The City of Busselton is seeking support to repurpose $9.5 million set aside for a terminal at the Busselton Margaret River Airport to develop an arts and entertainment centre.
Funds for the terminal have been withheld by the State Government until it's proven Jetstar flights from Busselton to Melbourne are successful after a three year period.
The Busselton Arts Entertainment and Cultural Hub development is a $30.3 million project that has already secured $10.35 million in funding from the federal government and a further $10.45 million in funding from the city.
City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said it was estimated $24 million of economic benefit had been lost between March and June from the cancellation of events under COVID-19 restrictions.
"The State Government asked for feedback on projects that would stimulate regional economies," he said.
"Council requested the immediate construction of the terminal but, as this is now unlikely to occur for at least three years, has now requested consideration to repurposing the funds held for the terminal construction into the BEACH development.
"This is on the basis that this will not only immediately create jobs during construction but also deliver a first-class community asset, contribute to tourism and complement the new hotel development and linkages to the town and redeveloped foreshore.
"The arts, cultural and event sectors have been significantly affected by COVID-19."
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said they welcomed the city's recognition that the funding could be better spent on projects to stimulate the South West economy while they assessed the need for a new terminal at the airport.
"We will work with the city and other local governments in the South West in coming months to determine where this taxpayer funding is best invested," she said.
South West MLC Steve Thomas has thrown his support behind the city's proposal to repurpose the funds towards a better outcome for the entire community.
"I am really pleased the city has decided to work out the best way to expend these funds," he said.
"We have known for two years that Jetstar did not need the terminal expansion for the trial flights, so the repurposing is a great idea."
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said before giving up on funds dedicated to the airport expansion it was essential that the city had an undertaking from the state government that if funds are repurposed, that they are dedicated to the City of Busselton community.
"The Underwater Observatory, which has international and domestic tourism appeal, is a shovel ready project which has federal funds already committed and can grow jobs now, without an impact on ratepayers," she said.
"It would also support the Busselton airport flights and visitation given the largest observatory in the world would inevitably attract visitors and be a great lure to travel.
"There is also a pipeline of sporting infrastructure required for this region as well, which would create jobs and support community growth."
South West MLC Adele Farina said given the impact of COVID-19 restrictions has had in Busselton, with JobSeeker applications up 153 per cent and job losses higher than the State average, it was imperative the funding for the be spent in the City of Busselton to promote tourism and create jobs.
"The BEACH project will deliver a state-of-the-art convention, entertainment and performing arts facility, something Busselton does not presently have and would help to attract visitors to Busselton, this could be a project that is funded with these redirected funds," she said.
"The events sector, which is a major aspect of tourism in the South West, has suffered significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and funding the BEACH project would assist in bringing confidence back to an industry which delivers millions in economic benefit to regional cities and towns throughout the South West each year.
"I will be writing to the Minister to express my support of this proposal and implore the state government to redirect funds from the Regional Airport Development Scheme to the City of Busselton's BEACH project or other projects in the City of Busselton."
Have your say: How would you like the funds to be used? Or should they be withheld until construction of the terminal? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.