The Busselton Margaret River Airport was given another boost of almost $3 million to develop stage one of an airfreight hub within the airport precinct.
The federal government have funded $1.47 million through the Building Better Regions grant which will be matched by the City of Busselton.
Forrest MP Nola Marino said the money would be used for the next stage of the freight component at the airport which would benefit the South West and broader economy.
“I have enormous confidence in this project and I have from day one,” she said.
“I do not think everybody understands the transforming nature of this airport, what its freight and tourism capacity will do, not just for the South West but the whole state.
“The first ever airfreight hub in the South West, the development of seven industrial lots, will be one of the most key infrastructure projects in WA, and in time, more broadly Australia.
“As you know this Margaret River region is an international brand already, not only does it have some of the most fabulous produce in this region, we also have those involved in tourism and accommodation.
“There are great opportunities here, and this airport with its freight capacity is one of the key drivers ahead and I am absolutely delighted there is this investment by the federal government in this region.”
Mrs Marino said she was as committed as the City of Busselton and Shire of Augusta Margaret River to make the airport project happen and to make sure the opportunities that exist are fully realised.
City of Busselton deputy mayor John McCallum said the airfreight hub would be the first such hub established in the South West and a real coup for expanding the airport facility.
Mr McCallum said creating a dedicated freight precinct would enable cold storage and modern distribution facilities giving South West producers an opportunity to expand their export horizons across Australia and South East Asia.
“Now we just need to get cracking on the works, it is our hope that by late next year we would be in a position to offer these first seven serviced lots for private sector lease.”
South West MLC Steve Thomas said freight was critical to the airport project because the federal business case and applications for federal funding were based on freight more so than passengers.
“We have not seen an airline signup for passenger flights as yet but there is certainly interest in the private sector to deliver freight services in and out of the South West,” he said.
“That might be the services that underpins the airport for the time being if there is a delay in getting passenger services.
“It is a fantastic announcement today and it will put pressure on the state government to continue supporting the airport.”
The state government want confirmation an airline would commit to passenger flights before it released funding to complete the airport which was given to the city by the previous state government.
Mr Thomas said regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan told parliament the city had until the end of this month to make significant progress to secure an airline.
“The timeline is too tight and it is very hard to see they would get anyone signed up at the last minute under pressure and I do not think it is necessarily a good thing to have things that tight,” he said.
“It is only a couple of weeks away, the capacity of freight to underpin the whole project is absolutely critical, so this is absolutely fantastic to see.
“There still needs to be more negotiation, the state needs to get behind that negotiation and that means particularly Tourism WA, being heavily invested in this as a destination for passengers.”