Foreign Minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, made a pre-emptive strike on the federal bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, arriving at Merimbula Airport on Monday morning to meet with local business people in the company of the sitting member, Dr Peter Hendy.
Bega Valley Shire Council staff, councillors, representatives of Bega Cheese, Eden Cruise, and local business people met with Ms Bishop to press their case for upgrading the airport. No money was promised, but there is hope that by the end of the eight-week campaign for the federal election, money may be found for the airport.
Council has applied for $1.2 million in funding to be used for security, baggage handling and extension of the runway at the northern end to allow Q400 aircraft to land, council general manager, Leanne Barnes explained.
Ms Bishop heard from Natalie Godward, of Cruise Eden about the opportunities for the area to be part of the booming cruise industry and the importance of flights to not only bring tourists to and from the area but also to take much sought after local produce directly and quickly to Asian markets.
There was talk of Merimbula’s position as a tourism centre and the new flights from Singapore to Canberra that could herald a new wave of tourism and export opportunities for the region.
Ms Bishop was quick to highlight the upgraded Free Trade Agreement with Singapore that had been announced last week.
Asked what the coalition had to offer the area, Ms Bishop said: “The coalition has an economic plan for the future based on providing small business opportunities through export deals and ensuring necessary infrastructure and providing them with the opportunities to grow their businesses, employ more people and reinvest in their businesses.”
“People are looking to export to Asia and looking to provide new tourism jobs for a booming tourism industry so this area reflects the coalition’s overall plan for the future, more growth and more jobs.”
Asked specifically about the role small airports, such as Merimbula could play in economic development, Ms Bishop said that Peter Hendy had been seeking federal government support for an upgrade for the airport.
“So this airport provides greater access for aircraft from other destinations which mean expanding the tourism industry, businesses and business opportunities and providing that regional support for business growth.”
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