Djarindjin airport bid looks doomed

Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
A helicopter being refuelled at the existing airport at the Djarindjin community.
Camera IconA helicopter being refuelled at the existing airport at the Djarindjin community. Credit: Jakeb Waddell.

Premier Mark McGowan has effectively ended a proposal from an indigenous corporation to build an airport on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, to service the oil and gas industry.

The Broome Advertiser first reported in February that a confidential proposal had been drafted by the Djarindjin Aboriginal Corporation, in partnership with global helicopter company CHC, to construct a $65 million airport at the indigenous community, 180km north of Brome.

The document stated that a 2300m x 45m runway and accommodation block would be built to fly oil and gas workers in directly from Perth, instead of transiting through Broome, and on to Inpex and Shell Australia operations at the Browse Basin, 425km from the Kimberley town.

The existing airport at the Djarindjin community is used as an emergency evacuation site and refuelling hub for the two companies and is managed by BIA, which gave DAC a $6 million interest-free loan for the facility in 2010.

The Broome Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shire of Broome and BIA all spoke out about the plan, believing it would damage the local economy and spark a surge in airfare costs.

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At the time, the State Government said it was aware of the proposal and would consider its options.

But in a letter written last week, obtained by the Broome Advertiser, Mr McGowan told stakeholders his Government was “unable to support” the proposal.

“One of the primary drivers for the development of the oil and gas sector in the Kimberley has been to encourage the development of Broome as a logistics hub for the Browse Basin,” he wrote.

“While the Government supports development that creates new employment, it will not support projects that do not demonstrate a clear net benefit to regional economies, particularly where they displace existing services from established centres such as Broome.”

“I have therefore written to both the DAC and CHC Helicopters to inform them that I am unable to support their proposal.”

DAC chief executive Nathan McIvor declined to comment.

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