Shire moves on emergency airstrip

Alicia PereraPilbara News
A Royal Flying Doctor Service plane.
Camera IconA Royal Flying Doctor Service plane. Credit: Supplied

The Shire of Ashburton will progress works on a Royal Flying Doctor Service airstrip near Tom Price after the State Government agreed to fund most of the project’s cost, though at a delay of several years.

Premier Mark McGowan this month wrote to the Shire committing $2.5 million in funding for an RFDS airstrip planned for a Bingarn Road site, about 13km north of the town, but advised that money would not be available until 2020-21.

The Shire’s plans for the airstrip have been on hold awaiting funding and, reaffirming support for it last week, councillors voted to re-enter tenure negotiations with Rio Tinto, which owns the land, or look into other possible sites should that not be successful.

Shire of Ashburton president Kerry White said Tom Price residents and tourists required an emergency landing airstrip nearby.

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“Major tourism icons that exists in proximity to Tom Price, including Karijini National Park, continue to bring an influx of travellers who are often not familiar with local roads and conditions,” she said.

“If medical evacuation is required, residents and tourists need to be driven some distance via ambulance to Paraburdoo Airport, which, in an emergency situation, is not ideal.”

Ms White said the delay in Government funding was “not ideal” but would give the council an opportunity to work with Rio and other partners to finalise the airstrip’s location.

The Shire has drawn up several business cases for the airstrip since the idea was first considered in 2012, but the project has been delayed by a lack of funding and issues over land tenure negotiations with Rio Tinto.

A Rio spokesman said no decision had been made in relation to the Tom Price airstrip but it would continue to work with the Shire of Ashburton on the project. The RFDS has hundreds of airstrips across WA and one of its six State bases is in Port Hedland.

Ms White said the airstrip would be completed by 2021 at the earliest.

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