Think big, MEC tells city

2010-05-10 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG must think big to confirm its status as KwaZulu-Natal’s capital city by getting its house in order and improving facilities with the potential to bring economic spinoffs to the city, and to contribute to development.

This was the general view of KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronjé and Msunduzi mayor Mike Tarr during the National Business Initiative (NBI) dialogue on the King Shaka International (KSIA) and Pietermaritzburg airports, which was held in the city on Friday.

NBI is a voluntary group of leading national and multinational companies working towards sustainable growth and development in South Africa.

The dialogue centred on the opportunities for business in KwaZulu-Natal. Chief among the facilities that the city needs to improve on is Oribi Airport.

The absence of a five-star hotel and a convention and conference centre, for instance, which is suited to a city of capital status, was also noted.

Cronjé said it is essential to upgrade facilities in an increasingly competitive world, saying that airports in particular are regarded as the economic engines of the 21st century.

Since a city’s airport is a first and last impression, it is about time new life is breathed into Oribi Airport, she said.

“It has now become critical to take serious decisions about the city’s airport.

“It is problematic when aeroplanes can often not land during summer months because of poor weather conditions.

“We need world-class infrastructure. For a city to attract and retain companies with national and global ties — as well as talented people to work for them — efficient, functional airports that are easily reached will be increasingly important,” said Cronjé.

The T-bone system, which, for example, may see people living in the city, working in Durban, and shopping in Port Shepstone, will also benefit Oribi Airport by increasing air passengers and the demand for air freight services.

“KSIA will, by its mere existence, also create opportunities for Oribi, in that KSIA will focus only on mass passenger and mass freight servi­ces, and not general aviation servi­ces,” she said.

This means that Oribi can thus position itself as the general aviation airport for the province, attracting significant aviation-rela­ted services and industrial business.

The introduction of larger sche­duled aircraft on the Johannesburg route is a promising development.

However, said Cronjé, to increase the airport’s economic value, the following measures need to considered:

•More intensive use of the airport, that is the surrounding space and land;

•More intensive use of existing facilities;

•Further expansion of the current facilities to allow for more passenger arrivals and departures as well as more air freight traffic;

•Investigation of possible private-sector involvement in the development of the airport;

•A wider range of destinations at competitive airfares to stimulate airport activity; and

•The initiation of significant marketing and education drives.

Cronjé reasserted that the KSIA presents new opportunities for Pietermaritzburg and its surroundings.

In her address, she said that many people have to land in Durban to get to Pietermaritzburg.

She added that those making use of the new KSIA will sometimes be unsure as to whether they will make it home for supper.

Tarr said that a lack of hospitality facilities, such as a five-star hotel, means that Pietermaritzburg loses visitors to Durban.

He added that the city needs to adopt a “just do it” attitude if it wants to become a capital to be proud of.

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