$60m airport pledge – Exporters’ joy at Labor plan

SOUTH-East and Eastern primary producers will have direct freight access to vital Asian markets under a runway upgrade promised by Federal Labor.

Labor Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development spokesperson Catherine King and Franklin MP and spokesperson for agriculture Julie Collins last month announced a Federal Labor Government would provide $60 million for a runway upgrade at Hobart Airport.

Hobart Airport CEO Norris Carter said Tasmania was the only state not to have a Code E standard runway.

“While the runway has been long enough for widebody aircraft, it has not been strong enough for sustained regular services, but this undertaking will make this a thing of the past,” Mr Carter said.

“KPMG figures show it will create some $120 million in economic stimulus each year, through direct freight services to vital markets such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as non-stop international passenger flights to Asia and beyond, Antarctic links and defence opportunities.”

The airport is hopeful the proposal will receive bipartisan support.

“Upgrading the runway would be an absolute game-changer for Tasmanian farmers,” Reid Fruits spokesperson Tony Coad said.

“For Reid Fruits in particular, it would cut two days off travel times to some markets. When you’re talking about perishable crops like cherries, every second counts.

“If we upgrade the runway, we can increase the number and size of the markets we can sell Tasmanian produce to. It means the sky’s the limit for Tasmanian exporters.”

Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fisherman’s Association spokesman Michael Blake said the runway upgrade would help future-proof his industry.

“It means our seafood, and especially our rock lobsters, within a matter of hours can go from catch of the day in Tasmania to restaurant tables in new markets that we’ve previously never been able to reach,” Mr Blake said.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve had some challenges with our export markets, but the best way to deal with that is to be flexible.

Upgrading our freight links means that we can respond quickly, export to a wide range of markets and still get fantastic outcomes for Tasmania.”

The older part of the Hobart Airport runway is only strong enough for Code C narrowbody aircraft, which limits larger aircraft like the Cathay Pacific freighter to flying from Hobart to the mainland, rather than to Asia.

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