New Pmb airport mooted

2009-09-25 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG’S need for a sufficiently large, well-resourced airport with ample infrastructure that is able to accommodate jet aircraft came under the spotlight at a seminar on the economic prospects for the “City of Choice”.

Described as an “airport lobbyist”, Dave Rigby placed the topic of a larger airport to serve the city on the agenda at the seminar, which was held on Wednesday.

Rigby told the delegates that he has identified a suitable site near the Lion Park that is presently occupied by a major chicken producer.

However, it is clear it will take a long time to get the ball rolling on the possible establishment of a new airport.

Rigby argues that the airport at Oribi does not meet the needs of local consumers, particularly business people.

He said challenges relating to the exisiting airport include the size of aircraft accommodated, weather and topography-related constraints, as well as the relatively high cost of local flights.

Rigby noted that there are also various environmental and land-ownership challenges relating to the proposed site, but he believes that these issues can be successfully negotiated.

The seminar, hosted by the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, was held in preparation for next month’s “strategic city summit”.

The Msunduzi Municipality manager heading up the city airport and municipal market, Dr Julie Dyer, stressed that the contemplation of a new airport is a long-term matter.

She said a new airport could cost as much as R500 million.

She said the municipality has engaged a suitably qualified person to investigate the matter of a new city airport and related issues.

Delegates noted that a larger airport to serve Pietermaritzburg would fall into the domain of Airports Company South Africa and not the Msunduzi Municipality.

Dyer said R3,5 million is being spent on putting in place infrastructure aimed at reducing the number of flights diverted to Durban International Airport.

She added that a new car park will be built at the city airport.

Earlier this year, it emerged that more than R35 million will be required over the next five years to turn Pietermaritzburg airport into a revenue-enhancing operation.

At the time, the council approved a motion that a presentation be made to the cabinet to establish whether the provincial government would fund the venture.


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