Kudos for Cunderdin airport

Cally Dupe and Geoffrey ThomasCountryman
WA Farmers president Tony York said the project could open up export opportunities for local farmers.
Camera IconWA Farmers president Tony York said the project could open up export opportunities for local farmers. Credit: WA News

Cunderdin’s farming community has welcomed news a $200 million airport upgrade is being planned for the Wheatbelt town.

WAFarmers president Tony York said the airport could potentially open up exports and slash freight costs.

“Investing in this airport would see the creation of a new local asset which the community, and State as a whole, could use to their advantage,” he said.

“It could also open up possible export opportunities for the future and reduce freight and fuel costs associated with trucking goods and livestock to and from Perth Airport.”

WA-based Ascent Aviation is well advanced in plans to redevelop Cunderdin Airport with a 2600m runway and full international landing aids to meet Perth Airport’s diversion needs.

As the story broke at the weekend, over-the-fence chatter went into overdrive with farmers floating future export opportunities.

Grain grower Frank O’Hare, who also runs Merino sheep at his Cunderdin property, said the project, while long-term, would have a range of positive potential outcomes for the small country town.

“There’s a lot of produce and freight which goes by air at the moment,” he said.

“It would be a great example of decentralisation of business and bringing it into the Wheatbelt.

“It has a fabulous potential outcome for the community, for the survival of a small country town, for employment in the region.”

Cunderdin farmer Frank OHare said the project would be a great example of de-centralisation of business.
Camera IconCunderdin farmer Frank OHare said the project would be a great example of de-centralisation of business. Credit: Jo Fulwood

Cunderdin farmer David Beard said the proposal was exciting but any potential benefits surrounding freight would be seen “far later down the track”.

“Airports provide enormous freight potential but the first stage is to get construction under way,” he said.

Ascent Aviation founder and managing director Benjamin Reid said while the first phase of the redevelopment was as an emergency alternative to Perth Airport, it could one day include a pilot training college and cargo handling facility.

Most international flights carry extra fuel in case they need to divert to Adelaide or Exmouth and beyond in bad weather.

But some of those sites are up to three hours from Perth, whereas Cunderdin is a little more than 15 minutes away by plane and it is not affected by the same weather that affects the coast.

The town, 158km from Perth, is also located on the Perth to Kalgoorlie rail link meaning a high-speed connection is possible.

Mr Reid said the Shire of Cunderdin and the Wheatbelt Development Commission had been very supportive as had the WA Department of State Development.

Cunderdin Shire president Dennis Whisson said the benefits were significant for the Shire, region and State.

“Having the rail and highway as our transport corridors, future opportunities will be endless,” he said.

State Development, Transport and Innovation Minister Bill Marmion said the Government “supports the proposal’’.

“Over the last eight years, Perth has grown into a mature city, so it’s absurd that a wide-body plane still needs to be diverted all the way to Adelaide when there is serious inclement weather, ” he said.

“A local alternative landing site will bring benefits to travellers, aviation companies and importantly the Cunderdin community.”

Nationals leader Brendon Grylls said it was exciting to think what such a proposal could mean for the Wheatbelt.

“Diversifying the economies of our regions ensures our country towns can continue to grow,” he said.

Mr Grylls said “as a condition of government” he expected “development of any new facility will mean short-term jobs for local contractors and businesses”.

State Government Wheatbelt Development Commission chief executive Wendy Newman said the project would benefit the area’s aviation industry.

“It ticks all the boxes and is a fantastic idea,” she said.

“It is strongly aligned to our hopes and aspirations for an aviation industry in the region.” ​

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