Airport could bring thousands of jobs, possible rail return

A MULTI-BILLION dollar proposal for an international airport near Koo Wee Rup would bring much-needed growth to the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires and could see the re-opening of the railway line.
Cargo flights could begin taking off as soon as 2020, with passenger services soon after, according to the man behind the proposal.
Paragon Premier Investment Fund is keen to build the international airport and its chairman Alande Mustafa Safi says there’s a consortium willing to fund the $7 billion construction.
Local mayors and Bass MP Brian Paynter all agreed an airport would be good for the area.
The proposed site, at Caldermeade or Monomeith, has been labelled an area of ‘Cow dung and daisies’ by a city newspaper.
South Gippsland Shire Mayor Cr Ray Argento said the airport would be fantastic for the region.
“It’ll open up great opportunities for our local farmers to be able to easily access an airport that could take their produce anywhere around the world,” Cr Argento said.
“That would be the best benefit initially and of course later on if passenger services transpire that would lead to growth in our area and quite a few opportunities.”
The airport would bring thousands of jobs to the area, directly and indirectly, through the airport itself, adjoining fast-food restaurants, and local businesses.
A report prepared for the Cardinia Shire Council in 2013 said a domestic airport would create up to 3160 jobs.
Bass MP Brian Paynter said it could lead to other investments in the region, such as a new hospital.
“Once the airport project is firmly on the table and you get the secondary school built, the population starts to build and you put additional pressure on the government to build a new hospital, so they sort of go hand-in-hand.
“And you’ve got Western Port and the RAMSAR Wetlands, you’ve got to put all those things into consideration with the business case and if it stacks up, and if it’s viable, with all of those factors taken into consideration, then I think it should be actively pursued.”

Rail return
The airport would be a 45-minute drive from Wonthaggi as opposed to a two-hour drive to Melbourne Airport, with a good run.
And while the State Government is looking at a train line to Melbourne Airport, there’s already one sitting out here.
The disused railway line could be revived and run from Cranbourne to Nyora, and then to Wonthaggi or Leongatha.
It’s one of Bass Coast Shire Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield’s dreams to see trains return to the area.
“It might be something we could get from such a development. It might only be in increments, but anything we can get helping us with a desperately-needed public transport system down this way would be gratefully accepted,” she said.
“That rail corridor is not being used, I know there’s a rail trail down further, but for all intents and purposes, it’s still there.
“To my way of thinking, rail is the way we should go because the traffic is absolutely horrendous. The traffic starts the moment you hit the freeway and coming back from Melbourne, I don’t know if there’s a ‘good’ time to come back anymore.”
The railway could reduce the cost burden on VicRoads and councils to repair roads, and it would make it easier for more people to visit the Bass Coast and South Gippsland regions.
Mr Paynter said public transport, especially in Wonthaggi, is lacking and bringing back parts of the railway line would bring more permanent residents to Wonthaggi.
He said reinstating the railway line from Cranbourne to Caldermeade would be a “possibility” if the airport goes ahead.
“If the government is serious about developing regional areas to facilitate additional populations, then we need transport as a critical add-on.
“The existing public transport system, say if you’re living in Wonthaggi, is quite poor.
“But if you had an airport at Caldermeade and an associated train station and train line, then that would open up options for people simply driving from Inverloch or Wonthaggi to Caldermeade and catching a train into Melbourne.”
Cr Argento said if the airport project goes ahead, there would be a lot of questions surrounding connectivity in the region.
“Having an airport so close and within an hour’s commute, many of the exporters, the time it would take to load it onto a truck, take it to a train and transition it to an airport, it may be easier just to transit there via the road anyway,” he said.
“It leaves a lot of questions in relation to connectivity and how best to access an airport on this side of Victoria.
“There are plenty of options and the option of the coastal links via train is a good option as well, but those things will have to be reviewed and looked at.”
Plans for the international airport will be presented to the State Government this week.


Locals say ‘bring it on!’

We asked our Facebook community: An investment fund wants to build an international airport between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup, to be operating for cargo by 2020 and passengers soon after. What’s your opinion about having such a facility less than half an hour away, in little more than three years from now?

Here are some of the responses:
• Sharyn Noble:
I personally think it’s a great idea. It’s such a drag driving through Melbourne to get to the airport. My sister lives close to the Sunshine Coast airport and it’s fun watching the big jets land and take off.
• Andrea Gale: Huge employment boost for South Gippsland! Bring it on! Other than it’s an international group with the cash, what’s not to love about this opportunity!
• Sally Kirsch: Bring it on! I am soooo hoping this goes ahead. I would travel way more often (like I used to when I lived in Melbourne) if the airport wasn’t 2.5+ hours away like it is now – YAY!
• Andy Stewart: Long overdue… southeast Melbourne and Gippsland need an airport. It will make the trip to the airport so much easier.
• Dee Gottschalk: No! Don’t wanna be under a flight path, thanks anyway! I’d rather travel to Tulla to get away! It’s not like I fly every week!
• Margaret Clark: Can’t wait for more job opportunities for this area – a much needed boost for our economy. Make sure the roads and train line is completed first.
• Veronica Evans: I knew this was going to happen eventually when I bought my home. Personally I cannot wait. My property value will increase substantially and it will bring much needed employment into the area.