Transport Minister Murray Criddle today opened the newly upgraded Margaret River Airstrip giving the Royal Flying Doctor Service day and night access for emergency evacuations and making it possible to introduce a regular commercial air service from Perth early next month.
"The new strip will provide a potentially life-saving service for the Margaret River region as well as giving this rapidly-expanding area the chance to tap into the benefits of up to five regular flights a week," Mr Criddle said.
He said the new service would include Busselton, using a 10-seater King Air Beechcraft.
The upgrade included sealing the strip and the installation of lighting and fencing.
Mr Criddle said the project was funded by the Shire of Busselton and a grant from Transport's Regional Airport Development Scheme (RADS), and involved a range of community fund-raising initiatives.
Transport formed RADS in 1995 to provide airport infrastructure to regional Western Australia and since its inception the scheme has provided in excess of $10 million worth of funding for various initiatives.
Mr Criddle praised the extensive involvement of local people in the completion of the upgrade.
"Much of the work on the airstrip has been carried out by volunteer labour with equipment loaned by local contractors, and over $75,000 was raised by many local organisations as diverse as the Lions Club and the Margaret River choral group," he said.
"Without these valuable contributions, the costs associated with the upgrade would have been much greater. The whole community is to be congratulated for their whole-hearted support for this important project."
Apart from the advantages of having 24-hour access for Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft, the new strip has the potential to boost tourism in the area.
"A return flight will take little more than an hour.
"The shire and local committee are to be congratulated in their foresight in having this upgrade carried forward."
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