25 September 2013 © David Eyre
WA Transport Minister Troy Buswell yesterday announced the release of the draft State Aviation Strategy, the first developed for Western Australia.
WA covers a massive one-third of the Australian continent, and is heavily dependent on reliable aviation services.
Western Australia’s economy is growing at a rate which is twice the national average, with WA generating 46% of Australia’s merchandise exports by value – more than New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland combined. Much of this growth comes from the unprecedented growth of the resources industry, and these companies have a heavy reliance on FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) workers. WA’s population is also growing at twice the national average rate, with more than 1,000 people moving to Western Australia each week.
Air services in Western Australia have therefore experienced extraordinary growth, which has placed a great deal of strain on airport infrastructure and planning.
Forecasts of WA aviation activity have consistently and significantly underestimated actual growth. Perth Airport’s 2004 forecast passenger levels for 2026 were reached in 2012, and their 2009 forecast was also achieved five years early.The Pilbara regional airports are the fastest growing airports in Australia, with passenger movements increasing at annual rates of 20%. Newman Airport experienced growth of 36 per cent in 2011-12.
Perth Airport is the fastest growing of the capital city airports, with passenger numbers increasing at near 10% per annum, which is double the growth rates of Sydney and Melbourne.
The document notes:
“it is imperative that Perth Airport now needs to bring forward the development of a third runway to avoid damaging and disruptive delays to traffic, particularly during the weekday morning take-off and afternoon landing peak periods depended on by many of the State’s resources and energy industries.”
“While aviation is largely a matter of Commonwealth jurisdiction, the risk to WA’s economic and social development from our air services and airports failing to keep up with demand is now too great for the State not to play a more active role in the aviation sector.”
Key actions from the draft strategy include:
- Improve the reliability and scope of aviation forecasting
- Improve airport planning across the State
- Provide for the long-term aviation and airport capacity requirements of the Perth metropolitan region, the State Government will cooperate with Airservices Australia and other Commonwealth agencies in planning studies to locate suitable site for a future second Perth metropolitan airport and a future second general aviation airport.
- Assist in the timely development of infrastructure at Perth Airport
- Improve infrastructure planning and development at regional airports
- The State Government will take up with the Commonwealth the disproportionate cost of aviation security borne by passengers at small regional airports and seek an approach to aviation security cost recovery based on network pricing.
- The State Government will encourage private sector investment in, and management of, regional airports to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
- Foster the development of tourism through improved aviation services
- Encourage competition and seek to reduce the high cost of intrastate airfares
- DoT will conduct a mid-term regulated route review, to be completed by February 2014, and recommend to the Minister for Transport whether to exercise the additional up-to-five-year option to renew the existing Deeds for Albany, Esperance, Carnarvon, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia, Leinster, Wiluna, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Leonora, Laverton and Exmouth.
- DoT will conduct a tender in 2013 for the provision of air services in the Kimberley for an initial five-year term.
- The Department of Training and Workforce Development, working closely with the Department of State Development, DoT and industry stakeholders, will be tasked with development of aviation training and related services in WA.
The strategy also includes the need to identify a suitable emergency/ diversion airport for Perth. Currently, when Perth is closed due to inclement weather, flights have to divert to Learmonth, Port Hedland, Darwin or Adelaide. The Government will identify an airport within an hour’s flight time of Perth for diversions. Candidates would therefore include Geraldton, Busselton and Kalgoorlie.
The strategy dismisses the use of RAAF Pearce as either a second Perth airport or as a diversion airport , as the base is critical to RAAF and RSAF training operations and its airspace is already busy with training aircraft and Special Air Service Regiment support aircraft.
The WA Strategy complements the National Aviation Policy White Paper and the other transport strategies. It has been prepared by the Department of Transport in consultation with airport owners, airlines and the resources industry. It is open for public comment until 5pm on Monday 23 December 2013.