Arthur Kaine Drive realignment if required; general aviation hangar development and long stay parking.
Ms Barnes said that there had been extensive consultation in the development of the master plan and it was a now timely to progress the funding applications to both tiers of government.
“The recent announcements of potential funding are timely for the realisation of the key directions and precinct developments outlined in the Merimbula Airport Master Plan,” Ms Barnes said.
“In order to take advantage of these positive announcements council is well placed to loadge a funding application as soon as possible.”
At its July 30 meeting council resolved to support the lodging of a funding application to the NSW State Government for $15m to allow for the implementation of the Merimbula Airport Master Plan.