COLBECK: Great to be here today to announce the final approval of the major development plan for the extension of the Hobart airport runway. The airport’s been conducting and acquired sign-off from the Australian Government and this puts us in a situation where we’re very close to being able to commence work on that project.
JOURNALIST: Is it on time?
COLBECK: Look, I think it is on time. In fact, in my view Hobart Airport has done a very good job in achieving the work that they’ve done over two and a half years.
To think that two and a half years ago this was a concept project, they’ve received all their environmental planning approvals, they’ve now achieved all their approvals, the community consultation that went around with all of that and they have a project that’s basically ready to go. I think it’s a great job.
I worked in the construction industry for 25 years before coming into politics and if you look at some of the other major development projects that have been considered even here in Southern Tasmania at the moment, to get a project from concept to ready to go in two and a half years is a very good job.
JOURNALIST: Can it be done with the money that has already been allocated?
COLBECK: Well the money that’s allocated is what’s allocated and Hobart airport has to meet any additional costs.
I might add that they’re also still running a major national airport and doing a major refurbishment of the existing terminal building as well - and running a business.
So I think you can mark this down as a pretty significant achievement to have this well done.
JOURNALIST: What does the runway extension mean for tourism?
COLBECK: Well it opens Tasmania up to the rest of the world. I was in China last week and saw the level of interest that exists from airlines there to bring flights into Tasmania. I think that reinforces the good work that’s been done by Hobart Airport in working with potential partners in the South East Asian region.
For one of the regions to specifically mention to me that Hobart Airport required a runway extension for them to be able to come to Tasmania and for me to be able to say we were very close to starting work on that, I think is a very good thing.
It reinforces the good work that Hobart Airport has been doing in working to attract new business markets to this state and continue the growth in what is a very important industry for Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: Where they referring to direct flights in those conversations or co-sharing like we saw last year with China Eastern?
COLBECK: The context of the conversation that I had was about providing direct flights into Tasmania and the airport being able to take those direct flights. So, I think that’s the opportunity that this extension opens up.
Obviously it also reinforces the work that we’re doing to try and attract other countries here to make Tasmania an international gateway into Antarctica.
So this is a very, very important piece of infrastructure that in its own right will create a number of jobs during construction and in its general operation over future decades.
But it also is the transformational piece of infrastructure in the context of the Tasmanian economy and that’s obviously the focus of the Australian Government. We want Tasmania to be a competitive economy, one that can stand on its own and provide strong job growth for Tasmanians.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify there, you’re talking to China Eastern when they said they talked about direct flights?
COLBECK: That was the company that I was talking to - I had a bilateral with China Eastern when I was in China and there were a number of other states that were also working to compete for that business.
But it was of interest to me that it was the first thing that they mentioned to me, probably knowing that I was a Tasmanian, that to be able to bring direct flights into Tasmania there needed to be a runway extension. It was with great pleasure that I was able to tell them that we’re about to start work on that.
JOURNALIST: So that’s just one airline in one country. What other countries - are there any other airlines that are interested in Hobart?
COLBECK: Well I think the fact that we will be capable of taking other airlines is the real story and I know that Tasmania is very, very popular in China. It was mentioned to me many times while I was there, the fact that the President had been here and spent time here.
A lot of people have been coming here because the President has been here and many people also have a Tasmanian story.
So I think this opens up real opportunity for Tasmania to grow an industry that is currently 9 per cent of the GDP. It is growing very, very strongly and it’s an important industry for jobs and growth in this state.
JOURNALIST: Are you talking about a regular service, or is this in charter territory?
COLBECK: Those sorts of particular details will come back down to commercial negotiations between the airlines and the airport. But the fact is at the moment we don’t have the opportunity and when the extension is complete that opportunity will open up and those are the sorts of things that the Australian Government wants to see for this state.
Not only just for tourists and passengers, but underneath those passengers is significant cargo capacity for Tasmania’s premium seafood, fruit, vegetables, those sorts of products which will then have direct access into those important high value markets.
So this extension can be a pathway for a whole range of economic drivers for Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: Minister, has any airline or country reached out to you to talk specifically on this project?
COLBECK: I haven’t had specific conversations with any other country or airline but as a proud Tasmanian I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of countries over recent times and I always take the opportunity to discuss the possibility of interchange between those countries and Tasmania and invite those that I meet to come pay us a visit.
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