By Bonny Burrows
Will a second major airport for Melbourne ever take flight in the south east? Business operators and tourists in the region are keeping their fingers crossed.
International exportation, a world full of customers and endless possibilities are on the cards should a South-East Melbourne airport materialise.
Council and businesses alike are getting excited about the opportunities a airport in this region would bring.
While not yet set in concrete, a push for the airport to be built in Kooweerup is gaining momentum, with multi-level government support and international interest.
Melbourne-based businessman Alande Mustafi Safi was recently in Dubai talking with interested parties who had said they wanted to own an airport in Melbourne’s south-east.
The Victorian Government has also eyed an airport for Melbourne’s south-east since 2002, and its 2013 population growth blueprint Plan Melbourne contains “early planning works” for the development in the case one was needed and private investment secured.
Gerard Kennedy, a director of Mr Safi’s Paragon Business Group, said the time was now- demand was here and investors were interested.
The news has got businesses and residents optimistic the long-awaited project will come to fruition.
If approved, the facility could rival Tullamarine, servicing up to 5.1 million domestic passenger movements annually and creating more than 6000 ongoing jobs and an additional 1000-plus during construction.
Jobs could boom and local businesses grow beyond belief; tourism has the potential to skyrocket.
Tynong apple producers Nine Mile Fresh co-owner Rob Thompson said a local airport would be of great benefit to the company.
Nine Mile has been supplying Coles supermarkets across the country with their fresh produce for the past 25 years.
An airport would allow further exportation and business growth, Mr Thompson said.
“As our business expands to include more and more export and the city becomes harder and harder to cross, our business can only benefit from the creation of a new airport facility,” Mr Thompson said.
Lynbrook manufactures Worldpoly – a leading producer of welding machinery- described a local airport as a great idea, and one which would have a string of benefits for local business.
“We frequently utilise airfreight to supply spare parts to clients in remote and regional areas, and not having to get these across to Tullamarine would decrease transit times significantly,” Worldpoly marketing manager Nikita Hall said.
Ms Hall said employees frequently travelled to regional areas interstate for meetings and “and an airport out this side of town would be a huge encouragement for us to go on these trips more often”.
“The thought of having to drive all the way to Tullamarine or Avalon is enough to make us reconsider the need to travel these days,” Ms Hall said.
Cardinia Shire Council is also optimistic the project could take off.
Mayor Brett Owen said a Kooweerup airport had the potential to deliver “significant” economic and social benefits to the shire and broader areas.
“Cardinia Shire Council believes the development of a south east Melbourne airport will be essential in supporting population and employment growth in the region and in protecting Melbourne’s liveability and competitiveness,” councillor Owen said.
“Possible benefits include boosting tourism by delivering millions of passengers annually to the doorstep of Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland, helping to unlock the potential of the region’s fresh food and agricultural industrials to new and emerging markets and opening new opportunities and delivering significant efficiency gains for local export businesses.”
Mr Kennedy said that financial investment might not be around the corner, but it was something he was confident would occur.
“Someone will fund it if the Middle East doesn’t – it’s not a new idea,” Mr Kennedy said.