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Friday, 12 September 1969

Mr DAVIES (Braddon) - As a federal member representing the island State of Tasmania I am very interested in airport development. As I indicated earlier this afternoon when speaking on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport the people of Tasmania are very interested in a sea road link with the mainland not only from the ports on the island of Tasmania itself but also through King Island. Tasmania has not any alternative forms of transport such as road and rail as exist in the mainland States, and is restricted to sea and air transport. I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is sitting at the table, appreciates our problems and is aware that we are interested in airport development. 1 have been asked by people and organisations along the north-west coast of Tasmania to ascertain from the Minister whether there is to be any political or departmental conflict over projected airport developments on the north-west coast of Tasmania.

To put the record in a correct perspective I want to refer firstly to a newspaper report of 27th June this year stating that a letter received by the Devonport Chamber ot Commerce from the Department of Civil Aviation was. to the effect that the Department had no plans at all to upgrade the Devonport Airport to take larger aircraft. That item stated:

In a letter to the Devonport Chamber of Commerce the Department said there were no plans in hand to extend the airport to handle jet aircraft or other types larger than the Viscounts and Fokker Friendships which now used the airport.

As I said, this letter was sent by the Department of Civil Aviation to the Devonport Chamber of Commerce on 27th June. This matter was then followed up by Senator Lillico from Tasmania, and about 6 weeks later he advised the Devonport Municipal Council that there had been no change in the decision by the Department of Civil Aviation not to introduce jet services to the north-west coast. My understanding was that no jet service to Devonport was to be introduced. However, 5 days after the receipt by the Devonport Chamber of Commerce of that letter from the Department the Minister, in reply to a question I asked, said:

.   . Devonport is the subject of a long-term proposal. It is possible that we will require some alternative jet facilities in that area in the future and we are planning on a long term basis that Devonport will ultimately be upgraded to take jet services.

So we had the situation in June and again in August, only 6 weeks later, of the Department of Civil Aviation telling the authorities at Devonport that the airport there was not to be upgraded to receive jet aircraft, although 5 days after the first letter from the Department the Minister said that the airport at Devonport would be upgraded to take jet aircraft. This, of course, is good news. We welcome any advancement or progress and the upgrading of any airport in Tasmania and we have no complaint now that the policy of the Department to upgrade Devonport has been changed. The airport at Devonport is a very important one, and as I said, there is no complaint whatever about this change of policy. However, I do point out that on two occasions in the middle of the year the Department had said that it did not intend to upgrade the Devonport airport while the Minister in reply to a question said that it would be upgraded to take jet services.

At about that time there was a good deal of confusion and frustration being experienced regarding Wynyard airport, which is the other airport on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Because of certain reports that had been circulating in that area a meeting was called and attended by representatives from the Queenstown, Zeehan, Waratah, Wynyard, Burnie and Penguin councils and the Wynyard and Burnie Chambers of Commerce, and other interested persons. At that meeting the Warden of Wynyard, Councillor B. T. O'Halloran, indicated that he had received an official communication from the Department in 1968 which clearly stated that it was intended to extend the Wynyard Airport for jet services at some time in the future. The reason for the confusion and frustration was that later information had been received from several reliable sources that indicated the Department no longer intended to proceed with the extension plans, but the Wynyard Council, as pointed out by Councillor O'Halloran, had been unable to obtain in writing any indication of the Department's current planning. Councillor O'Halloran on behalf of the Wynyard Council put to that meeting the following case:

Last year we were given details of proposed development of Wynyard Airport for all types of aircraft likely to be used in Tasmania in the future, and we were told Wynyard was the only site within a 50-mile radius of Burnie suitable for the necessary development works. ... As late as April this >eur-

That is 1969- we sent a plan of a proposed water main to pass near the airport area to the Department of Civil Aviation for its comments and the plan was returned diverting the pipeline route well clear of the proposed airport extensions.

We have consistently also received verbal advice that the proposed extensions would go ahead and on this advice we zoned the area near the airport as rural rather than industrial. But now we cannot get information in writing. It is all most confusing and frustrating.

At about that time Mr Costello, M.H.A. in the State Parliament, became very interested in this matter and his inquiries revealed that owners of land in the area on which options were held by the Department of Civil Aviation were suddenly told verbally that the land was no longer required and the options were cancelled. Mr Costello said that none of the landowners had been informed, except by word of mouth, that the development which was due to start in 6 months time was now off. Mr Costello is reported in the 'Advocate' of 7th August 1969 as follows:

Preliminaries have gone as far as the building of test holes and establishment of footings. Samples from the test holes had been laboratory-tested.

Commonwealth-employed plan and design engineers and hydraulic engineers had examined the site.

It was common knowledge that the Department intended to do something at Wynyard, that it intended to put in a completely new runway, parallel1 to one of the existing runways, and that it had options over the land at each end of the airport in order to extend the new runway to take jet aircraft.

One can imagine the confusion that existed at that time. I simply repeat that during those months in the middle of the year the Department or its officers had been informing responsible people and responsible organisations such as the Wynyard and Burnie chambers of commerce and the Devonport Municipal Council that it had no intention of upgrading Devonport to take jet aircraft, and then suddenly there was an about-turn and the Minister said: 'Yes, we are going to upgrade Devonport for jet services'. But at Wynyard, on the other end of the north west coast, some 30 to 40 miles away, there was a complete opposite development. The municipal authorities bad gone to the extent of rezoning the land. They had sent plans and specifications of pipelines and the Department had rerouted them and made them go around the proposed extensions to the aerodrome. According to the State member - and I have no reason to doubt him - tests were being made on the footings and apparently everything was ready to go ahead at Wynyard Airport. Then, suddenly, we find that the options over the land had been relinquished.

The people in the municipality are very anxious to get their airport upgraded to jet standards. One can imagine how disappointed, confused and frustrated the organisations in this part of Tasmania feel. I can appreciate this because the organisations are made up of responsible people who represent public opinion. I speak of such organisations as manufacturers bodies and chambers of commerce from Queenstown right through to the rapidly developing mineral area on the west coast where there is tremendous mineral and industrial development. This opinion is also expressed by organisations along the north west coast, in the town of Penguin which is westward from Burnie where great expansion is taking place and where a $14m acid plant is under construction. In Burnie we have also the giant complex of APPM. Organisations from the rapidly growing and very extensive area covered by the Circular Head municipality have also expressed opinions. These organisations, of course, have been looking forward to the day when their airport is upgraded and it appeared that departmentally everything was going along well. However, suddenly the departmental officers, as it were, were pulled out.

As I have indicated to the Minister, this has caused a great deal of confusion and frustration. I hope that when he replies that he will be able to give me some indication of the departmental plans for this part of Tasmania. As I indicated when I began my speech this afternoon we are an island State. We do not have recourse to the road and rail transport that is available to other States. We rely on Searoad and also on air transport. We have no axe to grind over any one airport being upgraded. We think that both Wynyard Airport and Devonport

Airport should be upgraded to take jet aircraft because of the rapid growth of population and the rapidly expanding economic and industrial development that is taking place in this area. I simply ask the Minister the question posed at this meeting: Does the Department of Civil Aviation's stated intention eventually to upgrade Devonport Airport to take jet services necessarily mean that the planned development of the Wynyard Airport for jets as indicated by the Department, last year has definitely been abandoned?

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