SIX NSW shadow ministers visited Tumut Airport and heard the case for substantial upgrades to it on Tuesday afternoon.
Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for Lands Mick Veitch, Shadow Emergency Services Minister Trish Doyle, Shadow Roads Minister John Graham, Shadow Regional Transport Minister David Harris and Shadow Transport Minister Chris Minns visited the airport at the RFS air base, which has been put to such intense use during the bushfire crisis.
They were accompanied by Snowy Valleys Deputy Mayor John Larter, who handed then a briefing paper on a proposed upgrade, and they heard from Air Base Manager Steve Carter, Riverina Highlands RFS District Manager Jon Gregory and Tumut Aero Club secretary Rod Blundell.
The Shadow Ministers heard that the biggest issue was that the 802 fire bomber aircraft needed a 1200 metre strip to take off while carrying a full load of 3000 litres, but at Tumut they only have 900 metres.
“We flew 65 missions from here on January 4, the day the fires got really bad,” Mr Gregory said.
They also heard the case for uprating the strength of the runway; that for full fire operations the runway needed to be rated for between seven and eight tonnes, but it was currently rated at 5.7 tonnes.
Cr Larter explained to them that the Snowy 2.0 project made Tumut Airport more important as a back up to Cooma Airport, which would be more affected with the weather in winter, and that Tumut was closer to project infrastructure such as Lobs Hole.
They were told that the cost of increasing the runway would have to include a bridge over Bombowlee Creek and that it would cost around $800,000 to equip the airport and base for night operations.
Mr Secord said that if there wasn’t a case for upgrading the airport now then there would never be.
“What more evidence do they need?” he said.
He asked Mr Gregory if having more capability at the air base would have meant more homes and property could have been saved.
“Probably yes,” he replied.
Mr Secord said he would be writing to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack about the issue.
Snowy Valleys Council is currently awaited the outcome of a Federal Government grant application for a minor upgrade of the airport.