How Busselton’s airport project is helping the South-West take off

When Busselton Shire Council decided to build a regional aerodrome in the early 1990s (replacing a small and unsuitable 1940s-era airstrip), the primary users were envisaged to be general aviation operators.

However, the shire (now the City of Busselton Council) had another, longer-term vision – creating an asset capable of boosting regular public transport (RPT) services, driving population growth, and growing the local economy.

Twenty-three years after it opened the Busselton Margaret River Regional Airport (BMRRA), the council is well on the way to realising its bold vision of providing an air transport focus for anticipated growth in tourism throughout WA’s South-West Region.

The impetus to realising the BMRRA plan was a 2010 council decision giving in-principle support to expanding the existing airport and preparing a business case for expansion.

An Airport Master Plan 2016-36 was then prepared to establish and update the framework for the future planning and development of BMRRA to ensure it met the City’s strategic objectives laid out in the Economic Development Strategy 2016-26.

A Project Management Team (PMT) was created to consult with peak community organisations, aviation, tourism and business sectors and government agencies about the BMRRA Development Project, operations and potential impacts.

Twelve neighbouring local governments were enlisted to support the redevelopment, and regional tourism associations contributed to a special marketing fund to help raise public awareness.

A similarly wide net was cast to help meet the $72 million redevelopment cost.

The State Government contributed $44.5 million through Royalties for Regions and $10 million through the Regional Airports Development Scheme to fund a new terminal and $500,000 towards terminal planning and design. 

The Federal Government contributed $9.78 million towards the development and $1.35 million towards a dedicated air freight hub within the airport precinct.

The City of Busselton itself has contributed $9.1 million and the South West Development Commission and Tourism WA contributed $300,000 and $250,000 respectively. 

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the postponement of a proposed Busselton-Melbourne service (along with the construction of the new terminal), but the BMRRA now has the capacity to handle interstate and international flights and is ready to support a growing tourism and freight industry in the South West.

In June, the project was recognised with a 2020 National Award for Local Government in the category of Boosting Productivity through Infrastructure, with the judges’ panel commending Busselton’s project management.

“The project demonstrated excellence in addressing the longer-term infrastructure priorities of the Busselton community and surrounding area … it was thoroughly planned and considered and displayed clear evidence of collaboration and understanding of the community’s needs.”

Busselton is now in the running for the overall National Award for Local Government (NALG) to be announced at ALGA’s Special Local Roads and Transport Congress in Wagga Wagga NSW on 16-17 November.

The awards highlight innovative and resourceful solutions implemented by local governments to make a difference to their local communities – and are sponsored by the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications.