Torres Shire Council Mayor Pedro Stephen, Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh and Torres Strait Regional Authority Chairperson John (Toshie) Kris at the official opening of the Horn Island airport upgrade.
AUSTRALIAN, State and Local government agencies marked a significant milestone last Monday with the official opening of the $9.9 million upgrade to the Horn Island Airport. Horn Island (Ngurupai) Airport provides a critical link between Torres Strait island communities and is the major gateway for travel in the region.
Torres Strait Regional Authority Chairperson Toshie Kris said the project would have a significant positive impact on the region, with the airport now providing capacity for larger passenger aircraft and heavy freight.
“Torres Strait residents and visitors to the region rely heavily the Horn Island Airport for all aspects of their livelihood and wellbeing,” Mr Kris said.
“There are no other existing passenger transport systems, such as road or rail, between the regions nearest metropolitan city, Cairns and the Torres Strait.”
He said three tiers of government had achieved a positive outcome with the success of the airport upgrade.
The project was undertaken with support from the Torres Strait Regional Authority, the Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the Torres Shire Council, who are the owners and operators of the Horn Island Airport.
“Passenger transport to Horn Island has been limited for many years to the Qantas Q300, with the Horn Island airport runways unable to safely support heavier aircraft,” Mr Kris said.
“This limited carrying capacity resulted in higher airfares and freight costs and substantial delays in delivering air cargo and mail to the Torres Strait.”
The airport can now cater to the larger Q400 aircraft. Torres Shire Council Mayor, Pedro Stephen said all community members, local organisations and commercial interests in the Torres Strait welcomed the airport upgrade.
“This is the gateway to Australia and as such, it is an international airport run by Local Government in a bilateral Commonwealth Territory, ratified under the 1985 Torres Strait Treaty between Papua New Guinea and Australia,” Mr Stephen said.
Premier Anna Bligh said the state government was a major player in air safety improvements for the region, investing more than $5.55 million in 10 Torres Strait airports.
“Air services are vital for this area. Many remote communities depend on their airports for access to medical services, schools and major centres where they can connect wtih other services important to their economy and lifestyle,” Ms Bligh said.
Member for Cook Jason O’Brien said the government was proud of its contribution.
“We’ve funded, over the past two financial years, more than $2 million of improvements to runways at local airports, including those on Mer, Erub, Poruma, Saibai, Mabuiag, Boigu and Badu islands, and at the Northern Peninsula Area Airport on the tip of Cape York,” he said.
“The State and Federal Governments have also funded a $462,000 installation of new animal-proof fencing to improve runway safety on Badu Island, Saibai Island and Kubin.”