The State Government is planning to make an upgraded Learmonth airport Western Australia's second international gateway as part of a major development plan for the Gascoyne region.
Gascoyne Minister Tom Stephens said today he believed international scheduled and charter flights using Learmonth had enormous potential to benefit tourism and the horticulture export industry in the north of the State.
He said he would set up a special taskforce headed by North-West identity Lord Alistair McAlpine to lobby international carriers to use Learmonth as a destination for charter or scheduled flights.
The taskforce would comprise representatives of the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley Development Commissions and the WA Tourism Commission.
"Learmonth already has International Alternate Airport status and is WA's least costly alternative for upgrading to international status," Mr Stephens said.
"It is the logical choice for an international gateway on the west coast."
Mr Stephens said the cost of upgrading Learmonth to an 80-passenger international terminal was estimated at $1.2 million. Development should be phased-in as tourist numbers grew and negotiations with carriers indicated the need for more infrastructure.
"The long-term aim is regular flight services linking the demands of exporters with tourist routes," he said.
"I will also ask the taskforce to lobby the Federal Government to introduce forward porting for overseas travellers going to Learmonth.
"This would allow them to undergo Australian Customs checks at their point of departure - for example in Singapore - making it unnecessary to have Customs facilities at Learmonth."
Mr Stephens said Lord McAlpine had welcomed the proposal and was keen to start work.